Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Review «

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale marks the first console D&D experience since 2004, so it’s no surprise that longtime fans of the inimitable role-playing brand would be excited for a revival — especially in the form of a downloadable co-op hack-and-slash experience priced at just $15. But like D&D itself, video games have also changed and advanced over the past several years… and aside from the addition of online play, this ambitionless adventure seems content to simply mimic past genre entries.

It’s not a matter of Daggerdale botching the fundamentals, as the goblin-slaying and loot-collecting are solidly intact throughout this short adventure. But if you’re seeking something a bit more modern and inventive than a retread of the years-old (and arguably more enticing) Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and/or Untold Legends, Daggerdale feels a bit flat. The quest to free the titular region from the grip of the evil Rezlus by clearing mines and caverns of repetitive beasts offers few peaks, aside from the minor thrill of scoring choice new gear or seeing a dwarf’s face melted off by a dragonlike creature. Otherwise, the familiar D&D classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) and locations come across as unremarkable fantasy archetypes, which aren’t helped at all by the dull, dialogue-heavy storytelling, lack of in-game voice-acting, and clunky character models. It’s dry from start to finish, so if you need any sort of aesthetic encouragement to battle through near-identical waves of enemies, this quest may feel more like a test.

As such, the single-player adventure — which lacks A.I. companions — is a bland grind, but teaming up with three online pals (or tackling the local two-player option) improves things a bit, as the companionship and mix of classes injects a small dose of variety into the rote battles. However, the challenge doesn’t scale particularly well when extra players are added to the mix; when playing solo, I breezed through most battles with a consistent wave of my hammer and nary a second thought. But playing the same mission with two allies (of mixed player levels) online was nigh impossible, as the boss in question donned regeneration abilities and was flanked by way-more-powerful flunkies. Play together from the start or don’t bother, it seems.

But the online play is oddly littered with loading screens that emerge out of nowhere in the course of battle, seemingly to mask spurts of lag. Several times during an online quest, one or more players in my party suddenly saw a loading screen while the remaining player(s) ran around helplessly, amidst frozen allies and aggressive foes. It’s unacceptable for a game to suddenly incapacitate players in battle, but that’s not the only noticeable issue that revealed itself in Daggerdale. Elsewhere, enemies appeared motionless onscreen, textures and other details loaded within feet of my character, and I was able to walk through structural elements like pillars. Perhaps those issues can be patched out — but until that happens, Daggerdale comes across as a careless and sloppily executed venture. Even if such problems are eventually addressed, this rigid and uninspired quest is little more than an adequate adventure, legendary namesake be damned.


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