The RPG world has suffered greatly in the past few years. The pure RPG, filled with stats and epic adventures that take months rather than hours to solve, is dying a slow but real death. Taking its place are hybrid games, which mix traditional fantasy themes and situations with arcade action engines and encourage fans to make the move into titles that more easily mass-produced. Fortunately, there are still a few developers left willing to put the extra time and effort into producing RPGs that can captivate audiences for the long haul. With Daggerfall, the designers at Bethesda have created more than a game; they have created an entirely new world for PC users to explore, exploit, and evolve with.
To create Daggerfall's world, the developers have employed a proprietary system that Bethesda calls the X-Engine. Using the versatile engine as a base, the developers have created an amazingly detailed 3-D world with plenty of slick effects including weather-based fogging and on-the-fly lighting effects (when you shoot a fireball down a hallway, you can see the walls light up as it moves down the corridor) without tying up excessive amounts of system resources.
The impressive visuals detail a game world that is truly leviathan in scope. "Our game world is about the size of Great Britain," says Bruce Nesmith, Daggerfall's design leader. "The characters in the game do walk a little bit faster than a real human, but walking from one end of the continent to the other would be equivalent to really walking the length of Great Britain."
The latest guess on about how long this would take, walking diagonally from one corner to the other, is about two real-time weeks -so it's a good thing that players have a fast travel option if they want to use it. This huge game world is filled with loads of towns, villages, castles, and cities, all actually to scale. Players adventuring in the wilds are also likely to run across one of the game's many dungeons, all of which are filled with fantastically rendered enemies, unlike anything seen before in a computer game. Daggerfall's bizarre menagerie is visually magnificent, and encompasses everything from classic fantasy residents such as goblins and centaurs to frightening new additions like the Daedra. Don Nalezyty, the game's art manager, is pleased with the way the final product is shaping up, saying "I did all of the game's textures and objects before I ever saw them put together in the game¾the first time I walked through a town, even I was stunned by how good the completed effect was."
Even with all of this going for it, what should really set Daggerfall apart from most games currently available is its logical yet open-ended gameplay. Players can do just about anything they want, and the results of their actions are logical and consistent.
If you want to run around killing townfolk, there's nothing to stop you, but you will soon discover that (if there are any witnesses) the local guards will chase you, beat you into submission, and then throw you in jail. Soon after, you will be granted a trial from a judge who can, realistically, be bribed or fooled. If you don't want to open the door to go into a castle, you can climb the walls. Almost anything you imagine a person could do in a fantasy realm, your character will have the potential to accomplish. Politics also play a large role in your character's life; any time you take an action, dozens of different political groups, from the nobility to the merchants, will change their opinion about your character. Not only is Daggerfall sure to be one of this year's best RPGs (after all, there won't really be all that much competition), but it also promises to entirely change the way players view the RPG genre. In Daggerfall, real life diplomacy, physics, and political engines come together with a convincing first person interface to open a window into another world. If you're an RPG fan, this is one game you can't afford to lose sight of as it nears its late August release.