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Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale #XBLA Review

VVG Indie Verse Review

“Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale”

By: Mr. Deeke

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale starts off with a motion comic that instantly reflects the incredible artwork found on Wizards of the Coast’s popular Magic The Gathering cards. The introduction is voiced, and all the illustrations and visuals are splendid. With an authentic D&D story arc, engrossing RPG elements, and hack and slash action, this Xbox Live Arcade title is quite entertaining on many levels. Highly recommended to all RPG fans out there, especially D&D enthusiasts.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale 1200 MSP

This expansive and deep Xbox Live Arcade RPG title has quite a bit to offer to gamers: a rich character development system, a questline spanning 10+ hours of gameplay, and a social gaming experience online over Xbox Live. Daggerdale reflects the social table-top gameplay that is the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing experience as players can join together in a party of up to four members to solve quests, complete the story arc, and to conquer enemies in battle as a team.

Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

  • Developer – Bedlam Games
  • Publisher – Atari
  • Genre – Action & Adventure, Role Playing
  • XBL Marketplace URLDungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
  • Release Date – 5/19/2011
  • Try or Buy? –  Buy
  • Price – 1200 MSP ($15)
  • Rating – 5/5

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale offers engaging “hack and slash” gameplay, bringing an accessible version of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition to life.

Travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms, where the journey begins in the remote Desertsmouth Mountains.

From the sulfuric catacombs of the mines of Tethyamar, to the dizzying heights of the Tower of the Void, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale delivers an action packed challenge that will satisfy the most seasoned of adventurers.

–Xbox Live Marketplace Description

Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

I. Story Line

Rezlus, a malevolent fallen Zhentarim Cleric,  has promised doom to all of Daggerdale and the whole of Daggerfalls. The wicked Rezlus plans to unleash the destructive powers of the Black Lord Bane upon the lands and reign in darkness–yet there is still hope. A young enchantress calls upon four different warriors to their duty to protect their native soil from the looming threat of Rezlus’ power.

It’s up to players to stop the dark cleric from summoning the tyrannical Bane at all costs–they must trek through the Dalelands and ascend the Tower of the Void all the while fighting through hordes Rezlus’ evil minions. This game brings the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms and the D&D 4th Edition to life in an epic adventure to save the lands from certain demise.

Can our heroes defeat the twisted Zhentarim Cleric and keep Bane’s powers at bay, or will they fail and ensure that Daggerdale is lost in the darkness infinite night?
Image from Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

II. Game Mechanics

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is the culmination of the astounding compositions from artists at Wizards of the Coast and expansive, highly polished RPG features from the development studio Bedlam Games. This immersing Xbox Live Arcade title engrosses players in a medieval fantasy world set in D&D’s 4th Edition, allowing gamers and fans to see a virtual depiction of the Forgotten Realms in full HD graphics. Offering hours of an authentic D&D story arc, co-op online play with four players in a single party, and a robust character development system, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is a must-have game for RPG fans everywhere.

This title uses hack-and-slash action RPG elements instead of turn-based combat, also utilizing aspects found in dungeon crawlers as players must explore regions. This game also requires gamers to slay hundreds of enemies that respawn and are always aggro, and it is possible to farm EXP, gold, and item drops from these fallen foes. The item drops–such as armors and weapons–are randomized, giving it a feel of a true dungeon crawler.

Players have the option in playing alone in Single Player or with friends (or random players) in online Multiplayer on Xbox Live. The game is devised so that players do not have to specifically invite another player, rather they can start up an online match and continue quests while other players join.

The controls for this title aren’t difficult to get used to, however players may have a bit of trouble with the camera angles at the start as the right analog stick controls camera movement. The view is a third-person view and cannot be changed, yet the face buttons that are involved with attacking and using spells can be customized and mapped as players see fit.

The default control scheme’s four face buttons–A, B, X and Y–each control different aspects: the A button is the primary melee attack, B uses healing potions, X is the ranged attack where players toss the currently equipped thrown weapon, and Y is the action button used to open doors, levers, and to pick up certain items.

Holding LT brings up the secondary control map,  Both the first and secondary control mapping scheme can be fully customized by bringing up the in-game menu by pressing Back and navigating to the Powers tab under the Equipment pane–it is here that players can map out which spells and abilities pertain to which face button. Other controls include LB which closes the mini-map, RB which blocks while in combat, and the D-Pad which controls camera angles.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale possesses many interesting RPG mechanics and elements that are mirrored in other games such as Dragon Age 1 & 2. The myriad of Powers, Feats, Ability Scores (attributes) and Class Proficiencies come together to build a powerful hero character. Feats are unchanged among the multiple classes, and Ability Scores act as attributes that determine character’s strengths and weaknesses–attribute bonuses will vary among classes. Powers are the abilities that are used in combat, and each character’s Powers are dependent upon their class. There are four classes in this game, each of which are different races and have their own particular roles in a party–having one of each class will benefit all players.

