Cipher 8's Video Game Central
As a long time gamer and a at one time Advanced Dungeons & Dragons player (2nd and 3rd Edition) anytime I see a video game that comes out bearing the name I get excited. While the tabletop experience that makes D&D so great usually never makes it's way fully into the video games I nonetheless always get suckered into buying and playing these games in hopes that one day someone will finally get it right and make the D&D video game I've always been waiting for.
Now my first impressions of Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale are it is not "it". It's not the AAA D&D title I've always wanted but it does look to be a lot of fun. Developed by Bedlam Games this downloadable action RPG is focused on co-operative play in a D&D-style (based on the 4th Edition ruleset) shell with plenty of dungeon crawling and RPG elements.

Atari and Bedlam Games wanted to make it as authentic as possible and worked closely with Wizards of the Coast to make sure it will please as many D&D fans as possible. Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale combines the depth of the D&D 4th Edition with the intuitive gameplay of PC and console-based titles such as Dragon Age, Diablo, and Torchlight that gamers have come to expect and enjoy from a action RPG.

With it's compelling hack-and-slash style gameplay, fluid graphics, hoards of loot, and a choice between solo and multiplayer cooperative modes, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale delivers, action packed challenges and offers an unmatched and accessible yet thrilling RPG experience that will satisfy even the most seasoned adventurer. It's the first Dungeons & Dragons title to bring episodic, module-based adventure to consoles as well.

The Story

Daggerdale's Introductory Trailer
Are you ready to travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms? Questing and dungeon crawling is at the core of Daggerdale's main campaign questline. The story centers around a desperate struggle to defeat the evil Rezlus and his Zhentarim in their attempt to invade and conquer the Dalelands.

The journey begins in the remote Desertsmouth Mountains. Players start out deep in sulfuric catacombs of the mines of Tethyamar amidst a group of dwarfs in a mining town that's been left to decay due to goblin raids. At the beginning players are just trying to get an understanding of where they're at and what they'll be doing. Before they get a idea of what their main goal is in the overarching story - basically thwarting the evil Rezlus and his masterplan. - they must first help the town of dwarven miners. Players ally themselves with these people and solve their problems, boost them up and help them out before they can seek to end the tyranny of the one who sits atop the Tower of the Void: Rezlus.
Players will be exploring different places as the story progresses through four large chapters. With a large number of main quests and a fair share of optional side-quests there will be plenty to experience along the way. The world has a lot of depth for you to explore. The richness of the world is something you should come to expect from a D&D setting.

Quests in general may start out small enough but can quickly bloom into something much much larger than players thought. Ultimately it's a story based around the players restoring order to the Dalelands by unlocking the secrets of the Mines of Tethyamar, defeating the evil within the treacherous Tower of the Void, and then the final confrontation with Rezlus himself. Aside from all of that there is still the intriguing Free Play Mode that should give the game some replayability value as well as offer a mode to play when you just want to get some loot and mess around.
You can play solo in singleplayer, join up with a friend locally and play split screen, or group up with up to three friends online for a four player co-op experience. Basically you can host your game and wait for others to join or of course you can send private invites to people and group with friends in the lobby before going into a dungeon together. They can also come in and join your game in progress.
The game is run with something they call the Dungeon Master. (Fitting for those who have played the table top version.) The Dungeon Master is a system underneath the game that dictates the number of creatures that are spawned in conjunction with your power or level and the number of players in the game. Dungeon Master will change the difficulty of the game as you level up and get more powerful. This system also determines the loot you find. Loot is basically everywhere. You're able to pick up loot through performing quests, engaging in combat with enemies and just general exploration. The idea of moving the player forward through loot rewards is only one of the things that happens through the entire experience. Players can also trade items amongst themselves or visit a merchant in one of the different towns. NPCs can join the group at specific points of the adventure as well. The world is living, breathing and there's an economy there as well.

The Classes

You can choose from one of four pre-set race class combos to start;
  1. Human Fighter
  2. Halfling Wizard
  3. Dwarven Cleric
  4. Elven Rogue

You can choose to have multiple fighters, multiple wizards, multiple rogues, or multiple clerics playing together but you must choose from one of those predetermined roles when creating a character.

My initial thoughts on the class system are why does every D&D game or dungeon crawl RPG game have to follow the trend where the characters are predetermined? Why do they force you to play as cliched characters in specific arch types every time? Why don't they instead allow you to create your own? I can't answer for these annoying trends of the Action RPG's genre but I would think a game that carries the Dungeons & Dragons name would give you access to choose and customize your character's looks, gender, race and class rather than being restricted to choose from predetermined options. I mean a large part of the table top role playing game is making your own character and role playing as them. Most of the fun comes from role playing your own fantasy avatar and advancing and progressing his/her's skills and abilities. That's basically D&D at it's core. The monsters and quests and all that mean nothing without the hero you choose to play as. Choosing from a base set of characters and classes not only takes that level of depth out but takes a lot of the fun and enjoyment out from a D&D game in my opinion.

That being said Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale does have some deep and expansive character customization options. Once you've picked your initial character it's entirely up to you how you want to develop that character. The game still allows for you to customize how your character advances according to the 4th Ed. D&D rule set through feats, powers and abilities as well as upgraded armor, weapons, and items you collect as you battle your way through the game. They offer a wide range of ways to engange the countless variations of enemies in combat so don't worry. Each base class has a focus on either melee, tactical ranged shots, or powerful spell casting but there are features in place which give the game plenty of depth and allow the player to define the roles you like to play as.

You earn experience and gain powers to enhance and customize your hero as you level up. The more damage you deal out the more xp you bring in. Daggerdale concentrates on the first 10 levels of the character - the Heroic tier [of 4th Edition rules]. The game however is planned to be episodic. Spanning across three arcade titles with the first one coming out on this week, May 25th. The second and third games will continue the story as well as offer you a chance to continue your character's progression. Character saves will transfer to the new games and they will offer the player to chance to continue leveling up 10 levels at a time.
When you level a character you gain attribute points which you can spend any way you like. In addition to the players normal attacks there are also unique powers each class gets to purchase. There are three levels of each of these powers. Lastly they have a system called feats which allows you to customize your role beyond just choosing a class. For Example: You can choose which attribute you want to determine your basic attack roll and damage roll by. You can choose the Melee Training (INT) feat for example, which uses your intelligence rating instead of your strength rating to determine your melee strikes success rate and damage.
So you can still fully customize each character whether a Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, or Cleric with skills and abilities but the bulk of character customizing will come more in the form of loot-able items. There will be specific gear you gather along the way in forms of weapons, clothing, and armor that you can use along with your class specific abilities to smite your foes in all different ways.

Make sure to scroll through the screenshots and watch the videos below for more on this level of depth and customization.

(click 'Play |>' at top left of big square for a slideshow or scroll your cursor over the left or right side of the thumbnails to scroll through the individual screenshots and click on them for a larger view.
  * Keep in mind some of these screenshots are just print screen captured off a youtube video so they are not high quality.
More Below
These top four videos show actual gameplay but there's a catch, not in English. There are plenty more like them on Youtube.
Like all arcade games there will be a playable demo version for you to try out first so go ahead and check out the game and it's features and see if you like it or not. I already know I am going to purchase it but I hope this game and games like it will get more people interested in D&D and then we will see that AAA table top version that all past and present D&D players have wanted for years. For now Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, the three part arcade game, will have to hold us over and by the looks of things it'll do more than a fine job at that.