I offend you by playing old games (Daggerfall) with videos.

Yep. Even though nobody actually posted on my previous blog, I'm at it again. This time with a game people care about at a time people are awake. Also, to avoid the TL;DR nightmare of my Jagged Alliance review, I'm going to keep this short and include videos for those who lack patience! Huzzah. Today I am doing Daggerfall, which has recently become free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Elder Scrolls series.

Daggerfall is the second game in the Elder Scrolls franchise, and perhaps the one I knew least about going into it. After using the power of Google to find a website to help me figure out what the hell I was supposed to do, I created my character with a custom class (as it should be). There are a metric ton of options for characters, including more skills than both Morrowind and Oblivion, as well as special advantages, weaknesses, and reputation bonuses that you can pick for your dude. However, as is custom with Bethesda, there are a decent chunk of skills that flat out suck. Perhaps most obviously, the language skills. Allow me to explain. If you have a specific language skill, and then click on the corresponding enemy without your weapon drawn (which it is going to be most of the time) and your skill is high enough, the enemy won't attack you. If it hasn't sunk in yet, that is perhaps one of the most worthless skills in the game. And there are like 6 of them. In the end I just created the most overpowered character I could think of. (High Elf with a bunch of spell points and hit points that starts with an Ebony Dagger but has low personality for obvious reasons)

Rather than explain the gameplay (or graphics for that matter) in depth, I will simply show you these videos I recorded with DOSbox's internal codec. There is no music unfortunatley, because the music in the game (assuming you set it to the right sound card) is actually very good (If you set it to the wrong card... Just don't go shopping). Please note that the frame rate was nowhere as smooth in real life as it was in the videos, especially when I was recording them. Maybe because my computer is old.

  
The initial dungeon in the game: Privateer's Hold.
  
I walk around town a bit, and buy some spells
  
More dungeon crawling. In this case, one of the many procedurally generated random ones.

Yep. Most of the gameplay consists of getting (randomly generated) jobs from guilds you are a member of (in randomly generated towns), then going into a dungeon or someone's house to A: Kill a monster or B: Find an Object. This actually works well, and the dungeon crawling would be great if it wasn't for one tiny thing: The dungeons are stupidly and unnecessarily huge. The biggest dungeon crawls in Oblivion, something like the final mission of the Thieves Guild or the Mehrune's Razor dungeon are about 1/4th the size of one dungeon in Daggerfall and take half as long. The immense size of the dungeons result in lots of aimless wandering around, whilst constantly checking your (clunky) map for any paths or secret doors you haven't found yet. It's kind of annoying, but thankfully I was able to find the quest object most of the time after a bit of searching, so it isn't a gamebreaker... usually.

I have yet to advance the main quest, mostly because I have to be at a minimum level to even get the ability to advance it, which almost gives the game a MMO level of grind but thankfully the core gameplay is usually engaging enough that I can tolerate it most of the time.  Will it hold up after several more hours of play? I have no idea.

So, in the end, the moral of Daggerfall's story is "Just because you can make it big, doesn't mean that you should". This applies to most aspects of the game, from the selection of skills in character creation to the size of the dungeons, to the overall size of the "twice the size of actual Great Britain" world. Bethesda learned their lesson, and made Morrowind (which I hate but others love) and Oblivion (which I love but others hate) much smaller in scale but much more precise in focus. Assuming that you look up some stuff on the internet and are tolerant of some of the "this game is hella old" crap that it throws at you, Daggerfall is something like a rough diamond. Plus, you can't beat the price of free. Also, it's actually playable, unlike Arena, which I was considering looking at instead but got extremely bored.

Next up: Thief: The Dark Project.

15 Comments
16 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Yep. Even though nobody actually posted on my previous blog, I'm at it again. This time with a game people care about at a time people are awake. Also, to avoid the TL;DR nightmare of my Jagged Alliance review, I'm going to keep this short and include videos for those who lack patience! Huzzah. Today I am doing Daggerfall, which has recently become free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Elder Scrolls series.

