By Drew Wilson
The Elder Scrolls is a very well known action RPG game series that has iterations being released today. We take a look at the second iteration of this series called Daggerfall and see whether or not it’s worth playing in the age of Skyrim.
Released in 1996, this hack-and-slash RPG game was a highly anticipated sequel to the original Elder Scrolls game “Arena”.
This sequel would continue the storyline and stay consistent with a number of features that were a part of Arena such as the use of various races and a number of statistics. Most prominently was the return of a mouse-based interaction system. Even melee fighting required the use of a mouse.
While we could go in-depth of the differences between prequel and sequel, we played Daggerfall first which was based off of a suggestion used by other reviewers. So, rather than start at the beginning, we decided to start part way through the series.
When you start, you get to choose where you are from, what your skills are, and starting stats which you can manipulate after the game “rolls” your initial numbers. What you can manipulate is where you distribute some bonus stats afterwards.
After you finish building your character, you eventually get thrown into the game. Unlike numerous other RPG games (namely platform RPG games), you start inside a hostile dungeon. You’ll get a tutorial that can help you get a very basic (well, kind of spotty, actually) idea of how things work in this game.
You can change your keyboard shortcuts (and trust me, you’ll be relying on them heavily throughout the game) through the controls menu via the Esc. key. Generally speaking, I found that the keys menu was much more of a guide that I constantly flipped back and forth from as I familiarized myself with the interface. So, I would recommend sticking around in the room that you start at as you eventually get use to the control. Once you have an idea of how to attack (Default: a to draw weapon, H + click and drag to swing weapon), run (Default: P + arrow keys), jump (Default: J), duck (Default: D), look down (Default: Del), look up (Default: Insert), look ahead (Default: Num pad 7), access your character information (Default: F5), access your inventory (Default: F6), and rest (Default: R), you should have the bare bones basics to playing this game. As you can already tell, this game does have a steep learning curve at the beginning.
After you exit the first room in your first dungeon (Privateer’s Hold), you’ll continue the beginner’s guide and eventually come across your first enemy: a rat. I found myself fumbling a little bit with the keys, so there’s no shame if you take a few hits while you stand there, trying to figure out the controls.
By the time you finish with this room and exit into the next part of the dungeon, you’ll have defeated an enemy and collected some equipment and gold. The inventory system also takes some time to get used to. You have four tabs which is divvied up into weapons and armour, Ingredients, magical items, and clothing and miscellaneous. You can select the equip button to equip something. You can click on remove to take items or gold from the loot column or remove items from your inventory onto the floor. You can utilize the use button to use an item. You can even utilize the gold button to drop gold. The last one might not be used right away, but in later parts of the game, you may find yourself using this button more and more.
Some monsters, have immunity to certain weapons. This is annoying if you encounter an imp as that is a possible enemy you can encounter right away. Chances are, you wont have a weapon that is made of a good enough material to allow you to damage it. You’re only option that doesn’t involve dying is probably to run away from it. Iron is the lowest grade material available and Daedric is the best material in the game. Descriptions for weapons can be sufficient in determining what the weapon is made of, but the quickest way to identify a weapons material is by its colour. Examples are: light grey is iron, gold is Dwarven, green is Orcish, and ebony is black. Odds are, until you escape the Privateer’s hold, you’ll only encounter iron and steel weapons, leather items, and clothing that really only changes the look of your character and nothing else.
After a few rights, you’ll very easily run low on health and fatigue. The way you recover health, fatigue, and magicka points most of the time in this game is by resting. You have to find a place away from enemies before you can rest. At most, I’ve rested my character nearly 10 hours. For beginners, the rest time will by much less than that. There is only two ways I can think of that time resting impacts your gameplay. The most obvious impact this has is that the longer you spend resting, the greater the risk you’ll get interrupted from your resting by a random enemy encounter. This can be dangerous if you are low on health, but when you’re just starting out, you’ll have little to no choice in the matter. The only other impact the time resting has on gameplay is if you are on a timed quest. This is a very subtle impact and I’ve never had to rest so much that I simply ran out of time to complete a quest. Fast travel is much more likely to eat time out of your timed quests, but more on that later.
