Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (MS-DOS)

This is the second game in the Elder Scrolls series, and it definitely has a more stylish logo than poor Elder Scrolls - Arena. Also you travel to a place called Daggerfall in it so the title has some connection to the game this time.

The game is now free and can be download from the official site. This is the version I'm going to be playing.

I feel like I've done this before somehow...

I go with Hammerfell, land of the Redguard. Because why not.

Now I know I've seen this before. This is the exact same questionnaire screen used in Elder Scrolls -  Arena. Even some of the questions are the same.

I decide to be a rogue, trained in the shadowy arts of the thief, and the combat arts of the warrior. That way I should be able to last long enough to figure out the basics of the game before I get killed and choose a different character.

Whoa, I was not expecting FMV. The guy playing Emperor Uriel Septim (the seventh) seems to be a decent actor too. I am apparently an old friend of the Emperor and he has a task for me.

I am to sail to Daggerfall and find out why the dead king has gone crazy, and then find a way to put his ghost to rest. Seems like a simple enough job.

Unfortunately my boat was capsized in a storm and now I'm stuck in this cave, fighting rats.

It still has the same combat controls as Arena, I hold the right mouse button and move the mouse to swing my weapon in various ways, but now I have full mouse look and strafing! It's nice to be able to look down at the rat I'm attacking.

Helpfully the game has a tutorial, but it seems to be designed for people who want to spend 10 minutes jumping around in a cave before opening the first door. I was already halfway down the next hallway before the tutorial popped up explaining how to draw my weapon.

Damn, the tutorial never mentioned anything about flying imps that can kill me with one hit.

I was killed by the third enemy in the game... so at least I'm doing much better than I was in Arena.


Damn this starting dungeon is huge. It could really use some shadows though.

I restarted the game, this time as a Nord warrior with a huge sword and a face that strikes fear into my enemies. That pathetic imp was so intimidated by my manly visage that his one shot kill spell fizzled away at the sight of me.

And then my poor Nord ran into an Orc and we beat each other to death.


Cate the archer took 12 arrows just to kill the first rat. Bows had unlimited ammo in Arena, but in this I have a limited supply. Fortunately I can pull used arrows from the corpses of my fallen foes.

Not that Cate really managed to kill many foes. I got up to that bloody flying imp and found that he was resistant to arrows. And to the axe I'd found. So I ran away... right into a thief, who stabbed me. Holy shit I just cannot get past this first dungeon.


Now I am high elf battlemage... who can't even kill a bloody rat. Two shots and I've used up all my mana. Fortunately I also brought a sword which is far more useful as it can actually hurt enemies and it's good for more than two hits.

I decide to rest to replenish my mana, but find myself rudely awakened by a bear. I've still got no mana, but my sword skills are up to the task and the bear and his ally soon lay slain. This battlemage actually seems pretty decent in a fight.

I decide to sleep again, and get attacked by another bear! Was I supposed to close the doors or something? Fortunately bears are no match for my blade. I cut through them with no trouble, and get murdered instead by a bat.


This time I shall play as a mighty Argonian lizard creature, a ranger with an arsenal of weapons in her inventory. I barely made it down the first corridor before I got chased back to the starting room and murdered.

Okay fine, I can take a hint. This may be a tutorial dungeon, but it's not meant to be a cakewalk. From now on I'm going to stick with one character and use saves. Lots of saves.

My final character is a Bretonian spellsword, though my spells seem pretty useless so far compared to my sword.

I seem to be safe to rest as long as I close all the doors first. Like in Arena, when I've got enough experience I can rest to level up and add points to my attributes. But in this whenever I rest I get a bonus to the skills I've been using as well. So I'm getting a lot of long blade practice.


For fuck's sake, when will this damn dungeon end? I must be getting close to an exit now surely.


Well I backtracked to the start, then went walked all the way back up again. Eventually I gave up and checked youtube to find out where the exit is.

It turns out that this grimy little archway with a skull blocking the path is the one and only exit to the building. I've walked past this thing like 5 times and ignored it because... well look at it!

