May 22, 2013

Xbox Arcade Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale

Xbox Arcade Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale
I haven't played Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and while I'm not trying to dismiss the game it is fair to say that I never intended to give it a go in the first place. I already have a game I like and a one-off with a system I'm familiar with is OK, but a game that by all accounts is a complete departure from expectations...not so much.

A lot of commentary I've heard regarding 4th Edition was that it played like a video game. I do not have any idea if there is any truth to this, but I've heard it quite a few times.

Recently I was flipping through the offerings on Xbox Arcade and found Daggerdale on sale for 320 Microsoft Points. I think there is a concerted effort to get Xbox players to equate 100 points to $1, but a 1600 point card is generally priced at $19.99, which makes 100 points equal to $1.24.

Still, I was tempted to spend the $4 and check out Daggerdale. If there was any truth to the talk of 4th
Daggerdale costs 800 Microsoft Points, or $10!
edition playing like a video game, then actually playing it like a video game sounded like a good deal, especially at $4.

At first I found the controls a little awkward to use. You use the two sticks to move and aim like expected and you only use one trigger and one bumper. You get to assign the A, B, X, & Y keys as well as an alternate set of these keys chosen by pulling the left trigger. OK, technically you cannot assign the straight Y key because that is saved as a "use" button.

There are four choices for PCs: Female Elven Thief, Male Dwarven Cleric, Male Human Fighter, and Male Halfling Wizard. The classes are fundamentally identical to each other, they just start out with different skill and attribute allocations. The real difference between them is a singular ability put into effect with the right shoulder button. I've played everything except the Fighter so far. The Thief gets a little Kirk Shoulder Roll to make a dodge of some type, the Wizard can teleport a short distance, and the Cleric can cast a healing spell that effects them and any friendlies that are quite close.

The Thief ability is "meh" because it really just lets you move out of the way of incoming attacks which you could otherwise do with the control sticks. If you are surrounded you can't use the special ability. The Wizard can teleport away if he is surrounded, which is useful. The Cleric's ability to heal makes the healing potions less useful, but it is a PITA to try and heal fellow party members as they have to be practically touching in order for it to work.

There are two modes of play: single player and multi-player. There is no difference between the two other than the absence/addition of other players. There are only so many missions to be had and the majority are quite linear (as in few side quests). You cannot re-do missions unless you did them in single player mode 1st and then jumped into a multi-player game that the host hadn't done those missions. This really limits replay value. If you've completed the game you can either jump into a multi-player match or you can run around the beginning area of the dungeon. At least some of the areas there have re-spawning monsters so there is some limited value in running around the Dwarven Halls to kill goblins (in case you are trying to get the Achievement for killing 1000 goblins).

The biggest problem with this game is it has a LOT of bugs and sorely needed information is not made available to players. It is common, at least in multi-player, to have your PC's special attacks suddenly unassigned after a loading screen or your weapons unexpectedly unequipped. Cut-scenes are atrocious and there are some parts of the game your PC might just disappear for a while. During the loading screens they try to post some pretty useless advice, like "Target the healers", but you PC auto-targets the closest enemy so you cannot effectively target anyone except to get right up to them. This makes sense with melee weapons, but not missile weapons.

Trying to get into a multi-player game is problematic. The most information you get is the Xbox handle of the host and how many players are in the game. No information on mission, classes playing, or levels. The levels at a minimum are kind of important because the game tries to scale the enemies based on the party's average and highest level PC. As I was working on collecting 100,000 gold for an achievement I tried hopping into various multi-player games to find that the connection was bad or everyone was playing 2nd & 3rd level games.

Atari made this dud of a gameThere isn't anything inherently wrong with a 10th level PC matched up with 2nd & 3rd level PCs, but maybe they wanted more appropriately leveled enemies.

This game is worth a whopping 200 achievement points and it has way too much grinding for those points. One achievement is for getting each class up to 10th level, which kind of blows since there is no variation on the missions. Another achievement is for collecting one of every kind of weapon, but they don't actually define what they mean because there are so many variations in weapon types.
I generally would not recommend Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale
For $4 it might be worth checking out Daggerdale for an afternoon of simple dungeon delving, but at the full-price of
$10 I'd not recommend it. If you try to hunt for achievements I wouldn't pick up this game for $2. There are a lot of indie games out there that offer a lot more without the buggy frustrations that Atari included with Daggerdale.