As the first console offering in the Dungeons & Dragons universe since 2004, it's safe to say that people have been looking forward to Daggerdale. It was intended to extend the fiction and make the controversial 4th edition rules – which made play more streamlined – that much more tangible. Instead, developer Bedlam Games has focused its energy on chasing gaming trends that haven’t been relevant since 2004. Even worse: it doesn't even do that well.
Bugs pop up early and often, starting shamefully with the tutorial and persisting all the way through. The first NPC I ran into, a grizzled dwarf hiding from goblins, was such a scene-stealer that I had to pause the game to get the camera to move away from him. When I regained control, my warrior floated around the cave without moving his legs.
What's most frustrating is that oddities like these stick out most in the midst of the game's four generic areas - well, that, and because the quests are nothing more than "go to location X and kill Y amount of enemy Z." Secondary quests emerge, and, honestly, the offer respite and mildly persuasive reasons to press on. Collecting new weapons or rare items is one of the few bright spots here, but the actual navigation of the menus to equip or alter them is far from user-friendly.
The 4th edition is meant to make D&D more accessible, but burying stats is counterintuitive, given both the governing IP and the genre at large. There's no such thing as information overload here. Give us luck rates, let us boost our charisma, and allow us to get stressed over how to spend our skill points when levelling up. Daggerdale fails to deliver in any of these areas.
You can distribute points, it's just that the process has been dumbed-down, and therefore the choice between one of four pre-rolled characters matters less, since they're all less flexible strategically in the end. There are differences; they're just not that pronounced.
Since the single-player campaign lacks A.I. companions, going it alone starts to feel like a confusing chore. A couple of times I found myself unsure of where to go, or unable to leave an area. Hopping into same-room co-op helps inject a little bit more variety, though Daggerdale ups the difficulty to keep things spicy. Unfortunately, there have been widespread reports of the game freezing up on some party members, leaving those with a connection able to wander around a battlefield with unmoving statues of enemies and cohorts alike.
At the risk of repeating myself, the game is just broken. And in this age of "eh, we'll fix that with a first-week patch," it's particularly sad to see what feels like so little effort put into living up to what can even objectively be described as a legendary property. There are aspects about Daggerdale that work: the controls are tight, the control scheme makes special abilities accessible by holding down a single shoulder button, and the hack-and-slash action is enjoyable at first. But are those alone reasons to play Daggerdale? In this state I’d have to say no.
Given that Bedlam intends to make this the first instalment of a planned trilogy, here's hoping it plans its next rolls of the 20-sided die a little more carefully.