Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Elder Scrolls II - Daggerfall

An excellent AD&D game with freedom, a great story, and many options to keep you playing.
Review By Wroth

Released to the personal computer in the early/mid 1990's, Daggerfall at first met only a lukewarm reception. When I initially procured the demo for the game, installing all 500 or so MB of it, I was greeted with an amazing sight. ''How can this be,'' I wondered aloud. How could designers combine this many elements into a game and still make it cost effective. Knowing I was in love, I rushed to procure a copy of the game as soon as I was able.

INSTALATION: This was a doozy for me and many others. The game just would not work at first. I installed it on a minimum size as I simply did not have the disc space necessary to install what I desired. The sizes of installation, three to choose from, are a miniscule 250 or so, a slightly more reasonable 500 or so, and a very large almost one gig. If you install this game on the minimum size, be wary, it will not work well, as the game will be running mostly off the CD and thus will have some lag time while it searches for stuff on the CD itself. The medium size is a nice compromise for those with not enough disc space, as it allows one to have a good part of the game burned directly to your hard disk while needing the CD itself for some parts.

The huge size is what I recommend you install it as simply because it puts most of the game on your hard disc, preventing a good deal of skipping and freezing while the game would search for things on a CD. Once you decide through this terrible process, it leaves you one question; how good is your computer? Essentially, if you have an older model computer ( Pentium One or Two, processor speed of 300 or so, and less then 64 of RAM ) I would recommend being wary before installation. This game is very large in all aspects, and if you do not have a decently set up gaming rig for a computer, you will be facing many game freezes and much lag. Finally, when all that is done, yay, and you have your game, yay, time to play! I give this process a six simply because I became so frustrated when the darn thing would not work! 

GAMEPLAY: Daggerfall is an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons style game. You have a character with a specific race and class from which many aspects of the game are determined. The first process of all this is the choosing of a master race. You have many options, including: Breton ( Spellcasters from High Rock ), Argonian ( Lizard Men from the Black Marsh ), Wood Elf ( Forest Rangers from Valenwood ), Nords ( Hardy Warriors from Skyrim ), Dark Elves ( Spellcasters from Morrowind ), Redguards ( Warriors from Hammerfell ), High Elves ( Spellcasters from Summerset ), and the Khajiit ( Thieves from Elsweyr ). Any of these races will do, as all have their special characteristics. Once you have your glorious race, onto the fun process of creation, where you either choose a class ( Spellsword, Battlemage, Sorcerer, Healer, Acrobat, Nightblade, Bard, Burglar, Rogue, Thief, Assassin, Archer, Ranger, Barbarian, Warrior, and the Knight ) or customize one. If you decide to customize one ( I always do as I will explain in a minute ), you will be presented with a quaint little screen with the general status of your character.

You will be able to edit their characteristics ( Strength, Dexterity, Speed, Wisdom, Luck, Intelligence, Charisma, Endurance, and Agility ), each of which controls a different aspect of the character. As examples, strength controls your ability to dish out and take damage, endurance is your hardiness and health, intelligence is your magical point ability, and wisdom is your resistance to spells and the such. Once this is figured out, time to move onto your skills. If you choose a preset character mold ( listed above ) rather then choose your abilities, you will get the set of abilities preset for that class. There are very many, so I will not list them, but they include: Weapon Skills ( Blunt, One Handed Edged Sword, Etc. ), Magical Skills ( Destruction Spells, Illusion Spells, Etc. ), Survival Skills ( Stealth, Climbing, Etc. ), Thieving Skills ( Lock picking, Pickpocket, Etc. ), Language Skills ( Orcish, Dragonish, Etc. [ Note: These are used in an odd way. You do not talk to the enemies, but rather if you are versed enough, the enemies might not fight you ]), and a few other skills.

