Digital Changeling

June 29, 2011

D&D Daggerdale Videogame Review

Filed under: D&D,Games,Reviews — Eva @ 10:14 pm

D&D Daggerdale is a beta pretending to be a game. The game has potential but it’s drowning in an incredible numbers of bugs and a camera so laughable it might as well be the first D&D movie*. I found one showstopping bug that was so amazingly obvious I find it hard to believe they ever ran this game past a playtester. I’m glad I played it, but it was not worth what I paid. WotC should be embarrassed for putting their name on such a low quality product.

Annoying things / bugs that I saw:

  • numerous cases of shooting enemies and they were so ‘surprised’ that they died frozen standing up
  • one cases where an enemy was so very, very surprised to die that he remained in his idle animation
  • one case where an enemy’s weapon hung around floating in the air after his death; it was persistent too, stayed through many reloads of that dungeon area
  • when talking to an NPC to finish a quest, if the NPC teleported away after the quest ended, the green circle under them and their floating name remained
  • when I finished some fights that triggered NPC dialog, the game teleported me as far as it wanted across the level to the NPC; this made it very hard to pick up the treasure from the enemies I just killed
  • once when I was teleported to talk to an NPC the game decided he didn’t actually want to talk to me, but the camera was locked on him; I could see myself on the mini-map, but otherwise had no idea where he was; eventually I dead reckoned back to him and talked to him manually to unlock the camera; this was a showstopper in my mind, since I couldn’t even trigger the pause menu
  • did I mention the camera was my worst enemy? it constantly pointed where I was going, which is useless when you’re playing a bow focused character who runs away and then shoots things behind them; I spent much of the game judging enemies state by the sounds as I shot them
  • the camera also totally destroyed the cinematic boss fights; there was at least one boss with floating and fire and different stages; I couldn’t watch any of it while fighting because the camera wouldn’t look at the boss
  • the NPC guards were really not very smart; several times I felt guilty about dragging them off to parts of the dungeon they weren’t meant to be in because they followed enemies and did not return to their “posts” when the threat was over; this was especially sad when they got themselves locked behind doors only I could open
  • I really wanted the ability to compare weapons and armor on the shop screen; in your inventory you can properly compare things with your full stats before equipping them, but in the shop you’re guessing based on their description, which is slow and boring
  • Oh my god, the mini-map; pure directional indicators are not good enough when you’re running around a cave with twisty, poorly connected passages; I got so f’ing turned around and spent a lot of time just wandering trying to find things; THIS WAS BORING, NOT FUN
  • Some of the feats would have been utter gibberish if I was not already a D&D player; likewise, I would have had no idea how to choose my primary stats if I didn’t already know what classes use what in the game; there needs to be either more guidance or a “choose this shit for me because I have no idea” button so the game is not only for D&D nerds like me
  • I never used my special attacks; they were too confusing and too slow; I got through the whole game and I am a killing machine with just my basic attacks

I think my main advice to the folks that made this game is to fix the camera, then maybe patch some of the more obvious graphical bugs. Most of the other stuff would be forgivable without the camera. Also, next time you make a game, please keep in mind that you are making a video game, not a tabletop simulator on an XBOX. If I wanted to play pure D&D I know where my table and my books are. The point of a video game is to abstract away some of the boring numbers and get on with the action.

I’m not even going into the local coop play, which based on my brief sampling has so many shared camera issues that it is nearly unplayable. I think they may have to implement split screen to save this mode.

The plot is cheesy and stupid, but based on the RPGA games I’ve seen, it’s above average for plots that comes out of WotC. I’m going to protest here that every single dwarf I saw in the entire game was male, which is gibberish based on WotC’s normal campaign materials. I saw very, very few female characters of any kind and those were primarily ‘sexy female assassins.’ Apparently the folks who cast this game think Tieflings reproduce through binary fission or something similar. I was also not impressed by the last 10 minutes of the plot. It’s stupid. Really, deeply “the gm has decided exactly what’s happening to all the NPCs and you’re just here to hang out while the action occurs” sorts of stupid. I’ve had GMs like this and I don’t play under them anymore, WotC.

I wish I could say the autotargeting makes up for the camera, but that would be like saying that crutches make up for two broken legs. This was especially evident because I played with the elven rogue and specialized in using a bow. This meant that most of my time was spent running away from enemies so they couldn’t reach me and then shooting them with the bow. Running causes the camera to pivot to the direction that you are running, so you can’t see anyone chasing after you. As I mentioned above, the camera further screwed up all climactic fights, by not showing me the super scary bosses. The simplest of camera lock-on features could have fixed this issue.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Daggerdale in spite of it’s persistent, awful flaws. It shares something with NWN in that it fills that third person dungeon crawl desire in me. It has well designed environments and reuses them effectively, with meaningful connectivity changes and interesting location based quests. It has bad guys who actually feel different to me and there are coherent combat groups rather than just a random bunch of the same guy attacking you. Despite wanting to stab the person who designed the camera in the face with an icepick, I finished the whole game and was max-level when I did. Through the anger and constant ranting about the camera/npcs/plot/controls/bugs/etc., I had fun.

At this point I would only reluctantly recommend D&D: Daggerdale if you’re already a fan of D&D and games like NWN and you want to play it solo or coop over the network**. I’m hoping the game will eventually be patched to fix the most egregious issues and I’ll try to append my review if it is.

* Yes, this is the basest of sarcasm. I think the first D&D movie was terrible.

** I haven’t played network coop but I’m assuming you’ll all have your own camera to contend with rather than a shared one.

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