Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale (Xbox360)

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Having just completed one of the best RPGs I have played in a very long time in the form of The Witcher 2, I was keen to get into something a bit more casual, and to set myself up with a nice big appetite for the powerhouse that is Diablo 3 in the near future. Too bad that Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale does neither of what I had hoped.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Screenshot 1

Firstly, I had hoped that it would be an RPG that is casual enough for me to pick up and play for a few minutes here and there. Alas, I never feel the urge to play this when I have a few minutes. I find myself rehashing old songs on Guitar Hero, or starting a new city in Simcity, rather than play D&D for a few minutes.

Secondly, it plays nothing like I imagine Diablo 3 will play, and puts me off RPGs in the fear of Blizzard’s game actually turning out like this. It does not create any sense of a beautiful world filled with danger, and it fails to create any sort of excitement in me at all. That’s zero from two. Uh-oh!

Daggerdale uses the Dungeons & Dragons license, a franchise revered by geeks and nerds alike since way before gaming hit the electronic age. The D&D rules are quite elaborate, and when it comes to condensing it into a game you end up with titles such as Baldur’s Gate, the epitome of Role Playing Games. So condensing it into a small Xbox LIVE Arcade game strips away so much of what makes the license what it is, that it turns out to be for the sake of the name alone.

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You can chose between four characters, and each character happens to be a specific class – you won’t be doing any customizing around these here parts. You can choose from one of the following: a Half-ling wizard, an Elven rogue, a Human fighter or a Dwarven cleric. Each of these classes has its own unique role to play in a party of four players and each character’s skills are needed to succeed in your quest.

What that quest is… is totally irrelevant as it’s never clearly explained to you. I just ended up following one quest marker to the next, never really caring about what happens to the dwarves in the mines. Wait, are these even mines, or are we in a dungeon? Fact of the matter is I never started to care. That is a big problem for me. When I play games I need to care.

Daggerdale is a dungeon crawler and simply guides you from one golden arrow on the map to the next. Dwarves speak in grunts and moans, goblins all look the same regardless of their class (that is if you can distinguish their grey from the floor’s grey) and the loot is a lie! Yes, a big bag of gold can spill from the fallen enemy yet only fill your coffers with one more piece. The whole game soon turns into a hunt for that most ancient of vices: loot!

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Each character progresses through their levels as any normal RPG character would, but for a casual RPG the levelling takes much longer than anticipated. After a good few hours of play, I was only on level three. The reward was not worth the effort. As you level up you gain access to more skills, powers and abilities. These unlock more weapons and armour in shops, and your character becomes more powerful.

The game does have a saving grace that rescues it from the depths of gaming forgetfulness: co-op. Yes, you can have three friends join you in your dungeon crawl, so now the four of you can fight over the loot that you just fought for.

Daggerdale allows two types of co-op: online and local. Local co-op allows two players to play on the same screen, but none of the split-screen goodness that other games allow. Here you play on the same screen which prevents one player from running ahead and claiming all the kills and loot. This works well for keeping the group together. However, it totally negates the need for any character’s quick speed, making your singleplayer character not always the best choice for co-op.

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You can also join in or host your own co-op games online. This brings it back to a singleplayer per screen, which is a pity because allowing two players per screen would be so much better. It also forces you to choose your character before choosing a game. This means you could end up in a game with four other Dwarf Clerics – great for healing the world to death. If this could be changed to allow you to choose a character after seeing which classes have been filled, it would have been a lot better.

I seem to be able to keep pointing out things that would make the game better. It’s easy to criticize a game from this end of the keyboard, but when a well-loved license like Dungeons & Dragons is applied to a game that is so uninspiring on so many levels, you have to wonder how easy it is to cash in on other licenses.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is a bland, average and uninspired game with low quality graphics, animation and story. It does have co-op which gives it a brownie point. It also has a few cool magic spells in it. But other than that it is simply forgettable. Wait it out for Diablo 3 or play the simply awesome Torchlight, now also on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Much better in every aspect!

The Good: co-op.
The Bad: everything else.
The Ugly: when I can come up with so many ways to make a game better it says a lot!