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The Elder Scrolls series began in 1994 with Arena, and the success of that first game has spawned a long-running and highly acclaimed series of games. Daggerfall is the second game in this series, and is regarded by some fans as the best.
The game is set in the titular city of Daggerfall and its surrounding areas, part of the land known as Tamriel. Trouble is brewing in the region following the death of King Lysandus, and the Emperor asks you to get to the bottom of it. How you go about this is up to you, as you have a wealth of options for character classes and numerous regions filled with cities, towns, and dungeons.
You must first pick your character class, which you can take from a list of diverse types, or craft your own from scratch. This enables you to make a character exactly as you see fit; choose strengths and weaknesses that complement your play style, or perhaps added burdens to make the experience even more challenging. This creation process is more in-depth than in most modern RPGs.
Once you have created your character, you set sail for the Kingdom of Daggerfall. Unfortunately, things do not begin smoothly, and your ship is wrecked in a storm. You begin the game in a small cave, with a small selection of equipment. Your first goal becomes to escape, and so your adventure begins! From that point onwards, you have a great amount of freedom in your choices of towns to visit, people to help, and organizations to join. How this ends depends on the choices you make.
One of the most interesting points about this game is the variety of endings which can arise depending on your choices in the game. There is tremendous replay value, from the character class to numerous game choices and the different endings. There are few games before or since that give so much freedom to a player.
Graphically it does show its age, but it is not an ugly game by any means: It uses a blend of 3D environments and 2D objects, monsters and people. The environments themselves are procedurally generated, which is how they could create such a large and varied area for the game to take place in. To date, it is still the largest Elder Scrolls game in terms of explorable area (Over 60,000 square miles!). The view is first-person, and fighting is in real time, with quite a lot of violence and a liberal amount of blood and gore.
The interface is quite easy to use, with many useful keyboard shortcuts to save time; the default controls use both the mouse and keyboard, and are highly customizable. While many will find the icons at the bottom of the screen useful, there is an option to use the majority of the screen as the character view. Those that have played the first in the series, or the Ultima Underworld games, will be familiar with the general control scheme.
One thing you will quickly get used to with Daggerfall is the digitized sound effects. Different types of enemies will have different sounds; wailing ghosts and the sound of rats scurrying across stone will have you on the lookout for those enemies that stand between you and your fame, fortune, and mission! The music is also very accomplished, with variation based on location, time of day, and even the weather.
For all its ambition and depth, Daggerfall does have its share of problems. When first released it had many bugs, which made the game very difficult for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully, a lot of these problems are resolved with the latest patch, but some problems do still remain. It is very important to save often, and to use different save slots each time to help prevent problems.
It is a shame that such a great game is tarnished by such flaws, as it truly is one of the best RPGs out there. It is definitely worth the time invested, though, as it becomes quite easy to become attached to your character as he grows in skill and gains power and influence across the game world.
One for RPG fans; fans of first-person RPGs in particular. Those that prefer rogue-likes may also find this of interest, and I would suggest that all Elder Scrolls fans should visit Daggerfall to see how this became one of the most popular RPG series of recent years.
As usual, we recommend DOSBox to run this game. After unzipping contents of the ZIP file, you can start the game by drag'n dropping "Dagger.bat" onto the DOSBox shortcut--but this file must remain in the same folder as the "DAGGER" sub-folder. (You needn't read any further, the rest of the information is aimed at advanced users.)
If you prefer to set things up yourself, this installation needs the game at the path "C:\dagger\". The game was supposed to be started with "dagger.exe", but since the CD is not included, enter "fall z.cfg" instead; this will skip the preliminary tests (CD, mouse, memory, file handles...) See also "DOSBox notes" below.
This installation is patched to the latest 1.07.213 version. The cutscenes are missing, but they would show if you mount the game CD (available in the ISO Cellar) as D: drive.
According to Bethesda, this games needs 32 megabytes of RAM memory; this means the "memsize" line in the [dosbox] section of the configuration file. The .bat script included by us to run the game already takes care of this.