Once you have these skills arranged in Primary, Secondary, and Third priority ( your ability in them ), it is time to move onto the personality stuff. Here one can edit which groups like them or no. Very amusing, isn't it, making people hate you before they even know you exist. And finally, now that all this mucking is done, you can finish the process with editing advantages and disadvantages. This simply allows you to determine which areas your character will be strong in ( can he use an edged weapon well? can he cast spells well in darkness? ) or be weak in ( he can't stand the sun because he is like a vampire and thus gets hurt by it. ). Yay, you are done! Or are you? Damn. You have a few more things to do, but they are very simple. Next you edit your statistics ( strength and etc. ) based on advanced dungeons and dragons dice rolling.

You will roll ''dice'' to get a certain number of points to distribute to your stats. When done, you will do a similar thing for your abilities, but using a preset number of percentage points ( your abilities run off a percentage system ) to various abilities. Finally, when this is done, you get to the last series, determining who your character is. Next you must choose the background of your character via one of two methods. You can either answer questions to get items and background or answer questions about who your character is, which will determine your background. I always choose the former so I can get a cool ebony dagger, wonderful. Once this is done, all a person has left to do is edit their face and game speed and voila, you have a character. That wasn't so hard, now was it? I give this process a ten as it leaves no stones unturned and allows one to make a character so personally customized it might be fun to play it.

BASIC GAMEPLAY: That before was just the character creation part, let's go to the main event! I love Daggerfall for many reasons. One foremost reason is the gameplay. This is where the game shines above all else in it's gaming realism (this is a relative term as no game can be truly realistic but it allows for many options which others do not even remotely consider ). An example of this is a basic night in the life of my Magic Monk ( specialized character class ) named Nakor. ''After a long day of questing outside the town, looking for evil doers and such ( to slaughter them and steal their money, which would make me an evil doer ),he heads into town very tired but still with a bit of life left in him. He checks in at the local mages guild to see if any quests are needed for doing ( he is an active member of the guild system, explained in a bit ), and notes they do have one for him to do, a defending job, where he would protect someone from someone for money or something material.

Happy with this he trots across town to a local inn, where he talks to locals and asks questions about this and that. After a nice round of drinks and food, he trots upstairs to sleep, where he earns back strength and energy he lost plundering evil doers. He wakes up a bit before his midnight guarding job, trotting off to the mages guild, uncertain of what is to come...........'' Is that not something? One can do all of that at their own will, acting like a human and doing things any human would do all the while embraced with a glorious game. It is this realism ( Including: Houses, boats, horses, carts, people, kings, queens, animals, guilds, realistic weaponry, spells ( just cool ), and various other things ) that makes Daggerfall what it is. Your basic idea ( if you choose to leave the story line, which is very possible and fun ) is the idea of freedom. Daggerfall allows the gamer unprecedented freedoms to do whatever he or she wants. I have never once completed the game ( story and quest wise ) but I have played for hundreds upon hundreds of hours, leading my character's life as I see fit.

There is no end to the game if you do not want there to be. Doing what you want in a fantasy world. Wow. Daggerfall is good because of the realism. But how realistic does it get, you ask? Very is my answer. I will now list a good many examples of this to show you what you can and can't do because of this realism. You decide you want to pickpocket someone to pilfer their money. A novel idea. In many games you would be able to continue trying until you get the money. Not in Daggerfall. If they notice you, they will call guards and the guards will hunt you down. Very nice, non? Guards are another nice realistic aspect of the game. In every city and town, there is a city guard. If you are caught doing something illegal, they will chase after you and if caught, a trial will ensue. Beyond all this, you will either choose the story or no. The story will lead you to many lands and many people who will send you on many quests. The non story entails all I described above except without constraints on you. Your call, as both are fun. I gave this a ten as it is obviously excellent by my standards. 

