Friday, July 8, 2011

-REVIEW- Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale:
a pure crystal of wasted potential

Title: Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale
Developer: Bedlam games
Publisher: Atari
Price: $14.99 (via Steam and other digital distribution)

Don’t doubt the daring doublets deprecating this dastardly derision of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s decidedly dumb, dubiously diverting, and dangerously dull. Don’t. Just don’t.


from the table to the grave

I may lose my nerd cred here by admitting this, but I wasn’t a big tabletop person in my youth. In fact, I was the kid who made fun of those kids reveling in their fantasy worlds, spending hours sculpting intricate, compelling storylines and engaging player experiences. I thought that crap was dumb. And I learned all of that from TV. Thanks, Television!

Of course, my ignorance is now shown bare since I’m totally devoid of those experiences, and that ignorance actually now inhibits my ability to accurately and fairly assess the quality of works derived from those kind of experiences. Luckily for me though, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale kind of sucks so bad that even a pen-and-paper amateur like me can say so without much qualification. So there, I said it.
so detailed, so boringly detailed

From what I do know of the Dungeons & Dragons license and legacy, works derived from it usually pride themselves on their attention to detail and their faithfulness to the source. With the blessing of Wizards of the Coast, Bedlam has actually done quite a decent job of this. Every character has a number of class specific skills, feats, and resulting builds that are quite distinct from each other. There is a degree of crowd control, tanking, damage-dealing, and the like sprinkled throughout each class. It’s somewhat refreshing and it gave me a nice, fuzzy feeling just looking at the possibilities each character presented to me.
The dark side of all of this is that most if it doesn’t change the way you play the game. All of the various situations you’re placed in favor ranged attacking over melee, and skills for melee fighters don’t really focus on damage mitigation, which is a bit misleading because some of the feats for the cleric and the fighter specifically say that they mitigate damage. In the end, every fight becomes a simple clickfest and ability spam. This is because ability use isn’t governed by a mana bar; each ability has a ridiculously short cooldown that is separate from other abilities. Combine this with the fact that you can assign up to 2 abilities to hotkeys and what you have is a foolproof way of overcoming every single encounter in the game with minimal losses.

It’s a shame because the text of the feats and abilities imply that the game is indeed based on the 4.5 rules of D&D, including all the die rolls, armor class calculations, and saving throws. But none of it matters because it doesn’t change the way you play the game. I really despise this kind of wasted effort.

the killing fields general questions with intense apathy

This wouldn’t be a complete loss if the combat itself was enjoyable. Besides, hack-n-slash games are all about the combat anyway, regardless of what goes on under the hood. Unfortunately, Daggerdale falls flat here too. Don’t be fooled by the fancy effects and beautiful lighting; this game’s combat is as bland as dry feet. I’ve never experienced a game that has as much punch as this and still fails to provide any kind of lasting satisfaction.
Attack animations actually aren't spectacularly bland, but there’s something curious about the impact of each attack. It’s most easily described by a video, but what I can equate it to in words is that the combat is like slapping a 20lb ream of 30% post-consumer recycled paper with a 15-lb salmon. Satisfying at times, extremely annoying once the papers begin to stick aggressively to the pescadarian corpse, and ultimately disturbing for everyone else involved because of the smell.

The only thing that mitigates this travesty of an aquatic metaphor is the fact that game looks better than average for a $15 game. Facial animations, the aforementioned dynamic lighting, spell and ability effects, and character models are all very modern. So at least you can rest in the fact that your paper-pounding salmonry will be at the very least enjoyable to watch. Remember to bring deodorizer.

i could care less, but now i will make it a point to

If you’re still interested at this point, allow me to now assure you that this game is beyond salvation: the story sucks. It’s boring, contrived, predictable, trite, unimaginative, and sucky. It’s also exegeted primarily through non-voiced text, narrative-free cutscenes, and restrictively scripted encounters. If there ever was an example of a game being better off as a book than a game, this is it.
Being text-heavy isn’t an automatic negative, but when that text is so uninteresting that I find myself furiously mashing every possible button on my keyboard just to skip it in its entirety, it’s safe to say it isn’t good. And I have a relatively open mind about these things. And no, I have not read any works by Stephanie Meyer. How dare you.

don’t you dare do it, dummy

Bedlam Games probably had a lot of gusto going into the development of this title, and it’s a solid effort. But effort does not a good game make. I’m not trying to place any blame here, but the fact is the game simply isn’t very fun to play through (and it’s somebody’s fault. Not mine!). Its plodding pace combined with unsatisfying combat is schizophrenically juxtaposed with above-average visuals and an obvious attention to textual detail. I almost hate to say that it’s a bad game, but it’s a disappointing truth. Don’t waste your money on this one.

P.S. giveaway contest on this game!

Okay, no I’m just kidding. But anyone who comments here will be eligible for a copy of one of the games on their steam wishlist (under $20). Or whatever other game they’d like under that amount. In other words, I am giving away $20 worth of steam games to the winner of this contest so as to make sure people don't buy this game.