The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

Go and be free!


From which region do you hail, adventurer?

On all accounts, Daggerfall is a flawed masterpiece; but know that its negatives do not keep it from being a great game. Bethesda concentrated on developing better gameplay since Arena, their primordial Elder Scrolls from 1993, at the expense of visual greatness, and many found heart complaining about the graphics being merely VGA. Since the graphics are far superior to those in Arena (where the walls would pixelate at the slightest glance) but altogether not up to code for a 1996 game is obvious, but look past the visual shortcomings and you’ll find a massive world brimming with all the necessary role-playing trimmings to make it a solid experience.

In Daggerfall, freedom is king. You’re free to determine who and what you will be, where to go, and what to do! Daggerfall boggles the mind with that kind of freedom. It begins with the character generator. Eighteen standard character classes are available – like rangers, archers, mages, knights, barbarians or thieves. You can complete the story quests, dabble in optional quests or just go out dungeon crawling. You can join several factions, including the Thieves’ Guild, Knights’ Order or the secretive Dark Brotherhood. You can watch the sun rise and recite poetry. You can pay a handful of gold to a wench and have a good time in a back alley (well, you almost could. Intercourse was removed but the relevant dialogue options can still be found in the game code, but it didn’t stop the game receiving an Adult Only rating, the only TES game to have been branded so).

After passing the tricky starter dungeon familiarizing you with the combat system and interface, you’re handed the real prize – the world itself. Set in the Iliac Bay coastal region, Daggerfall depicts what is possibly the largest world ever constructed in any computer role-playing game, literally spanning about the size of Great Britain (around 230.000 sq. kilometers / 88.000 sq. miles according to Bethesda), with 150.000 towns, villages, castles, caves and dungeons to explore. By comparison, Morrowind makes up only about 0.01% of Daggerfall’s world, an infinitesimal fraction.

Bethesda accomplish this by randomly generating a lot of the world, and while this might come off as a cheap trick, one has to acknowledge the final result is pretty satisfying; after all, there are no buildings or trees haphazardly spawned on top of each other. Evidently, making your way around this region in real-time would be hugely impractical, so a useful ‘quick travel’ feature is implemented just to make the game playable. There is, of course, a day-night cycle to account for, and the quick-travel option advances game time accordingly without forcing you to sit through the experience in real-time.

19_1The game is based on Bethesda’s spectacular Xngineâ„¢ technology, which allows unrestricted 3D view and movement. Often, you can go to where you look; climb on top of roofs, or city walls. Xngine also changes what’s possible with the auto-map. And, to be fair, dungeon maps have never looked this good. You can spin the 3D models of the dungeons you find, move them up, down, left and right. 3D maps were always a hit-and-miss deal for me, but I admit that this wasn’t the worst system I’ve ever seen, though I still often found it impractical..

Many different kinds of quests are available. Some come from talking to individuals in towns. Others are given by Guilds. A major story-line quest is available, but to complete it and win the game, the gamer’s personal character has be at least level fourteen. The character levels are achieved only through a combination of monster hacking, guild training and skill development. A character only advances to the third level, for example, after he/she improved 15 total points in all of the primary, two of the major and the first of the minor skills.

On the side, there have been a few major projects to source port the game into the modern era, but so much nothing really concrete has been produced (or at least nothing on the scale that ZDoom could emulate). Thus one can only play the game in DOS (or DosBox), which entails a few days of getting used to the interface and visuals. Once those obstacles have been passed, you’ll find a massive world to gratify your role-playing needs.

System Requirements: 486 DX2 / 50 Mhz, 8 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD Space, DOS 5.0

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