Another important element of this game is saving your game. The best advise to give to any beginning player is to save frequently. If you die, there’s no resurrection. You have to fall back on a previously saved game or you just start all over again. The game allows up to 6 save slots. This is great for creating what I like to call “stepped” saved games. So, if you save, you can just name it after you or your character name. Then, at the end of the name, a number. If you save for the first time, it’ll be like “IceCube1”. When you progress further into the game, you can have a choice of either saving over “IceCube1” or saving under a new file like “IceCube2” if you think there’s a possibility a decision you made might be a decision you would regret. How large of “steps” you create is up to you. The shallower the “steps”, the less chance you have of going back a significant portion of time. The steeper the “steps”, the greater the risk you have of having to redo a large portion of what you already did. So, the intervals you save in counts as a “step” and it’s completely a comfort level decision while exploring dungeons. After I reached 99, I just start over with 1 again.
A feature of this game is the map (Default: M). If you find yourself getting lost, you can refer to the map of area’s you already explored. If you need to backtrack, you can scroll through with the arrow keys to however far back you want to go (typically, to rest in a safe location in the Privateer’s Hold). The map is essentially a top-down view of the dungeon you are exploring. While good for exploring dungeons with only one floor, multi-layer dungeons can get convoluted really quick with floors blocking the red arrow which denotes where you are located. So, the helpfulness of this map system, I found, was mediocre as straight up memory of your surroundings can be just as helpful (and, at some times, even more helpful than the map itself if you have a good one).
While you are righting your way through, you may eventually find yourself levelling up. Unlike a vast majority of RPG games, this game does not use an experience point-based system. Instead, it relies on your overall skills of your primary, major and minor skills. Specifically, how skilled are you at your primary skills, two or your major skills and one of your minor skills. Every 15 points for those skills you gain, you’ll gain a level. I think I got to level 5 before realizing how I was levelling up. Even then, I had to get a clear explanation from an online guide.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a room with a large staircase that leads up to a chair. Semi-camouflaged due to the mixture of textures is a thin brown lever. This activates a hidden elevator that takes you up behind the throne area. Admittedly, I spent hours searching the dungeon, trying to find the exit while I walked past this switch several times in the process. So, no need to thank me here. From here, you’ll hopefully find the exit after fighting past a few more enemies. This exit is a black entranceway with a grey stone arch and a skull. If you get that far, you’ve completed your first major objective of the game. It is a rather challenging objective for new players as well.
When you reach the surface, your tutorial will prompt you to fast walk to the city of Daggerfall. Fast walk is a very essential feature once you reach the surface. Otherwise, the game would be incredibly boring due to spending most of your time walking everywhere. Daggerfall is the capital city of the province of Daggerfall (the province you are in). Once you fast walk to Daggerfall, everything you do in the game is completely up to you as this is about as open world of a game as you can get. You can choose to follow the main storyline (in which case, you’ll be killing time until you get a letter handed to you), boost your reputation by completing side quests, join a guild and obtain useful skills (I chose fighters guild and, later on, mages guild myself), and/or start looking into some of the other dungeons that dot the various regions in the entire game. For me, it was mostly following the main storyline and completing side quests to not only beef up my reputation in the area, but also beef up my character stats as it was basically a form of grinding to make the game more survivable.
In-city maps, I found, were probably the most useful and user friendly navigational tool in the entire game. It’s nice and flat and each building is labelled with a name as you either enter and exit it or have a townsperson point it to you on your map when you ask them. On the map: orange buildings are shops and banks, green buildings are inn’s/bars, blue buildings are temples, guilds, etc., and everything else is residence’s, walls, gates, hedges, and palace’s/in-city castles. The yellow pixel denotes your current location.
Chances are, your first order of business is selling all the junk you picked up from the Privateer’s hold so you can get some extra space for your encumbrance limitation and deposit all your gold at a bank (gold counts towards your encumbrance too) after you try and find some half decent equipment from some of the numerous shops in town (try looking for odd blades for something good).
There are two really useful things to buy: a wagon (to help store all the stuff if you choose to clean out a whole dungeon) and a horse (can help you get around area’s faster, but also can, I think, help knock down travel time for fast walking).