Daggerfall is the second game in the Elder Scrolls franchise, and perhaps the one I knew least about going into it. After using the power of Google to find a website to help me figure out what the hell I was supposed to do, I created my character with a custom class (as it should be). There are a metric ton of options for characters, including more skills than both Morrowind and Oblivion, as well as special advantages, weaknesses, and reputation bonuses that you can pick for your dude. However, as is custom with Bethesda, there are a decent chunk of skills that flat out suck. Perhaps most obviously, the language skills. Allow me to explain. If you have a specific language skill, and then click on the corresponding enemy without your weapon drawn (which it is going to be most of the time) and your skill is high enough, the enemy won't attack you. If it hasn't sunk in yet, that is perhaps one of the most worthless skills in the game. And there are like 6 of them. In the end I just created the most overpowered character I could think of. (High Elf with a bunch of spell points and hit points that starts with an Ebony Dagger but has low personality for obvious reasons)

Rather than explain the gameplay (or graphics for that matter) in depth, I will simply show you these videos I recorded with DOSbox's internal codec. There is no music unfortunatley, because the music in the game (assuming you set it to the right sound card) is actually very good (If you set it to the wrong card... Just don't go shopping). Please note that the frame rate was nowhere as smooth in real life as it was in the videos, especially when I was recording them. Maybe because my computer is old.

  
The initial dungeon in the game: Privateer's Hold.
  
I walk around town a bit, and buy some spells
  
More dungeon crawling. In this case, one of the many procedurally generated random ones.

Yep. Most of the gameplay consists of getting (randomly generated) jobs from guilds you are a member of (in randomly generated towns), then going into a dungeon or someone's house to A: Kill a monster or B: Find an Object. This actually works well, and the dungeon crawling would be great if it wasn't for one tiny thing: The dungeons are stupidly and unnecessarily huge. The biggest dungeon crawls in Oblivion, something like the final mission of the Thieves Guild or the Mehrune's Razor dungeon are about 1/4th the size of one dungeon in Daggerfall and take half as long. The immense size of the dungeons result in lots of aimless wandering around, whilst constantly checking your (clunky) map for any paths or secret doors you haven't found yet. It's kind of annoying, but thankfully I was able to find the quest object most of the time after a bit of searching, so it isn't a gamebreaker... usually.

I have yet to advance the main quest, mostly because I have to be at a minimum level to even get the ability to advance it, which almost gives the game a MMO level of grind but thankfully the core gameplay is usually engaging enough that I can tolerate it most of the time.  Will it hold up after several more hours of play? I have no idea.

So, in the end, the moral of Daggerfall's story is "Just because you can make it big, doesn't mean that you should". This applies to most aspects of the game, from the selection of skills in character creation to the size of the dungeons, to the overall size of the "twice the size of actual Great Britain" world. Bethesda learned their lesson, and made Morrowind (which I hate but others love) and Oblivion (which I love but others hate) much smaller in scale but much more precise in focus. Assuming that you look up some stuff on the internet and are tolerant of some of the "this game is hella old" crap that it throws at you, Daggerfall is something like a rough diamond. Plus, you can't beat the price of free. Also, it's actually playable, unlike Arena, which I was considering looking at instead but got extremely bored.

Next up: Thief: The Dark Project.

Posted by Nerje

I know you're young (5 when GoldenEye came out... wow) but what you really gotta understand is context.  Daggerfall was released in a time when an "RPG fan" was still somebody who got together with his friends every week to crawl through dungeons using dice and miniature models.  To the average role-player of the day, the vastness and randomness of this game would have been so overwhelmingly exciting that it made up for what it lacked in substance.  Plus, it's these sort of games that laid the foundation for Oblivions and Fallout 3.

That said, I am not offended at all by you playing old games.  Your different perspective is great!  Keep it up.

p.s. I'm only 25 and you made me feeel really old.

Posted by Mikemcn

My God, that first video shows a menu with Head Bob as an option. that game really is old!

Cool post, keep it up!

Posted by Claude

I'm playing Morrowind right now, my nephew gave me his GOTY copy for the PC. I know it's free, but I don't think I want to go into Daggerfall any time soon.