What the fuck? I mean... what the FUCK?

Okay I'm a little frustrated, but I'm not turning this off until I find out what the actual game is like. It seems that instead of playing on the entire continent like like Arena, I'm stuck in one tiny corner of Tamriel.

I might as well start by going to the Kingdom of Daggerfall, seeing as that's what the game's called.

Holy shit! Each one of those dots in this region is a place I can visit, and there must be around 40 regions like this I can visit. By my calculations that means this game is... really huge.

Through the magic of fast travel (not literal magic, I took a ship and it cost me 40 coins), I finally arrive at... a place! The tutorial has abandoned me, so in the absence of any idea of how to start the main quest, my first task shall be to find a place to sell all my loot.

These towns are just as ridiculously huge as the ones in Arena. At least I can see which buildings are shops and taverns in this one, which is a massive help.


I can't enter a shop at night, but unlike Arena I can actually wait until they're open in this! The game's starting to win me over again.

I haven't actually figured out how to buy anything yet though, only sell, and the inventory screen is a bit of a pain in the ass.

I can't see an item's stats unless I click 'info' then select each one in turn. And when I pick items up I often accidentally equip them, or accidentally take off stuff I'm wearing. Then I have to go and figure out what I used to have and re-equip it. Which would be easier if I had more than four items on screen at once, and my armour and weapons weren't dumped together under the same tab.

(It turns out that to buy things I just had to 'use' one of the shelves.)


Uh... what? I guess I must have switched to steal mode somehow without realising it. I plead 'not guilty' and try to talk my way out of it.

The jury let me off!

I was just about to travel to another town, when I found someone had placed a letter in my inventory asking me to meet them at the Dancing Woodchuck in Graytown of Daggerfall. And I have a month to get there or else the main quest is failed (probably).

Upon arrival in Graytown I began the long search for the Dancing Woodchuck inn, asking every stranger I meet until hopefully one of them gives me a better answer than 'uh... north maybe?' It seems that I've gotten a bad reputation somewhere along the line so everyone's rude to me.

Eventually I find my contact who gives me the next clue in my quest to rid Daggerfall of its royal ghost problem. I should figure out who caused his torment, and the major powers of the bay, the regions (or towns?) of Daggerfall, Wayrest and Sentinel are where I should start.

Well that was an impossibly vague mission, so I'm going to go hunt a werewolf for the Fighters guild instead. In Arena I got screwed over by trying to continue the main quest without doing side quests to level up first, so I could probably use the experience.

One problem though. I can't figure out where the fuck I'm meant to go! I fast travelled to the location I was told to go, but there's nothing here but endless forest. I've been travelling around in circles trying to find some landmark, anything that might indicate there's a building nearby, but it's hopeless.


Oh you have got to be shitting me. The door is hidden behind a tiny white hill in an forest filled with endless white hills.

It would have been nice if there was some clue on screen pointing me towards my objective, because this is ridiculous. I don't necessarily want a trail of glowing breadcrumbs leading me around, just a marker on my compass or something.

I go inside and slay the enemies within. But I can't find any werewolves around. Only a big grate covering a hole.

After some searching around I find a way to get it open, cast slowfall, and jump in.


You know what, fuck the werewolf. I'm gonna go get back on the main quest.


After a long and miserable trek I have reached the palace of the town of Sentinel. In the region of Sentinel.

I was told to I pay a visit to the royal families of Daggerfall, Wayrest and Sentinel in hopes that they have some quest related info to give me, so I figured I'd start here.

The queen wants me to... go deliver a ruby. Well okay, I'll do some delivery work for them, gain their trust, and then I'll get some answers about what troubles the ghostly king.


Well that was a total waste of time. I earned a tiny bit of cash carrying stuff around from town to town, hiking between houses and inns, and then spent it all to get away from that damn royal family and their constant pointless errands.

At least I got some extra levels from it. In jumping. I'm crap at everything else, but I'm getting awesome at jumping.