Another good idea is joining a guild or temple. Each guild and temple has a number of benefits that go along with it upon joining. Each one has different requirements for joining. Fighters guild, for instance, requires some fighting skills (very easily obtained) to join. The benefits is weapon repairs, free lodging for rest, and training in the various fighting skills to name a few benefits. Mages guild, on the other hand, requires some decent skills in one or more of the 6 schools of spell casting. After you join, your character can have access to the spell merchant and purchase or make magical items if you are high enough rank. All temples and guilds offer quests to both members and non-members. Completing these quests helps you gain reputation in the guild which is very useful for gaining ranks. If you take up a quest, I recommend saving before you ask for a quest (they are randomly given), save in a different file if you think you can complete it and after you arrive at the location of your quest (sometimes, it seems, the location doesn’t open up for you when you get the quest, but that may be because I sometimes add typo’s to my notes for fast walking purposes), save separately when you complete the quest, and save when you collect your reward. This allows me to not lose any reputation if something stupid happens over the course of attempting to complete the quest (like not being able to find the item or being assigned a quest where I don’t have the spellcasting ability to complete it). If I can’t find the location of the quest, for instance, I can always reload where I saved before I got the quest so I can essentially get a “re-roll” for a quest.
As you progress and level up, you’ll realize that you need some stats more than others. If you are into spellcasting, intelligence (INT) will get you more total magicka. If you want to get more offensive and defensive powers in melee, then try beefing up your Strength (STR) and Agility (AGL). How hard you hit mainly is determined by your Strength. The side-benefit of higher strength is increasing the limit of your encumbrance which means you can carry more items and gold at a time (useful!). How fast you attack and how often you avoid attacks is mostly governed by your Agility. If you want to increase the chances of avoiding getting hit by spells, then Willpower (WIL) is where you want to focus on your points distribution. Personality (PER) is probably the most useless place to sink attribute points into and you do have a limited supply of points you can give yourself. If you can save before levelling up, do it. You can get as little as 2 points and as high as 6 extra points. If you get 3 points, re-load and try levelling up again for more attribute points. The more you can squeeze out for each level, the better. While getting a level up is based on how many skill points you pick up in the non-miscellaneous skill categories, you actually get awarded a level up after resting.
Skill range widely in this game. Therefore, pretty much anything can be improved. After you rest, the increased statistics is awarded. If you don’t like how slowly you run, run everywhere. If your sword fighting skills are lacking, use the sword more. If you can’t climb anything, climb lots (city walls are a good place to practice). If you need to explore watery area’s, find a safe way of swimming and do lots of swimming. Same kind of idea goes for jumping, practising magic, archery, selling items for more gold (mercantile) and a whole lot more.
If you are utilising magicka, then you will be relying on your spellbook. This can be accessed via backspace by default. If you doubleclick on a spell, you not only cast it, but “equip” it as well. Once a spell is equipped, you can recast it quickly by hitting (by default) Q. Practising magic is a little different from skills like running or jumping. Each spell belongs in one of six skills. One such school is restoration which is the healing-based school. If you cast any spell in that school, you are essentially training the skill for the whole school and not just that spell. Each cast of any spell regardless of power or spell points consumed counts the same towards your skill, so practice with the cheapest spell you can get your hands on to get the biggest bang for your, er, points if you’re focused on skill training.
Weapons operate on a somewhat similar basis. Long swords can be broadswords and katana’s and both train your long sword skill. Blunt weapons can be maces and hammers. Axes are your, well, axes. Short swords are your daggers (and a few other similar weapons). Which weapon you train with is up to you, but I like to keep one of each class of weapon on me in the event one weapon gets more powerful than the other or if a weapon breaks (I then have back-up weapons in a pinch). This doesn’t help with encumbrance, but I prefer to have a useable weapon on me at all times than to have to suddenly fight with my fists with the bonus of carrying one or two extra items out.
One feature of this game is the pure size of everything. It isn’t just about open and explorable space, but also the seemingly impossible number of things you can do in this game. You could focus on side quests and spend weeks just completing side quests in one town. These side quests can from show keepers, royal characters and guilds. They can be anything from killing an animal in a particular building in town to picking an item up from some random location, defeating a monster in a dungeon, finding an item in a dungeon, speaking to certain characters, getting characters from one location to another, and even general thievery. There are literally thousands of dungeons out there in the large game. You can simply turn off everything but dungeons and go exploring in one dungeon. In the midst of looting it, you can come across “maps” in loot pick-ups which simply reveal/unlock new dungeons in the province you are working in. This can be a functionally endless game of general dungeon crawling if you so choose.
Dungeon layouts, with the exception of a few key area’s of dungeons and the Privateers Hold, are a mixture of random generation and pre-created segments. There are essentially “chunks” that the game can load and then randomly piece together. If you simply visit certain types of dungeon’s, this can get a little repetitive after a while, but visiting a variety of dungeons show that there are lots of randomly placed dungeon chunks to see. Variety is really up to you as a player.
