Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Review

This image is misleading; your fighter won't
get armor for the first five or so levels.
Despite a very shaky and dubious launch, I managed to scrounge up a few copies at a GameStop that I didn't even know existed in my area, just two days after the purported release date. Thankfully one of them had a CD key in the manual, as opposed to a blank space. But hey, at least it only took two attempts to get the game installed, amirite? Anyway, once (if?) you get the game going you get to choose between four pre-fabbed characters: male human fighter, male dwarf cleric, male halfling wizard, or female elf ranger. I decided to give the human fighter a whirl because presumably having a lot of hit points and being the hardest to hit would probably make my solo experience that much more survivable.

If you were reasonably expecting this game based off of Dungeons & Dragons to utilize D&D mechanics and elements, you will be almost universally disappointed.

The game uses the ability scores that we all know and love, and even gets the modifiers right. However, you don't pick exploits as you know them, instead being able to make a melee attack, ranged attack, and choosing from one of three scalable abilities that you spend points on. The only one I bothered to go with was shield bash, which A) doesn't require a shield to use, and B) doesn't seem to even use a shield even when you have it equipped (thought sometimes I found myself with two shields equipped at the same time). You then get to pick feats, of which there aren't many but at least mostly seem to be true to the source material. And that's it. You don't get to allocate your ability scores, you don't get to pick your starting gear, and you don't get to customize your appearance in any way. I'm frankly surprised that you even get to name your character.

One you get past the brief and spartan character generation menus you are thrust into Daggerdale, which I guess is now a complex cave system populated by dwarfs, goblins, and human-proportioned skeletons. Now I haven't been in the Forgotten Realms loop since the third or fourth time the god/goddess of magic was killed, but I seem to recall the Dalelands being on the surface of Faerun. At any rate, I was actually more surprised by the fact that I had cloth armor, a light shield, a one-handed weapon (despite being specced for a two-hander), and 120 hit points (which in retrospect makes me wonder what Toughness did). Oh, and to hit level 2? I needed 10,000 XP.

What. The. Fuck?

I spent the first three or so hours running around in caves killing goblins, then talked to some dwarves with muffled sound effects for speech, then killed some more goblins trying to scavenge up the hundreds of gold pieces required to buy leather armor (because again, no armor to speak of). Granted it gave me resist fire all of one, but come on. On the topic of gear, the game also takes props from Diablo 2 by including cracked and worn versions of items (not to mention barrel-busting and color-coded items), which penalize you for using them. Hell, the damage range on weapons isn't even correct in most cases. The worst part is that any weapon or armor that offers an energy-based benefit lacks texturing, so expect to put up with a blue-and-white avatar until you find something better doesn't do anything.

With the right gear, you can actually see textures!
This game feels and plays like any other action-RPG out there, but I'm only reminded that I'm playing D&D because all the monsters have floating names cribbed from Monster Manual. Otherwise it could easily mistaken for Dragon Age or some other Diablo-clone, which would be fine, except that these games have been done plenty of times in the past. I honestly was expecting to have more customization and elements taken from D&D, such as actual class features, powers, healing surges, magic items, etc.

Is it worth the fifteen bucks? I'd say almost. There are some bugs that need to be patched, like the mapping errors with certain types of gear, and some monsters get stuck in the ground. I'd also heard that the game can fuck up your saves and cause you to lose your character or gear. As an action-RPG it provides a decent enough slash-fest given the price, but I think Atari could have done better in some regards. Apparently this is one of three games in a series, so hopefully Atari learns from their mistakes and sales in the next installment.

What changes would I like to see? Well for starters...

  • Being able to choose starting gear at all. Picking feats for a two-handed weapon but not being able to get ahold of one for awhile really fucking sucks, as does not having actual armor. I literally did not get scale armor until I was 6th-level.
  • On a similar note, choosing powers. It would be very easy to make encounter powers that only recharge after an encounter ends, and daily powers that only recharge after you wrap up an adventure. Optionally, some dungeon zones might have "campsites" where you could take an extended rest.
  • Action points could be something that lets you attack and/or move faster for a small period of time.
  • A healing surge mechanic would be great for not having to lug around over one-hundred potions.
  • The inclusion of opportunity attacks as an automatic reaction would be great, especially for helping fighters seem, well, more like fighters. As it stands, I don't see anything stopping them from swamping a wizard or ranger in the back.
  • Ditch the Diablo 2 item conventions. D&D has never been a game where cheap, vendor-trash magic trinkets rain off of monsters. Generally speaking in 4th Edition most characters could expect to see one magic item per level, and combined with a greater variety in character advancement this would be fine.
  • Use the actual XP table. Demanding 10,000 XP to gain a level takes a long, long time. If characters leveled up a bit faster, you wouldn't need so many magic items in order to keep things fresh.


  1. i had a feeling it would turn out like this. Atari needs to release that license and let someone else give it a try at making D&D video games.

  2. Saw the various videos of this on YouTube and thought, 'Do they realise this is the 21st century?' The graphics are terrible. Smacks of DDO (and at least they have updated their graphic engine) original graphic engine.

    I dislike this set of default characters lumped under the banner of the 'Dungeons & Dragons' name. It's a mindless, crass attempt at a dungeon-bash for the sake of cashing in on the franchise. I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. Something I also dislike is the fact they use it as a vehicle to 'attract' players to the D&D rule system and the game in general, which to my mind, does the role playing genre a severe dis-service. Anyone totally new to the concept of rpg and gets this p'o'c placed before them will be sorely misled into believing that this is what traditional p'n'p role playing is all about. Tragic. I'd prefer it if they didn't label it as 'Dungeons & Dragons' at all. If you want a great dungeon bash then buy Dungeon Siege. But this is a bad misrepresentation of what D&D is about. This is only my point of view, which will not doubt go against the grain of others, but there you go - one man's wine is another man's poison.

  3. The game does have alot of bugs, but overall I gave it a B. A solid grade for a game that only cost 15 bucks brand new. The armor and weapons mapping is huge and needs to be fixed. I tend to agree with most of what the writer and posters' have said except, on my computer, the graphics look pretty amazing for what it is. What do you expect from a 15 dollar game. Very well rounded in my opinion. You get what you pay for.

  4. I too agree with almost everything. Finding amazing armor and then having to look at your blue and white character makes me want to put on crappier armor just because i don't want to look at him. Also, being able to scroll the map would be nice so you don't have to run an hour in the wrong direction before realizing that you went the wrong way. I give the game a B as well. So far, a decent loot table and easy co-op mechanics to keep you entertained for 15$.

  5. This game has all the intentions of a great game, but it seems like a beta release than ready for retail. It's so bugged that it's almost sad that game couldn't me better.

    What's up with the checkered white/purple weapons and armor? It's like sprite maps aren't even finished with the game and they released it.

    The online is WOULD be pretty awesome but it's so bugged out. I'm mean how old is Diablo II and it's not even close to the level 10 years later!

    Daggerdale could be serious contender it fun but frustrating with so much bugs. It's beta- or even alpha release bugged out programming make it only 5 or 6 out of 10. Seriously, it plays like I need to debug for the programmers to bring out the finished product in 6 months.

  6. This game is crap, avoid it like the plague. I've had nothing but problems with windows 7 and Neverwinter Nights so I thought, hey new game that is suppose to work with Windows 7...was I wrong. I can't even get the stupid thing to install, it keeps coming back with an error message that reads, "Object reference not set to an instance of an object"...what the hell is that suppose to mean. I'm not touching another game from Atari


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