Image from Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

The four classes are the Human Fighter who’s combat skills are unparalleled, the lithe and dexterous Elven Rogue who uses a bow instead of a blade, the weak but spell-strong Halfling Wizard who’s eldritch power in the arcane magics is incredibly useful, and the Dwarven Cleric who heals allies acts as the white mage of the group all while smiting foes with his divine powers. Each class is useful in their own ways and when grouped together in a party can provide for entertaining social gameplay.

Experience is earned from slaying enemies and from completing quests, and the level progression is capped at level 10.  It’s progressively more difficult to level up in this game as each level requires more exp than the one before it, which is similar to many RPG titles. Level-ups bring new Feats and Powers, and it’s up to the player to choose and customize their abilities to build a unique character.

Additional attribute points are also gained and players can add them to the Ability Scores to build their strengths in various ways, for example; a Human Fighter should focus on Strength and Constitution as he is the Tank of the party, while Halfling Wizards should focus on Intelligence, and Dwarven Clerics should focus on enhancing Wisdom.

Class Proficiencies under the Character pane detail a character’s passive strengths and proficiencies. This displays the bonuses, talents, and aspects that strengthen a character, also it displays the weapons and armors that can be used and equipped. For example, the Human Fighter is proficient in all melee weapons and can wear all types of armors, however a Halfling Wizard cannot wear heavy armors or use swords.

The Powers, or combat abilities, are individualized to a character’s class: Human Fighters will have Powers focused on melee combat whereas a Halfling Wizards’ Powers will focus specifically on destructive magical spells. These abilities have three tiers of strength, each tier representing an enhancement of the tier before it, adding strength and sometimes additional effects.

These Powers, or spells and abilities, do not cost Mana or MP which is a traditional aspect of RPG’s, but instead  have cool-down rates which is quite common to MMORPG titles such as World of Warcraft. Players must wait until the spell has cooled down in order to use it again, and it is useful to use an array of spells so that players can cast an ability while another Power is in cool-down. It is common that stronger spells have longer cool-down rates, whereas weaker spells have shorter rates.

Questing in this game is similar to MMORPG’s as well in that players are mostly called upon to find and retrieve items and bring them back to the quest-giver. Along the way players will farm exp and gold by slaying multiple enemies, especially if the quests require players to travel away from the quest-giver. Some quests have multiple parts and can be tedious in nature, but overall the quests themselves seem like small tid-bits that build together to eventually form the important tasks.

Online co-op multiplayer over Xbox Live offers the signature social experience that has defined the fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons for years. Players can now experience a virtual world set in the mythical D&D universe, and use dynamic characters to their advantage in interactive online co-op where players use teamwork and their wits to stop the evil Rezlus. Players can communicate via interactive party chat, working as a team to complete quests and progress farther into the Forgotten Realms.

Image from Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

III. Weapons/Items

Weapon and Armor drops are randomized, and are usually found from slain enemies in combat. The enemies themselves have different classes and levels, and are always proportionate to the character’s levels. As gamers increase levels the chances of finding more powerful loot is heightened. Items like armors and weapons all have different grades and classifications, and players can also equip accessories such as rings and amulets.

There are a myriad of weapons to be used in Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, each of them coinciding with the character’s class. Melee weapons such as swords, axes, blunt weapons, are utilized by Human Fighters–shields are also very useful and can reduce damage done to the character. Ranged weapons such as bows are primarily used by Elven Rogues, but can also be used by Fighters as secondary throwing items like axes and shurikens.

Loot such as gold, armors and weapons, and potions can be dropped randomly from miscellaneous containers like barrels and treasure chests, and is also commonly found on slain enemies. Items can also be offered as rewards from completing certain quests, or purchased from the many merchants who offer wares. Sometimes these merchants sell quite valuable quality goods such as rare and unique armors and weapons.

Multiple potions such as healing potions are essential to survival in the many dungeons and in melee combat against enemies. Having a healthy supply of healing potions is advised as players will face multiple enemies and if not prepared will almost assuredly meet a perilous end. There are other potions such as Elixirs that temporarily boost attributes in battle to fortify characters and make them stronger, and these are particularly useful against tough battles where enemies are overwhelming.

