Daggerfall: The Elder Scrolls Chapter 2
Review by Alfred Giovetti, 11/17/96
Genre: Role Playing Adventure
Release: August 30th, 1996
Price: $89.95 pre-release limited edition, $79.95 regular edition, $55
street price
Hint book: $19.99
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Designer: Bruce Nesmith
Producer: Julian Lefay
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Phone: 301-926-8300
Website: www.bethsoft.com,
http://www.bethsoft.com/cgi-bin/daggerfall.cgi?Lite:Y:N:N:N:N:N
Requirements: 486 DX, 66Mhz, DOS 5.0, 8MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM Drive, VGA compatible graphics card, most popular sound cards, Joystick or Microsoft compatible mouse.

History: Arena, the Elder Scrolls Chapter 1 was one of the most played and enjoyed computer fantasy role playing adventures (CFRPG) ever devised. Arena was strong on outside and inside locations, with many entire kingdoms that you could walk across loaded with treasures, monsters, citizens, and quests. Many of the denizens could speak to the player character, but many were unable to speak because they were not interested in talking.

Where, Arena was weak was the balance between experience and character skills. As the levels increased up to level 20, the difficulty of the opponents and battles increased, as they did in Might and Magic 2, often making it easier to be a low level character who avoided the interest of the greater denizens, but unable to complete some of the greater quests without the higher levels. Another area which was weak was character interaction where the designers confused quantity with quality, and the characters you met were often not deeply effected by long term relationships as they would be in real life. Another poorly planned aspect had to do with the impossible nature of certain time dependent quests which could not be completed during some seasons of the year when travel times lengthened. In spite of these minor flaws, Arena rose out of the depths and has become many gamers favorite CFRPG.

This time out, the game, which is set in the Empire of Tamriel, is bigger, reportedly twice the size of Great Britain, but we as yet know not what scale the size was based upon. We look for the game to have immense play value, with equally immense expanses rivaling the real world in extent and breadth.

Company line: Daggerfall is the second chapter in the award-winning computer role playing series, The Elder Scrolls and surpasses the standard set by the first chapter, The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Set in the unique world of Tamriel, TES: Daggerfall takes you on a special mission on behalf of the Emperor to quell a potential uprising in the royal court of Daggerfall. The player's participation in this major quest is not required: as in TES: Arena, the player may choose to follow any path or career in the vast, beautiful, and dangerous world.

If the player chooses to investigate the court of Daggerfall, stories of madness, unrequited love, dark sorcery, seduction, betrayal, and a plot to recreate a powerful force from thousands of years past will be revealed. It will be up to the player to help the side that should wield such a power, for the fate of Daggerfall and the Empire of Tamriel hang in the balance. Thanks to the new, full 3-D, texture-mapped engine, TES: Daggerfall brings a whole new look and style to the Elder Scrolls legend.

Special new features allow players to: - Explore a fully topographical landscape
- Interact realistically with other characters, both in dialogue and action
- Visit meticulously designed caves, castles, dwellings, highlands, and lowlands - even travel underwater and to alternate dimensions.
- Own property, ships, crafts, participate in the politics of guilds and other organizations and trade goods and services - you can even smuggle
- Create more unusual and powerful spells than the much praised, original TES: Arena SpellMaker
- Face a large, new managerie of monsters and enemies
- Create your own customized character class
- Listen to the advanced, multi-channel, digitilized sound effects and music
- Participate in an infinite number of large-scale, complex adventures
- Create potions and magic items, as an extension of TES: Arena's SpellMaker

Plot: As the Emperor of Tamrielís special representative, you, as the main character, must put-down, quell, and otherwise squash a potential uprising in the royal court of Daggerfall. Like the previous Arena and Originís Privateer, you need not pursue the major quest to play the game. According to Bethesda, you are free to explore, and pursue your "career in the vast, beautiful and dangerous world."

You arrive in Daggerfall by ship which is destroyed by a storm. When you regain conciousness, you are in the hold of a Pirate ship filled with evil monsters bent on your destruction. (You would think that after killing hundreds of rats, bats, imps, and rogues that the rest of them would run in the other direction as you approached, but these denizens behave with an admirable level of stupidity. - Ed.)

