Review: Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale
For anyone who has taken the time to read my Gameflavor bio, you'll know I'm a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd. I've been playing off and on for 15 years and next to video games it's one of my favourite hobbies. Naturally, whenever video games and D&D are combined, I sit up and pay attention. I've played pretty much every crossover attempt over the last 15 years, and it's always been very hit or miss. The newest video game stab at my favourite dice-rolling activity is Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, developed by Bedlam games and published by Atari. The game is available on Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Windows, though this particular review is based on the XBLA version.
The game opens with a comic style cut scene, using moving still pictures over traditional animation. It introduces the backstory, which is somewhat cliché, but works well for the type of game that this is. Basically, a bad guy is doing bad stuff, and four heroes have been summoned to fight him. One thing that I enjoyed from this bit of back story, as well as other points throughout the game were references to the classic Forgotten Realms setting. From there we can choose to create a new character, with four iconic options. The Halfling Wizard, The Human Fighter, The Elf Rogue, and the Dwarf Cleric.
For a downloadable title, I was surprised at the level of character customization available. After choosing your character, you get to spend some points. First you choose from a couple different class-based special powers. The Fighter has some cool melee attacks; the Rogue has some ranged attacks; the Cleric has some defensive or healing spells; and the Wizard some spells. Each power has a distinct feel to it and different powers can give you different strategy options. From there you choose feats, of which there are a surprising amount. Feats are special abilities that affect your character in different ways, from increasing their class abilities, to allowing you to use different weapons or armour. Each class also has a special "class" ability, some more useful than others.
Daggerdale's gameplay does not deliver as much variety as the character creation, though it certainly does have its charm. At its heart, Daggerdale is a classic hack and slash, the likes of which has been done before. All of the addiction of killing enemies, levelling up and collecting loot is delivered in spades, and it's every bit as satisfying as we've come to expect from the genre. Online and offline co-op are welcome additions, and the four character classes can really complement each other. Each of your chosen abilities, as well as your melee and ranged attacks can be mapped to your face buttons, with alternate options when holding the left trigger. Combat is solid, though the screen can get a bit cluttered when there are a lot of enemies and more than one player on the screen.
Graphically, Daggerdale isn't going to blow any minds, but for a downloadable title the graphics are good. Little details such as your enemies visually turning into little pincushions as you pepper them with arrows, or your spells lighting your enemies on fire are a pleasant touch. There are some frustrating camera issues, such as your view being momentarily obstructed when you walk through an overhead gate, or occasional screen tearing when spinning the camera around. These small issues did detract from the experience, but not enough to affect my enjoyment of the game.
Outside of some graphical issues, my only real complaint about the game is that it doesn't do as much as it could to explain some of the game mechanics. Finding out what your levelled up abilities do, and "charging" up your spells/attacks are things I had to figure out on my own, since the game didn't clearly explain it to me.
All in all, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of 4th edition D&D, providing you with hours of action, adventure and exploration. The addition of local and online co-op was a smart move because Dungeons & Dragons is, and always shall be a social event. However, I would have preferred to be able to combine both local and online. Fans of the hack and slash genre will find their money's worth here and fans of D&D will be especially pleased with the treatment of such a classic setting.
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