Thief: The Dark Project is a great game. I wish I could get my hands on a copy of Thief II: The Metal Age. Steam doesn't offer these two games. I would probably buy Thief II if they did.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Nerje said:
" I know you're young (5 when GoldenEye came out... wow) but what you really gotta understand is context.  Daggerfall was released in a time when an "RPG fan" was still somebody who got together with his friends every week to crawl through dungeons using dice and miniature models.  To the average role-player of the day, the vastness and randomness of this game would have been so overwhelmingly exciting that it made up for what it lacked in substance.  Plus, it's these sort of games that laid the foundation for Oblivions and Fallout 3.That said, I am not offended at all by you playing old games.  Your different perspective is great!  Keep it up.p.s. I'm only 25 and you made me feeel really old. "
The title was more from my initial idea of looking at old games without any nostalgia and seeing if they held up or not (plus it sounds sort of clever). Of course, most of the games I have played are actually pretty good (aside from Jagged Alliance), but don't worry. I definitely have a title of a popular old game that I personally don't like in my head right now (I will give you a hint: It came out in 1998 like everything else)

@Mikemcn
said:
" My God, that first video shows a menu with Head Bob as an option. that game really is old!Cool post, keep it up! "
The head bob is a pain in the ass. It not only messes with the frame rate but also makes me feel motion sick. It's that bad.

@Claude
said:
" I'm playing Morrowind right now, my nephew gave me his GOTY copy for the PC. I know it's free, but I don't think I want to go into Daggerfall any time soon.Thief: The Dark Project is a great game. I wish I could get my hands on a copy of Thief II: The Metal Age. Steam doesn't offer these two games. I would probably buy Thief II if they did. "
I actually just got Thief in the mail today (which I paid $2 + S&H for and came in a paper sleeve) , and I really like what it's doing so far. The levels are large and somewhat nonlinear, and the stealth isn't super frustrating and unforgiving like Metal Gear Solid. And yes, they should put these games on steam.
Edited by ahoodedfigure

Holy crap, you got a magic item for your first loot pile?

Yes, those language skills are a joke to me.  I like it when I randomly go up in Harpy in the dungeon, I find that amusing, but I'd never dare pick them.  Some skills, too, go up a lot quicker depending on your playing style.  Having run as a top skill usually means you'll max out pretty quick.  One problem I think I encountered was that if you max out one of your skills, does that mean you can't level any more?

The dungeons are so big they make me laugh at how absurd they are.  It would have been nice to have a few of those, but have most of them be somewhere in between ridiculous, and and the sensible graveyard sized dungeons you can find on the map right away.

I love crawling through those dungeons TO A POINT, and then it becomes some sort of Hell simulation.  You get the bug where it ERASES THE GAME YOU'RE TRYING TO SAVE yet?  I am bitter.  Did that to me just a few days ago, haven't played since.

What skills did you pick? You know you can find most secret doors by checking the map for clues; even if they're well hidden they often show up on the map.  And...  It's a good idea to buy a cart early on because you can dump your loot through the maze exit (except for gold) to leave room for more.  It's a bit of a hack and slasher's dream, that, but it's handy enough that I take advantage of it all the time.  All the time meaning when I play it.  Won't play it right now, still bitter.

Edited by uk_john
@ArbitraryWater:  You are yet another media guy asking for smaller,shorter, dumber games. For years now the media have not said a word other than 'game prices has stayed pretty much constant' and yet never having a debate or editorial or interview about the ever shortening and shrinking of games. How many $60 games have under 15 hours gameplay? Bioshock, Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, so called Half Life 2 episodic content that gave 5 hours gameplay for a retail price of $20 in the U.S.but £20 in the UK!!!

The new Alpha Protocol has been quoted by the developer as having 25 hours gameplay - and it's called an RPG! So you media have won the battle. Instead of 40-100 hour plus RPG's for $60, you now get 25 hours for $60 with Alpha Protocol and most modern games. Is it any wonder PC game sales are collapsing and hardcore consoles (the PS3 and XBox 360) have had their worst sales quarter since 2000? You think if someone buys a game on Friday and finishes it by Sunday he's going to rush out and buy another game? No, he's just going to have more time before the next purchase to do other things  that may grow in interest for him, until he becomes a casual gamer. 

