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Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale (XBLA)

Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale (D&DD) brought a lot of promise with it when it released for Xbox LIVE last month. A hack 'n slash with RPG elements in the spirit of Baldur's Gate? Sign me up. But what Atari ended up giving us was something that never quite attained that lofty goal.

When you first boot up D&DD, you'll more than likely be pretty pleased by it. You'll roll your character's stats (unfortunately you only get four cookie-cutter warriors as avatars) and then plunge into a fight through a Dwarven mining colony, giving some nasty goblins a taste of your blade. The opening is simple but fun to play, as is the rest of the first few quests. 

Light 'em up!

The main story in Daggerdale is a fairly straight forward one as well- a very bad guy named Rezlus is attacking the realm and his evil army is closing in for the kill. The key to stopping him and gaining entry into his 'Tower of the Void' is in the surrounding mines. Getting through will require much in the way of hacking and (yes) slashing.

Magic and weaponry abound here. Although it's not a straightforward lootfest, D&DD is kind of halfway there. It offers loads of different arms, armors, and magical items. In fact, there must be some kind of magic to the whole 'loot collecting' thing because it can seemingly liven anything up (at least a little). And that's really what Daggerdale needs most, livening up.

It's not that the game is dull, per say, it's just that it's... okay it's dull. And buggy too, did I mention that? If you sense the mood shifting give yourself a gold star because pretty much everything I mentioned above (the looting) are the only good points (is the only good point.), with the rest of the game being a big 'no'.

The Legendary Whirling Dervish

Let's start with Daggerdale's bug population since it could fill a small city. Now, I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to this stuff, I can overlook all kinds of things: texture pop-in, pop-up, flicker, messed up hit detection... you name it and I'll be more than accommodating if the rest of the game is a quality work. But this is not quality.

The storyline never takes off. I didn't care about Rezlus, his evil goals, the Dwarves, or anybody else for that matter- the game basically turned into a slog and that's never good. Especially for an RPG, where there should be a narrative woven around pretty much everything you do. Daggerdale leans more to the action side of the action/RPG genre, and it doesn't really do that all that well either.

Teaching Archery to Skeletons for Fun and Profit

The combat is monotonous with a capital 'M' and the weapons, while there are a ton of them, are largely uninteresting. Not even the lure of new loot around every corner can save the Forgotten Realms from the overriding sense of ennui that resides in the deep of D&DD.

So is there anything else that works about Daggerdale? Well, the graphics are pretty nice- and the controls are solid... there's that. But so much of this game just struggled to hold on to my attention so mightily that I was left feeling like I was playing through a budget PC title that I downloaded off of Steam or Amazon. This, by all rights, should have been a top tier 'Summer of Arcade' game for XBLA. I'm massively disappointed by it and Atari really needs to get its act together and put something out that does the license justice. 

Downward Thrust!

As far as Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale goes? No thanks.

- Jason M

Review: Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale (XBLA)
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