You can't expect miracles when it comes to Xbox Live Arcade role-playing games, particularly those snipped from the flanks of the woolly mammoth that is Dungeons & Dragons. Unless you're BioWare, and able to call on resources worthy of the mighty Tutankhamen, you're looking at two possible outcomes: your game will be either a sagging beige heap of poorly communicated background lore, or an ungainly scaffold of bugs and niggles. In a neat twist, Bedlam's Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is both.
The premise sees a dwarven cleric, Halfling mage, elven rogue and human warrior scaling a tower to quash the latest Dark Lord infestation, aided by those NPCs that aren't merchants, quest-givers or mystifyingly invisible save for their weapons.
Waves of undead, goblins, dark knights and the like spawn with punishing disregard for your sense of fairness, but you can duff them up pretty easily by retreating to the nearest stairwell and using ranged attacks while your adversaries trundle robotically against the lower step. That's assuming some coding hiccup doesn't root you to the spot, and assuming the enemy isn't a bowman, or a sorcerer with the revival ability.
Mashy primary attacks give way to a pleasantly varied roster of secondary powers, including a mystical ground pound for clerics and a leg swipe for warriors. The graphics engine saves its best tricks for such moments, but the odd show of stardust and swishy blade highlight can't redeem Daggerdale's brown corridors, grey flagstones and ham-fisted clay-mation character models. New apparel, gear and weapons don't help much with the latter, though they do incentivise exploration in a way the game's unending tunnels and fetch-quests seldom manage.
Teaming up with other players online should be the jewel in Daggerdale's crown, but is hamstrung by bad matchmaking, latency and - nastiest of all - mid-mission loading breaks. Same sofa two-player also has its trials, with participants obliged to stick close together.
There's enough substance nonetheless to keep a band of determined adventurers occupied for a weekend, but with Torchlight doing the rounds for the same price, solo dungeon crawlers should sit this one out.
Download the game here for 1200 MSP.
A grind in more ways than one
- Chunky weapon and ability roster
- Plentiful bugs
- Insipid looks
- Compromised online