STORY: ''Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail for the kingdom of Daggerfall.'' You are a lone quester, who has been hired by the emperor of all the land. He is pretty weak though, as he is simply another emperor in a long, powerless string. The real power players are the kings and queens of the provinces of Daggerfall, Wayrest, and Sentinel. These leaders are still up in arms after a long war, which rocked the land in the decades past. Now the war is over, but a longer cold war is lasting. After the death of King Lysandus of Daggerfall, all things went to heck in a hand basket. All the kings and queens, with their princes and heirs, are suspicious of one another.

The emperor has assigned you an odd task however. It seems the ghost of the dead King Lysandus haunts the capital of the Daggerfall province, Daggerfall, and he wants you to investigate this and determine what has happened and why he is wailing so. If you can, he asks you to put his spirit to rest and remove him from the scene. On a side note, he also asks you to investigate a letter he sent to the Lady Brisienna, as it has vanished. With this, off you go into the wilds of the land of Tamriel. However something goes wrong and your ship crashes and you wash ashore in a cave known as the Privateer's Hold. Will you have the willpower to make it out and follow up on the quests of the Emperor? Only time will tell.

Beyond the story which I just went over, there are many key players you will need to worry about. The queen of Daggerfall ( dowager since her husband is haunting the town ), who is very nice but mischievous, the Princesses of Wayrest, who are constantly making plans to get power, the Prince of Sentinel, whose Brother has vanished, the King of Worms, an undead man who wants power, and Lord Woodborne of Wayrest, who has a secret. You will meet many other people through your journey as you unravel a tail of lies, deception, and murder. You will enjoy it very much, I know I did. I gave the story a ten as it is one of the single greatest stories in gaming history, bar none.

SOUND, GRAPHICS, & ETC: These are all excellent as the game is very realistic by all standards. The game is based in a month system, with each month having a certain amount of days ( of course ). The month it is dictates the weather effects, which are excellent, although pixilated. If it is a winter season, the ground is white and snow is falling. The snow itself is very blocky but it is a nice touch to see falling snow as you walk. If you are in a marshy province in the summer, it will rain and you will see rain falling. Hot dry provinces beget sand effects and the such. Very nice touch. As all of these happen, the corresponding sounds are excellently done. As you walk over the ground with snow you will get a nice crunch and you hear the rain falling with a ''splash'' sound almost.

Truly unique for an older game. Also, as you go through dungeons, you will hear creaking of doors as they open ( spooky! ), wailing of enemies as they search for you, creaking of various random objects, and the flicker of a candle. All of these, especially the candle, add to an excellent game environment in which you feel alive. Combining with this is the sound of the forest and the overall visuals of any area outside of town. One will hear leaves rustling and animals going around as one traverses through a richly animated land of odd shrubs, hills, and plains. Quite nice effects for being not in a center of attention ( town ). I gave this section a nine, as in all, this part of the game is masterfully done with the graphics of the time ( very blocky ) and in all adds quite nicely to the overall experience of the game. 

PROBLEMS: Yes, Problems! I have been so eloquent in explaining the upsides to the game that I have yet to mention the downsides, which are few. One main downside is the installation, which I mentioned above. Another, sadly, is the.......freeze.......amount......freeze........of times this game will freeze. If one is not careful and does not save often, he or she is libel to lose a good deal of information as the game will freeze and you will be caught naked in it without a save to aid. Beyond this there is an occasion problem I have noticed in dungeons, which is where one gets caught in the wall and cannot get out. Odd, non? Simply save often. I remind you once again, to cure most of the problems of this game, simply save often.

OVERALL: This game is great, no question. With a great story, excellent game play, an intense realism, nice systems and such, along with few problems, a game is formed that one enjoys playing over and over again. I have loved to do many things with one style of character and then re-do it differently with another style, thus changing just about everything. The fun factor is thus through the roof. If you come across this game, I suggest you buy it right now, as it will obviously be pretty cheap as it is pretty old and will still provide one with an excellent gaming experience while managing to engross one for an enormous period of time, which is what I look for in a game. Enjoy this game, friends, for when you get it, you sail, for the kingdom of Daggerfall. 




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