The over world is also a mixture of randomly generated elements and pre-designed features. Towns, for instance, may have come from random generation, but they are tweaked and in a fixed layout. Outside, locations of environment related pieces like trees and rocks are laid out at random. I think dungeon locations are also fixed. In all, there are literally tens of thousands of temples, towns and dungeons in this game. By the developers estimate, the game is twice the size of the United Kingdom and it’s size, by most reviewers perspectives, remains unrivalled unless you count something like Minecraft which is constantly growing and user generated or games that simply take planets and make them merely simple destinations. You can, literally, spend years playing this game and barely scratch the surface of everything that can be experienced. It is really that big. You can look at Unreality to see the size comparison to many more modern games to see, yes, it is an absolutely massive game.
I think that, ultimately, this is a game with a massive list of pros and a massive list of cons. If one were to find reasons to dislike this game, there is no shortage of reasons to dislike it. If one were to go into the game to find reasons to like it, there is a lot of reasons to like this game
The first thing I came across was a con: the steep learning curve. I died trying to figure out how to attack. For some games, attack is an option you select (in many fight sequences in RPG games). Others, attack is a button you tap (i.e. shooters). Some, most buttons are attack buttons (i.e. fighting games). This game requires holding down a button and click and dragging before you can attack. While it offers a more varied look because you swing a sword in different ways depending on where and how you moved the mouse, this is probably one of the most convoluted ways of attacking I’ve seen in a video game. It took so much effort just to get used to the controls. In fact, if I had less patience, I might have given up on this game early and said the learning curve was too steep to bother playing. Nevertheless, I was able to push through the steep learning curve. Fortunately, you can get used to the control style, but many gamers aren’t as patient as me. The original Super Mario Bro’s really didn’t need an instruction manual to learn the basics. All you were doing was perfecting your timing and away you go. This game requires a certain amount of learning, memory work and muscle memory before one can get used to the controls. If you have some patience, you can learn the interface. Otherwise, you might find yourself getting frustrated with the complexity of it all. I personally thought that this game could fit better with a touch screen (which clearly wasn’t developed enough back then to be supported like it is today) when I first started playing.
The next thing I found in this game was that the introduction of weapon resistant monsters was too soon. It can be within the first half a dozen monsters you find in the first dungeon. It really gave me the feeling that this game was designed to be really hard because there were monsters I simply had no choice but to run from. I think it would have been better to push the weapons resistant monsters to later on in the game rather than put them at the very beginning. This would give the player a chance to get their feet on the ground and get settled in. It can be critical to simply allow the player to get used to things before throwing tougher challenges in front of them like that. With no access to a shop, it seems like it was meant to frustrate the player during a time when the game is supposed to be drawing the player in.
That brings me to my first pro of the game. The saving system. This method of saving really saved this game. If there were just checkpoints laid out sparsely, I would wind up saying early on that this game, with all of it’s bugs, is pretty unplayable. With the ability to save anywhere at any time, you can get around some of the larger bumps in the road like avoiding quests that you can’t complete or any host of other bugs which I’ll go into. I thought this method of saving, in this case, really made this game very playable.
Then, I get to another con. I’ve read a few reviews of this game and I think the reviewers get this element of the game wrong a lot. When listing cons, a number of reviews say that the size of the game is a major con. I disagree completely that the size itself is a con. A game of this magnitude in terms of size and things to do can be an excellent game easily so long as there’s a good system put in place to help the player navigate around. The real con is a poor navigation system. Yes, the fast walk is a major plus in this game and makes it possible for the player to actually complete a few objectives before the end of the first year, but the way a player get’s around was, I thought, poorly implemented. The world map the player goes into shows the provinces and flashes briefly whatever province the player is. This is fine. The ability to see the name of the province as you mouse over each province is also fine. Once you click on the province, that’s where the navigation system breaks down. If you use fast walk, you can search out where you want to go in the province. However, one typo or misspelling can conjure up the dreaded “does not exist” message. I think if there was an auto-complete system in the search bar, it would have made the game leaps and bounds more user friendly. The player typically knows where they want to go when typing in the name of the destination, but testing them on spelling in the process? Come on! I don’t see how that makes the game any better. Heck, a long and convoluted drop down menu with all the known places in the province would even be an improvement to what is in the game now. Then there’s manually mousing over the different dots to find a location. This is really buggy because putting your mouse directly over the dot doesn’t show where you are trying to go. You have to put the mouse a few pixels above the dot in order to actually see and click on a location. Once you figure out where to roughly put the mouse, you can make the mouse over system usable, but it does look silly having to compensate for where the hot buttons are actually located vs. what is seen on the map itself. Another way I can see this system being improved is highlighting locations where your quest is leading you (random quest or main quest). It sounds like I’m asking for hand holding when I say that, but given the pure enormity of the game, I think that is not too unreasonable to ask for. Look at the map of just the province of Daggerfall. Each different colour pixel represents a location in that province. In one for me, that’s overwhelming and that is also why I think the idea of highlighting locations where you want to go isn’t that unreasonable after all for a game like this.