After you secure your escape from the Pirate ship, you are called upon to investigate stories of madness, unrequited love, dark sorcery, seduction (What the world needs is more seduction! - Ed.), betrayal, and a plot to recreate a powerful force from thousands of years past." And of course the player will play a role (Roleplaying? - Ed.) that will be pivotal in determining who will wield such a power, which will determine, as it were, the fate of Daggerfall, the Empire of Tamreil, the World, the Universe, and, of course, all intelligent life in the Universe. (God save the Queens, err Queen! -Ed.)

Game play permits the main character to own land, ships, crafts, join and participate in guild politics and duties, join other oranizations, trade goods, and ply your services. While the game does not have the same range of possible professions and actions as seen in Ultima VI, you can become a trader, smuggler, murderer, adventurer or any number of professions to find your way separate of the plot like Originís Privateer.

Most dungeons are randomly generated to give the game more play value. The dungeons are where you pick up armor, weapons, artifacts, and experience by killing monsters and completing quests. Experience builds up the skills of the characters. Similar to the earlier Arena, the twelve main dungeons which advance the plot are hard coded with the essentials plot details.

Spells: As important as character generation and development, is the spell generation system. A new spell engine is supported that goes beyond the Arena SpellMaker to create "more unusual and powerful spells." (We would love to know what that pregnant statement means. - Ed.) Potion and magic items will be created in similar fashion to that seen in Arena. The free form spell and potion system allows you to create almost any spell you can imagine.

Classes: Character classes are fully customizable to each players preferences, using a combination of skills, and attributes.

Graphics use the advanced fractal algorithms of Dr. Ken Musgrave to give the terrain a very real look and feel. A "fully topographical landscape" (reminds me of my college days when topography was a course elective - Ed.) will have caves, castles, dwellings, highlands, underwater locations, and lowlands. The new land is three dimensional, like Arena, with texture-mapping, light-sourcing, and accurate physics applied liberally. Snow, rain, thunder and lightning weather effects are remarkable at adding to the immersive quality of the game.

The graphics are not SVGA and you are transported back in time to those better quality VGA graphics games. Many of the new game players may find the VGA a bit primitive.

Music: "Advanced, multi-channel, Ďdigitilizedí sound effects and music" on a grand scale will rock your world, or words to that effect.

Utilities: The automap feature is really needed in a world so vast. The three dimensional map needs a lot of work to prevent confusion, similar to the SSI map in Thunderscape. You will need to use all the facilities of tilt, rotate, and zoom in order to understand where you really are. You may go back to lamenting the loss of the two dimensional maps that are so simple to decipher.

The adventure log will not allow you to make your own notes or key-word search these notes, which has been a must have utility for the past few years. Other games with notetaking ability are Ultima and Stonekeep.

Bug alert: There are a surprising number of bugs in the game which may inhibit the enjoyment of many depending upon how many hours you intend to spend in the environment. Bethesda has pledged to eradicate the bugs no matter how long it takes.

Multiplayer: Unfortunately this does not appear to be a multi-player game.

Hints: The hint book does a good job of helping you get through the major quests by reducing the quest to easy to follow instructions and illustrations that actually make the three dimensional maps navigable.

Conclusions: Daggerfall is a fun romp for all. Donít miss it. It is definitely worth the price.

Reviewer: Michael Wolf is to be congratulated on his collapsible horse scenario in the fourth from the last paragraph of his review.

References:
Al Giovetti, Arena: The Elder Scrolls, Electronic Games, volume 2, number 8, May, 1994, pg. 96.
Computer Gaming World, number 146, September, 1996, pg.32.
Cindy Yans, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 20-22.
Michael Wolf, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 242-243, 90%.
Trent Ward, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/daggerfa/index.html
Trent C. Ward, http://www.gamespot.com/rpg/daggerfa/, 83%
-- Al Giovetti, The Computer Show, 1615 Frederick Road, Catonsville, MD, 21228-5022, 410-747-0396 http://www.charm.net/~wizards/computershow/