By accepting dumber, smaller, shallower games with no question, the media are the main reason we don't see deep, adult, sophisticated roleplaying games like Daggerfall any more. The blog above shows just the latest bit of media extolling dumber, shorter, more linear games that will ultimately drive video gaming into the gorund.
Edited by ArbitraryWater
@uk_john: Your reply was a little too venomous for me to assume that you actually read the whole thing. Did you even read the part where I said I enjoyed the game? Or did you just read the part where I said that the dungeons and the world are unnecessarily huge?
Posted by uk_john
@ArbitraryWater:  I read it all. But your write is just like the media does,  you slip things in. Did you not notice I said no editorial or debate  or interviews talking about the shortening of  games? Well isn't that the same as saying it's not being talked about openly and therefore isbeingslippedin quietly, like you did?

So let me provide the evidence: The only quote you put in bold was how the dungeons were stupidly and unnecessarily huge.  Then, the only part of the conclusion that was put in italics was: Just because you can make it big, doesn't mean that you should.

So you say the conclusion was positive by saying you liked it, but you also made sure you added to the same message you see all over the media - make games shorter,smaller and more linear.

How short will a game have to get before a professional reviewer marks it down because of it? Or talks about the gameplay to $ ratio? We have got down to about 10 hours with no comment... So maybe it will be 8 or 5  hour $60 games that will finally get the media discussing this  -but of course, by then, there won't be a video game business, just i-pod and casual $5 3-4 hour games, that actually are better value for money than the majority of $60 AAA games!.

Between this media calls for shorter, smaller, linear games,  we also have a media that says a bad game by a major developer, say Bethesda and Star Trek Legacy, is usually still worth 85% and yet a great game by a smaller developer,say STALKER by GSC Gameworld  also gets around 85%!  A really really bad game from a small publisher can easily get 40%, but a crappy game from a major publisher is never going to get less than 70%

The talk is always about piracy and DRM and everything under the sun than what the real problem is - a biased supine media that just wants an easy life, and 15 hour linear games are easier to review and score. Quite often, in any game over 30 hours it is easy to tell the reviewer only saw the first 10. Mainstream AAA PC only gaming is almost on it's deathbed and oft all the consoles it is the hardcore machines (PS3 and 360) that are strugglingand the casual machines (Wii and DS) that are doing well. Is it any wonder, when the media is basically saying short games made for the lowest common denominator are 'good' and deep, intellectual games are 'bad' that this is the direction the media is taking. Well, when the only games that sell more than 100,000 are $10 each casual games  rather than $60 AAA titles, the meida can explain how the industry survives on only 20% of the income!

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@uk_john: It seems I am nothing more than a target for your ranting against the "dumbing down" of games to appeal to a more casual demographic, as evidenced by the last three paragraphs that have nothing to do with Daggerfall. The point of this blog was to present an informal look at an old game without any nostalgia, and I simply gave my opinion. I am not a member of the gaming media, nor did I ever say I was. If you have a problem with the length of games, make your own topic and don't hijack mine with your retro-elitist ranting.
Posted by uk_john

And obviously you don't talk about the first three paragraphs of my comment, only the last three, which proves how blinkered you look at things.

Posted by Breadfan
@uk_john said:
 And obviously you don't talk about the first three paragraphs of my comment, only the last three, which proves how blinkered you look at things.
Way to reply to a blog that was posted six months ago, asking for a response.
Posted by Bubahula

im playing Morrowind GOTY right now....i don't think i will have time to play daggerfall...but i kinda want to :P

Posted by Computerplayer1

Never played the older games, but Morrowind is still my favorite game of all time.

Posted by Nasar7

I too played Daggerfall on DOSbox but I quit after the opening dungeon because I couldn't stand the low framerate. I was on a pretty decent computer too. 
 
Good on you for persevering.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@uk_john: Congrats. You are continuing to troll on a blog that I posted 6 months ago. But please, continue to pretend that this is still relevant. It should be fun to read.