Similarly, I thought the map system for while the player is in the dungeon was of mediocre help half the time. At first, when you’re just starting to explore the dungeon, the map is quite useful and you can see where you are at. Then, as you explore the dungeon, you’ll have corridors that run over top of corridors. Sometimes, you wind up having a really large room at the top that blocks the view of a few corridors that you are actually in. I think that the map should have been broken up into layers in the back-end. Then, when a player is on one corridor that has a few corridors over top, drop the opacity of the levels that are over top so that the player can actually see the red arrow for wherever the player is on the map. That would have been a substantial improvement to the system. Another improvement that could be made for the map system is to have a different coloured arrow indicating where the player spawn location is at (a green arrow perhaps). The reason for that is because, half the time, the dungeon entrance isn’t all that clear on the map after a while. Sometimes, it looks like a door entranceway. Other times, the entrance is merely a part of a wall and you have to shift the map in a certain way just to see where the entrance is at. Yes, dungeons can be so big, that you forget where the entrance is which can lead to hours upon hours of retracing footsteps if you don’t have the recall spell cost down enough for it to be usable yet. Having said all of that, I thought the map system on the village was very well done. Buildings can be identified based on either asking a townsperson, finding the door locked or merely walking into the building in question. This was well done even if it looks over-simplified at first. Only the rare glitch of some buildings identification occurs, but that’s the only complaint I have of it.
I’m not much of a fan of games that force you to go through numerous shops just to find what you are looking for to begin with, so, as you can imagine, I’m not a huge fan of the fact that you have to go through a half a dozen shops just to find some of the things you are looking for (sometimes, you can’t). While there is the explanation upon entering the store of how well kept it is, there is little else indicating whether the store is worth visiting or not. If you find that the store that you want is on the other side of town, be prepared to do a whole lot of running to get there. It can take a good five minutes just to get there – especially when the game randomly spawns the location of a character at a gate at the wrong side of town upon entering after a fast walk. That’s always a pain too and only serves to help you ramp up your running skills.
Movement is also awkward and buggy. I found numerous times when navigating dungeons that I would simply fall outside of the dungeon walls and end up walking on top of corridors and looking down in, trying to find a way to “pop” myself back into the dungeon again. This occurs a lot when you are falling into a pit or falling down a chute. There is no real good way of avoiding this outside the saving system. Another bug is landing on top of enemies. If you land on top of an enemy, the enemy can attack you, but you can’t attack it because you are too far away. In the process, your ability to move around is either extremely slow while on top of an enemy, or stopped cold altogether. So, the only choices are to let the monster hit you to death or reload. Either way, it’s an annoying bug that can stop your adventure dead in it’s tracks for no real good reason. Another thing was the fact that jumping doesn’t get to be all that good. You can use slowfalling spells or levitation spells to help manoeuvre around, but when you get a jumping skill of 70%+, you realize that, at most, you can do a little bunny hop. You can jump further, sure, but height-wise, jumping isn’t all that impressive, unfortunately.
The main quest, I found, was difficult to follow. Sometimes, you’ll end up needing to do a little extra grinding and reputation building between timed quests. In the process, you can forget where you left off in your quest with no solid system to get back on track other than maybe retracing all the quest-related letters and seeing if you can remember where you left off. Sometimes, like with the Zombie with the letter sown onto it, you won’t even have that to fall back on. I needed to keep notepad running in the process just so I could at least have something reasonable to write down where all the quest locations are and where all the maps I collected point to. It winds up being really messy after a while and could have been better designed in the end.
