Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall – PC
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: August 3, 1996
Genre: Action RPG
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
The year 1996 graced gamers with an amazing selection of new titles like Super Mario 64, Pokemon Red and Blue, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Mario Kart 64, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot, etc. It also brought us the second installment of the very popular Elder Scrolls franchise, the under-respected Daggerfall. I imagine someone reading this is thinking How could such an old crappy looking game be “under-respected?” Well let me tell you, Daggerfall is an important piece of the history of classic role playing games.
The game, set in the regions of Hammerfell and Highrock, starts with the player receiving a mission from the Emperor to go to Daggerfall to put the ghost of the late King Lysandus to rest. In order to discover the mystery behind the haunting, the player is pushed into tons of court intrigue and a number of factions competing for control over the Iliac Bay. As the game’s plot reaches its end, the player will have to choose which side he or she wants to support.
In addition to the main quest, there are also several factions the player can join including: the Dark Brotherhood, the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, Knightly Orders, as well as Temples. As players complete quests for the factions and raise their reputations, they will begin to advance in ranks in each faction and unlock for the player certain privileges and services. The game was also meant to have a Vampire Clan faction that the player could join, but sadly, it’s glitched. But luckily you can still do quests for the different Vampire Clans, the Daedric Princes, the Witch Covens, the Nobles, and the Merchants and Innkeepers.
Overall, like later Elder Scrolls games, this gives the player tons to do. But the thing about Daggerfall isn’t that there’s a lot to do, instead it’s something that later influenced Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; randomization. Now don’t get me wrong, I love games that are completely set in stone, but Daggerfall’s strength is in that the game will never play 100% the same. Sure the player may be tasked by a noble to kill a monster in a cave, but which noble? And which monster? And which cave? The results will always be different. And for certain quests in the game, this randomization actually can change a quest’s outcome in terms of reputation. For example, what if that monster is actually a vampire from a specific clan? Killing that monster could lower your reputation with that clan. But unlike the Paarthurnax quest in Skyrim, you can simply refuse the quest and take a reputation loss with the noble instead.
Daggerfall’s randomization comes off to me as a clear reference to Dungeons & Dragons. Think about it for a second, many really popular fantasy series and RPGs take from the Forgotten Realms campaign. Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Drizzt, the Dragonlance series, they all take from the same campaign but no story is the same. And that’s what Daggerfall is; a bridge between the classic Dungeons & Dragons type RPGs and the new action RPGs like its successors. However, as great as Daggerfall is, it has its own share of issues like every any other game.
Around the time of Daggerfall’s creation, 3D was new and implementing it into a game of its size was a recipe for tons of graphical glitches. And there are boatloads of them, everywhere, graphical glitches that remind you that this game is…well old. Although some of the graphical glitches are kind of funny, like an entire town of people marching in a line at the edge of town, there are also graphical glitches, like enemies melding into the wall during combat, which aren’t so funny.
Another peeve of mine with this game is in how the quests run. When the player is given a quest, they receive a logbook entry with basic details on it. Unlike its successors, the player doesn’t receive any visual hints or reminders about where the quest objectives are. Although the player could just fast travel to the town or dungeon mentioned in the logbook, finding which house or which area the quest objective is in requires the player to investigate. For example, the first Dark Brotherhood quest requires you to find the household of your victim and poison them. But because the town is huge with no sort of map (remember, because it’s randomized) and you have a set number of days to complete the task, you can’t waste time breaking into every house.
Luckily, you have the option of asking just about anyone where just about anything is and receive a pretty vague answer like its north. Not everyone will know where the place or person you’re looking for is, but usually the prostitutes do. Returning to the Dark Brotherhood example; after you’ve finally scoured the town for that one tiny house in the back the last thing you want to read is that you can’t even open the door. That, my friends, is how you fail quests in Daggerfall. Because the quests in the game all have time limits (usually pretty short), it is incredibly easy to go into a quest unprepared and fail it because getting to the skill or such required for it takes over the time limit. I’ve even encountered this issue with the second quest of the game; meeting with your contact.
Thirty days after escaping Privateer’s Keep the player will receive a letter to meet with an agent of the Emperor. However, in order to quickly pass the time for this, the player will need to fast travel around the map. When you do receive the letter, you will have a set limit of time in order to meet with your contact, but if the traveling distance is too far away? Well, sucks to be you. And that specifically, is one of the things that makes Daggerfall so difficult and frustrating; the time limits.
In general, while Daggerfall has issues, there is a lot to be taken from this game. While even installing and running the game on a DOS emulator like DOS Box can be annoying, I personally feel that it’s worth it to experience the game at least once. If not for the fact that Barenziah’s biography is uncensored in this game, for the fact that this game contains a lot of vital lore that many fans of the series should witness firsthand. The Underking (the cover character) is actually a really interesting character and I typically went with his ending. And although the endings of Daggerfall are all smashed together for the sake of the timeline, this is the only Elder Scrolls entry that allows you that choice of who you want to have the power.
So play on noble gamers, the choice is yours.
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