IV. Unique Features

Playing with three friends on Xbox Live in this RPG adventure is quite enjoyable, especially since the game itself was designed for online play, making it much easier in a party of four characters. Gamers chat with their friends via headset mics in party chat to communicate with one another, allowing for integrated and interactive gameplay. The online leaderboards are also a unique feature in that the Leaderboards keep track of multiple aggregates such as total playtime, total kills, damage dealt, etc. Players can also compare their high-scores with their friends or all players in the Leaderboards tab.

The dynamic skill trees, abilities, powers and character proficiencies are also unique elements in this game that provide for engrossing gameplay, allowing players to experience an epic adventure that spans for quite some time. With a robust and fulfilling character development system with a progressive exp system and multiple Powers and abilities, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is a rewarding Xbox Live Arcade game that offers quite a bit to gamers.

Cut scenes in this game are represented with a motion-comic with artwork from the incredibly talented artists who’s art has been featured on Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering collectible card game. The artwork is amazing and truly imbibes a sense of mythical wonder that is associated with the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, and the visuals themselves are highly enjoyable.

Image from Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

V. Critique

The Good

High Quality Graphics and Visuals. With multiple paintings composed to reflect the legendary world of Dungeons & Dragons, the cut-scene motion comic is unprecedented in it’s use of visual quality. The in-game graphics are also quite extraordinary, with environments reflecting the Forgotten Realms and the Dalelands with impeccable quality. From melee combat to arcane spellcasting, the in-game visuals while in battle are impressive and each ability has its own unique visual effects.

An Interactive Online Social Gaming Experience. Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale brings a new level of social gaming to the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace as gamers can play online with three other players and take on hordes of enemies, complete quests, and ultimately stop the evil dark lord Bane from taking over the Forgotten Realms. With online interactions such as private chats, players can easily communicate with one another which is quite useful for teamwork efficiency. This online gaming experience mirrors the tabletop version of D&D, allowing players to enjoy virtual online gaming that is akin to the original live action fantasy role-playing experience.

Dynamic RPG Elements. The expansive RPG elements found in this title make it quite alluring to both D&D enthusiasts and RPG veterans. Utilizing aspects seen in other MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft and character definitions and skills found in titles such as the Dragon Age series, gamers will find D&D: Daggerdale to be familiar and enjoyable. These characteristics bring a new level of depth and expansion to the game, offering players a robust character development system with many unique abilities, powers, and proficiencies to make use of.

Wide Array of Weapon and Armor Grades. The assortment of randomly-dropped items such as weapons and armor compliment the game quite well, as players not only are defined by the visual appearance of their characters but the items themselves affect the game dynamically. Many RPG veterans and players know that gear is essential to survival in these types of games, and in D&D: Daggerdale, there are many different grades of items such as normal, magical, and unique, each with their own varying degrees of strengths and weaknesses.

Amazing Environments Reflecting the Mythical Forgotten Realms. Traveling through the legendary Forgotten Realms in D&D: Daggerdale is quite enjoyable, as players get to roam through an impressive representation of many legendary areas such as jagged Desertmouth Mountains, the volcanic mines of Tethyamar, or the colossal heights of the Tower of the Void, where the evil Rezlus plans wicked deeds.

The Bad

Disorientating Camera Angles & Mini Map. The camera angles often collide with the walls during gameplay, and since the on-screen mini-map doesn’t have any cardinal directions, it’s hard to use in conjunction with the full menu map–this makes it difficult to trace paths and to orientate yourself while navigating.

Quest Progress Reset. Sometimes players will accept quests that have multiple parts and objectives; the early Tools of the Trade quest, for example, has two parts. The autosave and menu save function seems to only save certain progress: the quest’s progress will not be saved unless a player completes the entire quest. This is quite frustrating when players save the game after completing the first part of the quest, then quit and reload later only to find that the entire quest has reset and they must do it again.

Image from Dungeons & Dragon Daggerdale

VI. Wrap-Up

Overall Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is a superlative RPG experience that is designed to bring players together and mirror the interactive and communal gameplay associated with the original tabletop game. With engrossing RPG elements and a multitude of character customizations like Powers, Proficiencies, and attributes, players can build powerful warriors and ally themselves with other gamers to take down the fallen Zhentarim Cleric Rezlus and stop Bane from destroying the Dalelands.

Despite a few frustrating aspects such as the quest progression reset and confusing mini-map navigation, this game is highly recommended for all RPG fans out there, especially fans of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. This incredible XBLA title is available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MSP ($15) and has an estimated 10+ hours of campaign in a single playthrough.

Skeptical? Want to see if Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is an enjoyable RPG? Why not try the Free Demo out for yourself.

For more information on Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale and it’s developers and publishers, please click the picture links below to be taken to their respective websites and social network pages.

The links featured above include: Atari’s Twitter profile, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale’s Official Facebook Page, Atari’s homesite, and Bedlam Games’ homesite.


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