Daggerdale is a throwback to the glory days of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and those kinds of hack and slash rpgs. It's a trip down memory lane but it's not without its fair share of bugs, from the annoying graphical ones to the downright game-breaking skill losing bugs that strip a character of the skills that you have spent hard earned level up points on. Yet with a few friends it is a fun enough romp that could do with a patch or two to iron out the issues.
Set in Faerun, the Forgotten Realms: An evil Cleric of Bane has set up shop in a dwarves' mine and is causing all sorts of problems, you brave hero (accompanied by up to 3 other friends) need to go and kick that guy's door in and put him out of everyone's misery. The story is told in-engine and with some briefly animated cut-scenes that could have done with a veneer more polish.
The controls are simple enough for Daggerdale and the combat is ok when you're not using your melee basic, or ranged basic attack and you rely on your actual skills. Your simple attacks are just not going to do enough damage to the many monsters you'll encounter in the mines. It's better to use your core skills that you buy for each class and put the hurt on that way. There are 4 main classes for this outing and 10 experience levels to plough through, though it isn't going to really take you long to get to level 10 honestly.
The fighter, the rogue, the wizard and cleric are the 4 classes and you can buy a couple of skills to make your class a little different from your friends. There are numerous problems with targeting though, especially in the last encounter where ranged characters are usually locking onto nearby enemies compared to dealing with the main threat. This can result in some moments where you're pouring out amazing damage against the enemies but it's all going onto minions and the like.
The 4E rules are pretty transparent and they mix well with the gameplay, but again, it's almost rules-lite in that regard. Don't expect a deep D&D experience like Planescape Torment or even a great Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights one. This is a basic hack and slash and it's packed with side quests that all came out of the same D&D fetch, escort, carry and murder mould. This repetition is fine though really, because that's what you want to do...destroy monsters and quest for loot.
There's a lot of loot to be had and a great amount of it can be sold to buy better equipment at the local merchants that you'll encounter on your delving.
It's all done in an isometric 3d design with a fully rotatable camera that switches between a classic BG: DA mode and a more Witcher style closer to the character angle.
There are auto-saves and you can save the game, but it seems that the game only saves to the last quest completed so you can't save half-way through a quest. Or that's what happened with our motley adventure.
They're decent enough but it's nothing in the realm of say, Torchlight. It's basic and every environment is pretty much the same, requiring a bit more visual polish really and aesthetic design. It's a bit garish in places and I'm not a huge fan of the special effects used for the various armour enhancements. Character textures are bland and uninspired for the NPCs but the actual classes themselves seem to be nicely designed and fit the whole D&D look. There are a lot of graphical glitches, some textures don't seem to align properly in some environments, and there are a few flickers. There are also moments where you can walk a character into the scenery before the bounding box stops you.
There are some glitches here and there where you kill an enemy and they remain standing motionless, before popping out of existence a minute or so later. The combat animations are ok and the rest of the animation in the game is fine. Apart from that there's very little to mention in that regard.
There's a low level of physics in use and that is about it, some spells and skills cause knockdown and you can be bowled over by bigger monsters.
It does what it says on the tin, using special powers and abilities against you so that you need to take down magic using characters quickly. Goblin Shamans are annoying in that regard (and awesome too) because they will resurrect dead comrades and cast offensive magic against you. The enemies will also use basic tactics and their own special skills to provide a decent enough challenge.
Good enough for the job, the sound design is ok. There are some annoying audio glitches now and then, sound drops out from time to time.
The music is good in Daggerdale, it has the right D&D feel to it.
The writing is typically fantasy, packed with clichés and does a good job of mirroring the old style of D&D fairly well.
The voice acting is ok, but I've never been a fan of the simple grunts and noises made by NPCs that are supposed to be talking to you. There are a few key performances and they're suitably D&D cheesy fitting well with the style of the game.
Split screen, Xbox Live and System Link are on offer to allow you to play with your friends, 4 players can join in the cooperative fun and dungeon frolics. There was some lag when we played but it wasn't a game breaker.
1200 msp is the entry point and for D&D Daggerdale I think (in the state it is in at the moment) it's a bit steep. If you can stomach that kind of cost for a downloadable game that offers some good fun but has a few problems, go ahead, it's a nice blast from the past.