Having said that, I thought the extra quests all over the place was a really nice touch. With all the different things you can do, you can easily wind up getting sucked into doing quests for certain kinds of people. For instance, you could easily wind up doing a half a dozen side-quests for nobles in the castle just for the heck of it, then forget why you went to the castle initially. With that, the game does an amazing job of just sucking you in because you wanted to complete just one more side-quest. That was a huge positive part for me even if it’s random quests.
The spell system, I thought, was very poorly managed. Some games organize spells by type. Some games organize spells by going in alphabetical order. This game, however, doesn’t organize spells at all in the spellbook. If you buy spells, it adds it to, for whatever reason, the second line in your spellbook. From there, you can organize your spells, but you have to highlight the spell in question and press the move up button. When you click on the move up button, the spell moves up one location. While it would make sense to keep that spell highlighted for further moving around, Daggerfall simply higlihgts the top spell in the spellbook after. This makes organizing a large list a major chore. Sometimes, when you buy spells from the spell maker, the names don’t show up. All you see is the spell cost and a dash. The name only appears in the other half of the window after you highlight the spell. Another bug that’s annoying in my books. The schools of magic was also a poor design decision in my books. In some games, you have white, grey and black magic. White for healing related spells, grey for other spells and black for offensive spells as seen in Final Fantasy 3 (SNES) or Final Fantasy 6 (Playstation). Some games break down the spells by elements like earth, fire, wind and water as seen in Quest 64. This game has 6 schools like Alteration, Thaumaturgy, and Mysticism to name three. The only spell schools that made real sense to me was Restoration for healing related spells and Destruction spells for offensive spells. The rest, I just looked up the cheapest spells in each school, started casting and hoped that the spell cost will eventually go down after a while. The worst part of all of this is that some spells, even when you maxed out the skill, is still too expensive to cast as you can, at most, get 50 spell points with an intelligence at the cap of 100. Annoying in my view. Some of the names, I found, were quite confusing too. For the longest time, I kept running into ghosts that just paralyse you. Once you’re paralysed, you were pretty much dead as the ghost just slapped you for about 10 minutes while you could only sit there and do nothing. I looked for a resist paralysis potion or a cure paralysis spell, but it wasn’t until I cast “Free Action” by accident that I discovered what cures that ailment. I can think of a number of names for a spell like that, but free action doesn’t come across as a name that would say “removes the ailment of paralysis”. Could have been named better in my view. Some spells are decently named, but others are just confusing.
A good point is that everything is capped at 100. Attribution points caps out at 100. Skills cap out at 100. Nice and easy to remember. Many hacked versions of games remove the cap and allow the player to go past 100, so if you see someone with a skill of 160%, they are quite likely playing a hacked version of the game. Nice and easy to remember where the caps are at.
I also thought that the game should allow you to look straight up. The game only allows like, what? A 45 degree angle when looking up? Sometimes, you want to see if you can climb a shaft. I found one that had a gate at the top, sealing it off. The only way to find out that it was sealed at the top was to climb it and run into the gate. Again, annoying and I don’t see the reason for this limitation.
Another good point is the fact that everything can be improved stat-wise. If you don’t like how your character swims, either train in the fighters guild or just get the character to swim around more. Eventually, the character will be able to swim at a decent rate. Buoyancy spell is a nice bonus that makes swimming easier, but in the mean time, you can become a decent swimmer without having to use magic.
A good part of this game is the constant change in environment. Sometimes, it’s snowy and every building and tree represents the fact that it’s snowy. Sometimes, it’s summer and everything is much more green. Sometimes, you move into a desert and the environment completely changes again. This was a great attribute of this game.
The dungeons, I found, can be a bit too big at times. I can find myself spending hours trying to explore the dungeon and find where I need to go. I think, for quests, it could have been better designed. The secret switches like the clicking of a pedestal to get a cage to stop blocking a door was good, but to have to wander for hours to find an objective (and, in some cases, trying to find the exit) get’s a little too cumbersome after a while. The size of some of the dungeons wound up eventually being a deal breaker for me and ending my adventure because I finally lost interest in the game. I went through a teleporter maze to find a woman that was put in the dungeon. I finally found the woman and she told me to find some unicorn horn, but after that, I couldn’t find my way back in any reasonable fashion. I kept running into Vampire Ancient’s and Ancient Lich’s and the constant threat of dying was always there. I was a fighter and didn’t practice enough Mysticism to bring the cost of Recall down enough for it to be usable yet. I did amp up my willpower a fair bit, but with the lack of spell absorption and spell reflection, the game wound up being too annoying to continue for me.
