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GDR Masthead



Reviewed by: Chris McMullen
Author: Bethesda Price: Retail:£39.99 UK
Category: RPG Released: October 1996
Platform: DOS. Version: Patched to 1.03.79
Multiplayer: None. Under Win95: Satisfactory

Graphic modes: 320x200x256
Controls: Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick
Sound devices: Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, Sound Blaster 16, AWE32, Pro Audio Spectrum, Soundscape, G.U.S. and compatibles.
Computer Memory HD space CD speed
Minimum 486-66 8M 50M x2
Reviewed on P133 16M 215M x4
Recommended 486-100 8M 215M x4


Wot, no artillery?

One of the earliest gaming memories I have; sad I know, but bear with me, is of playing The Hobbit on my trusty Spectrum. It was the first game to harness the awesome computing power of that 8-bit wonder, and it was the first game to feature characters with true artificial intelligence. It brought role playing game kicking and screaming into the computer age.

Cobblers. That's what the publishers wanted you to believe. What you actually got was a particularly dull and frustrating text adventure. You see, in those days, there was no point and click interfaces, as found in Monkey Island or Discworld. Every command had to be typed in as text; once you'd figured out what you wanted to do, you had to spend another six hours trying to figure out what you had to type in to get it to work. And the supposedly 'intelligent' characters? Ha! Most of them were glued to one location, and the two that were supposed to accompany you were completely useless. Thorin, the first character, followed you round like a puppy, pausing momentary to sit down and start singing about gold. The second character, Gandalf, just wandered randomly around; both failed to offer any helpful suggestions as to how to make progress. The most fun to be had was starting a fight, and getting them to smash each other's stupid faces in. What a load of rubbish.


I ain't fraid of no ghos... runnn away!

But what does all that have to with Daggerfall, the latest game from Bethesda? Thankfully, not a lot. While Daggerfall is a role playing game, it has little in common with the aformentioned text adventure. Set in the the mystical land of Tamriel, you take the role of a trusted friend of the Emperor, who has been sent on a mission to the kingdom of Daggerfall. The ex-king of Daggerfall, slain under mysterious circumstances, has returned from the dead to haunt the streets of Daggerfall's capital, seeking vengeance. He's not exactly coherent, and neither are any of the other members of his spectral army, so it's up to you to find out why he's haunting the streets, and put a stop to it. There's also the matter of a letter, written by the Emperor, that has gone missing, and you're also given the task of tracking it down. A task that will take you across kingdoms, and into the deepest, darkest dungeons of the land. Scary.


Woooo. Scary.

The action in Daggerfall is viewed from a 3D perspective, as in Quake, and is powered by Bethesda's X-NGINE graphics engine. Previously used in Terminator: Future Shock, it sports similar capabilities to Quake's engine, and allows the designers to produce full 3D levels, with tunnels that corkscrew around, caverns, balconies, incredibly intricate levels, and all of them visually impressive. Of course, you won't see much of these features when you're just wandering around in towns, but Bethesda have used the system to produce some absolutely fiendish dungeons. I'd go far as to say that many of levels are superior to those in Quake. And there are hundreds of dungeons waiting to be explored. If that's your thing, of course; which brings me onto the thing that sets Daggerfall apart from practically every other RPG and 3D game on the market; flexibility.



While there is a central plot in Daggerfall, you're not forced to follow it. If you want, you can wander off, do something else, and catch up with the plot later, or ignore it completely. There are so many distractions in Daggerfall; there are lots of different guilds to join, sub-quests to perform, and much more. You aren't limited to wandering around one city, or even one country. In this game, you can explore an entire continent, take quests from peasants, or even kings and queens. You can sleep in comfort, or camp out in the wilderness, though picking the latter option means you could find wandering beasties visiting you with surprising regularity. You could turn to a life of crime, pickpocketing townsfolk, or robbing shops to make money. You can even become a vampire, or a werewolf, each condition coming with various advantages and disadvantages. There are just too many features in Daggerfall to list in one review.

Hobbit Forming

Glow in the dark eyeballs can be quite useful.

Bethesda have really put a lot of work into every part of the game; even from the start of the game, you have total control. You can choose your class, your stats, attributes, race, every little detail. Or if, like me, you want to leave the really fiddly bits to the computer, you can choose your class, either manually, or by answering a set of questions, choose your background automatically, or by answering questions, then hop straight into the game. With Daggerfall, you can do as much or as little as you like; courier, or dungeoneer? It's entirely up to you.


Take me to your leader..

Daggerfall takes the tried-and-tested 'experience' based approach to adventure gaming. Basically, this means that as you use your skills more, you raise those skills; raise them far enough, and your level goes up, giving you points to add to your strength, agility and so on. There are also a wide variety of monsters; each monster has a recognisably different war-cry, and you can tell, by listening, where a monster is, and just how nasty it is.

Combat is mouse-based; if you have a sword or other weapon handy, holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse around, will make your character slash at the air in front of him, doing damage if he makes contact with a baddie. Or if you're into magic, you can use that; there's a spellmaker that lets you mix your own magic 'combo' spells and items. The monsters differ in size and strength, but if you're not strong enough, you can even be felled by a rat. You also need to be careful that you don't catch a disease from a monster; if you do, a quick trip to the temple is in order, and if you're in a dungeon, you might have problems. As I mentioned earlier, the dungeon design is excellent. Most of the major dungeons are carefully laid out to prove a major obstacle to you, though it would seem that smaller dungeons are generated randomly, though they are no less dangerous. Go deep enough into a dungeon, and you'll find that the lowest level is flooded, where water-based nasties lurk. Not a good place to go swimming.


I've pretty much sung the praises of Daggerfall so far, but there is a downer. While I can't fault the gameplay, there are a couple of bugs. The first version of the game was more than a little buggy, but patches were quickly issued. The version I played was a European version 1.03.177, with a patch applied to take it up to version 1.03.179, but still bugs remained. First of all, I found that my character sometimes got stuck in the wall; frenzied waggling of the cursor keys usually freed him. I found the game dropping to Dos, from time to time. Not too often, but just enough to be a little annoying. Saving my game regularly (which I do anyway) made this bug bearable. I encountered no bugs which hampered the gameplay, or made quests uncompletable (unlike in Mechwarrior 2: Mercs). Plus, the sheer playablility of Daggerfall eclipses these bugs.


Daggerfall, all things considered, is an outstanding game. Incredibly playable, huge in size and depth, it excels. Bethesda seem to have thought of nearly everything (though I'm sure I can think of some suggestions for the next game). If you have even the slightest interest in adventuring or role playing games, Daggerfall is an excellent buy.


  • Blistering gameplay.
  • It's huge.
  • You can deviate from the plot as much as you want.
  • You can be a vampire or a werewolf


  • It's still a bit buggy.


Appeal: RPG gamers generally, adventurers.
Originality & Storyline: The plot's the usual RPG fare, but with lots of twist. Daggerfall is a pumped up RPG game.
Graphics & Video: Good, if a tad blocky close up.
Audio: Good. There are some very atmospheric growls and groans; no in game speech, though.
Longevity: Excellent; there's a huge game area, as well as bags of creatures; this has a vert high replay value.
Presentation: Superb; you can pick a standard character, or choose your own. Nearly everything in the game can be fiddled with.
Packaging & Docs: Good. The manual that covers most things you need to get started.
Bugs & Problems: Crashes; getting stuck in walls.

Copyright © Chris McMullen for the Games Domain Review, 1996. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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