Monday, September 12, 2011

Game Review - Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale

Game Review - Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale

Score +4/-12

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is a multiplayer Action Role-playing (RPG) game set within an authentic Dungeons and Dragons gameworld that will thrill new and more experienced players alike. In this world players must unite as they quest to stop Rezlus and his Zhentarim from invading and conquering the Dalelands. Game features include: multiple ways to play, including single player support and co-op both in local and online play; pick-up-and-play style gameplay; multiple game modes; and deep character development.

+ It's a very beautiful game. Some of the big bosses, like the Skull Lord, look awesome (see very bottom of this post).
+ Animation is smooth for the level of detail you see. If you pay attention you'll see the shortcuts they've used, such as static parts (e.g., no moving mouths when someone is talking) and not drawing smaller objects outside a certain viewing distance (so lights and lanterns will suddenly appear). For the most part, the excellent detail plus smooth animation makes this a very comfortable game to play.
- Missing textures on some items, such as some Cloth armors. If they paid Quality Assurance any money, maybe they can get a refund.
+ The key cutscenes are dramatic and well-directed, almost worth the long slog just to get to them. Fighting the dragon is actually pretty exciting if only it were more intuitive what you needed to do. The action on the dragon's head is actually dramatic and exciting, if the mechanics weren't so bad.
+ The four character types you can play are very different, so there's quite a bit of replayability if you want to see how each character type does.
- It's NOT Dungeons and Dragons. It's only cosmetically D&D, so if you are expecting "real" D&D, play Neverwinter Nights 2 instead -- a very reasonable approximation of D&D rules from pen and paper into a computer roleplaying game. It may be an authentic D&D Forgotten Realms gameworld, but hardly anyone will really care about that or even know that, because just telling us and throwing around a few names won't link it to the wider context of the detailed Forgotten Realms fantasy world. Basically, it's just another Diablo clone, but instead of coming up with their own combat mechanics, they borrowed from D&D 4th Edition.
- It is a very short game. It is made long because of the endless amount of meaningless fights in between since enemies respawn frequently and in large numbers. Also, the equipment available is boring, which makes your character feel very static.

- Game engine needs more work and more QA. Even the interface is garbage, with overlapping text and text left over from a previous information tab (see screenshot below -- notice the red words "Shield Bash" under the big text "Terrifying Impact").

pc - human fighter
- Gameplay is very limited and samey: All fights are more or less the same: Melee monsters swarm you, archers and spellcasters hang back.

- Not well thought out: Way too many issues here... Just a sample:
  • No penalty for shooting in melee, probably because you will be swarmed all the time.
  • They let you take feats that base your melee ability off any other stat you choose. Obviously you will be swarmed in melee, and you will need it. It also makes Strength a somewhat useless attribute to develop.
  • There are barrels all over the place that respawn every time you reload the game. This means you theoretically have all the gold you want, if you are patient enough for it.
  • Obviously it is so that you can buy the tons of healing potions you need, unless you are a Cleric, in which case you can heal yourself every few seconds.
- Not playtested enough for various classes: E.g., I played a halfling wizard, and until level 7 I was using the same staff I bought at level 2, simply because nothing else was as useful to the unique staff I got from a store. Even then, it was a tough choice because the Harpers Staff was so handy to have. There was a lot of equipment for the other classes, but nothing the wizard was allowed to use.

- Rubbish playtesting in painfully obvious ways: See the screenshot below. In the upper right, the mini-compass shows a big red downward pointing arrow indicating a quest location. My character is standing exactly there. There should be monsters to kill so I can collect more skulls. Instead, there is nothing.

empty quest location
- Irritating Quest System: Where you cannot save progress in the middle of a quest. So, if you are tasked to destroy 8 goblin mines or collect 10 skulls, you must do it all in one sitting. If you save and reload again part-way, you must start all over again.
- Way too many meaningless fights: Monsters respawn so quickly that at some point, you will just want to run past them to get on with the game or with whatever quest you are on. The encounter groups are very samey and not so tough that you will probably die, but they take up quite a bit of time to do.
- There is an auto-targeting system that is a nice feature, but poorly implemented. Such issues as:
  • How you change targets takes up too much time -- you press a key and move your character until you get the target you want -- without it being clear who the next target will be. Generally in such auto-targeting systems, there is a key to go to the nearest target, cycle to the next nearest target, or cycle to the previous target.
  • Without auto-targeting, monsters move too quickly to hit (which in turn makes any To-Hit statistic seem utterly useless since you either hit or you miss, apparently).
  • Spells auto-target in stupid ways. e.g., Ice Storm locks onto a target but does not track it -- instead, it drops at the location the target was standing. You cannot abort casting a spell, which means you have to live through the cooldown time to cast again.
  • Some spells are directional and will not cast at a target. This is contrary to the whole idea of targeting, especially when other spells lock onto a target.
  • Both you and monsters do not recognize barriers in the way of your ranged attacks. You can therefore stand behind a pillar and an enemy archer will just keep shooting harmlessly into the pillar.
- For a real-time combat system, there aren't enough hotkey slots for your powers. As a wizard, at level 7 I had four spells. There are three slots, plus 2 for melee and ranged, and another 2 if you use [Shift] to access them. Also, not all quick slots show if a power has finished its cooldown time.

skull lord 3

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