One glitch I thought improved things was the ability to get the wagon in on the left column, then leave and you can feed your wagon directly in the dungeon rather than having to walk back and forth from the entrance to keep your encumbrance allotment down. I thought that being able to store gold in the wagon would have also been an improvement as you can only carry gold on your person or drop if off at a bank and get letters of credit. The letters of credit was a good addition, but I thought that the gold system could be improved still by being able to store gold in the wagon.
In spite of a host of reasons to dislike it, the game did keep me interested for the better par of a month. So, there really is a lot of entertainment value to be had here. For a while, the game did grow on me right up to towards the end of my interest in it. So, in spite of not completing it, I can say it was enjoyable.
The graphics were decent enough for a game of it’s time. Sometimes, wandering villagers “collide” and “fuse” with each other and it looks like several villagers are glitching all over the place. Sometimes, monsters go the same thing and two monsters wind up being unable to move. Not a bad thing for the player, but clearly not intended. This game does rely on 2D sprites a lot (and yes, there’s pixelated nudity in this game – though it’s nothing to get too excited over). Background graphics like sky textures were nicely done. Banners and textures were good for a game of it’s time. Also, picking up quest items like bars of gold can be buggy. I thought if I just walked back and forth, the mouse would eventually pick up the gold. If you move and click, clicking is basically disabled. Just click a little below the bar of gold. Duck if you have to to make it easier. The gold can be picked up after some trial and error.
The music in the dungeons were nicely ambient. It varied enough to keep my interests. The sound effects were OK like the random placement of doors opening even though nothing in your immediate vicinity was actually happening. Sometimes, the sounds were buggy though. If you paused at certain times, the sound of fire burning can end up turning into corrupted noise. The only way to correct it is to wander away from the source of the noise enough to have it be out of ear shot. This seems to “reset” the sound so it can function properly. The music was also buggy in that if you wander in and out of places like stores enough, a key might “stick” and you have a constant sound going into the next area. Sometimes it’s a soft low note, so it’s no big deal. Other times, it’s a high pitched key that really forces you to turn the volume down until the sound eventually goes away. I was disappointed in the fact that there was only one song for bars, inns, and stores though. While not bad music at first, I found the music to get annoying after a while. A dozen or so dungeon songs and only one song for stores? Why?
Overall, if the navigation was improved and the bugs were worked out, this could have been a great game in my books. Unfortunately, navigational issues and bugs really dragged down this game from being a great game to being simply a decent game. It’s very sad because I can see the potential in a game like this. It was as if the game was rushed out the gate with little quality control involved. Still, I can find myself enjoying this game. If you want a game you can really immerse yourself and play for a while, this game is definitely worth checking out. If you want an easy game, I’m not entirely sure this would be the game for you. Between the ability to immerse yourself in this game and simply get lost in all of the things one can do and the glitches that took away from the game, this can be filed under “decent enough to play, but not the greatest game ever made”. One thing is for sure, the game is confusing enough to make walk-through’s practically mandatory if you want to get through the main quest. On the plus side, this game is being distributed for free by the company behind the game. All you need is Dosbox and their instructions to run it.
Furthest point in game: Got as close as I could to getting to the Orcish treaty, found the lost prince and successfully stole the moving painting. Got stuck on trying to escape a dungeon to find and retrieve the unicorn horn, though. Got to level 15. Got an ear complete set of Daedric armour. Was only missing the gloves, tower shield, bow, and graeves to get a complete set. Long blade, axe, short blade, and blunt weapon skills were all above 55%. Hand-to-hand was around the mid 30’s and archery was nearing 30%. Running was maxed out at 100%. Jumping was nearing 80%. Stealth was hovering around the 70s and I was getting close to 20% for backstabbing. Highest school of spells was sitting at around 37% while the lowest was at 11%. Was really into training everything in the spells after I discovered their benefits. Stats minus luck and personality was hovering around 65 – 85 which is getting up there. Got the rank of Evoker in the mages guild and the rank of Warrior in the fighters guild. Was starting to defeat some of the toughest monsters in the game, but the number of monsters was what got to me. I like to think I made it pretty far into the game before calling it quits.
General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 8/10
Overall rating: 64%
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85