I try the same thing at for the royal family of Wayrest. Same pointless errands, no info on the dead king. Eventually I got a quest that wouldn't even appear in my journal so I decided to to give up here and go to my final lead... Daggerfall itself.


The royal family of Daggerfall sent me on more pointless bloody deliveries. A thief jumped out and tried to kill me this time, which was nice, but to be honest I doubt it's a sign I'm on the right track.

This is the house I was told to go to, but the person I was sent to meet isn't here. I guess I should go try the other houses next door. Actually I should go to the inn first and heal up, then try again.

Stabbed in the back while trying to get a room at the inn. To be honest, I'm grateful because I can quit now.

There's probably a good game hidden in here somewhere, but I can't find it. I really did try, I searched three regions for it and hiked through countless towns and I still couldn't find it. I guess I need more guidance in a game than this was willing to give me.

Next game.

Other Elder Scrolls posts:
Elder Scrolls: Arena
Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


  1. I honestly think the basics behind daggerfall are amazing, with the largest video game map ever and randomly generated content everywhere, but like you I tried to play it but I couldn't. It's just too fucking hard to play and full of bugs. I am a video game programmer though and I might make a similar game soon.

    1. you ever make that game? im up for it....

  2. I feel like Daggerfall would probably be a great play back in the late 90's when it was current. At this point it's just too dated. Vagueness + massive world = Frustration.

  3. All of those experiences you described, to me, actually seem fun. C'mon. You really weren't being sarcastic just for the sake of the article? You explored dungeons, traversed continents, talked to townsfolk, visited cool-looking palaced, all taking screenshots along the way. You really didn't enjoy any of it?

    New games hand hold too much, and you'll blaze through to the end in three days, and move onto a new game. Sure, DF is buggy, but I think it's a spectacular game. Being lost on a nearly seemingly impossible and unclear journey is pretty fun amongst all the easy-as-shit games we have, I say.

    1. "blaze through to the end in three days, and move onto a new game"
      How is that not a good thing?

      "Being lost on a nearly seemingly impossible and unclear journey"
      How is that fun?

    2. Personally I generally prefer being given crystal clear directions to my next destination and maybe a little marker pointing to it if it's going to be something annoying to find, and then being left alone to do whatever I feel like. I hate endlessly wandering around searching dungeons, forests and towns for my latest objective like I'm hunting for my missing car keys, and I can't stand being given step by step instructions for every task I need to complete either. Basically I'm happiest when I know exactly what I'm MEANT to do, but have the freedom to ignore it for a while or figure out my own way of handling it.

      But that's just what I like, and hopefully I've been writing these articles in way that clearly describes what happened in the game and not just what I felt about it, so that people who haven't played it yet can make up their own minds about whether or not it's something that they'd enjoy. And people who have played it get to laugh at me because I couldn't even figure out how to ride a horse. So everyone wins.

    3. Ray, I don't feel the same way, but your reply is very fair. I felt the article was a little bit unfairly sarcastic, but I somewhat assumed it was partly for entertainment's sake.

      For me, an objective dot on the compass on my HUD can actually be a little offensive, because it mentally reduces the game (to me) to "follow that dot" and I'm no longer immersed in a world - I'm just a rat going from point to point. Now, yes -- even without that dot, I'm still a rat going from point to point. But I don't want that to be made clear to me with that blinking dot, y'know?

      Some of the quests and dungeons in Daggerfall are, yes, RIDICULOUS, and nearly impossible. I save and re-load a lot. Sometimes, if I get a quest to a dungeon that is simply too overwhelming, I re-load and get another quest. But... there's an extremely gratifying feeling when you ACTUALLY find the objective in one of those complete messes of a dungeon, without the help of a dot that shows you where to go. That "Oh my God... Oh my God... I found it." moment is something I really love.

  4. Love this game when it first came out in the 90's, it was HUGE and fun to play, though I never really finished the main quest and only played it for a few months, maybe several at most (unlike Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim as of now).

    A beautiful game for it's time, it got mostly high scores in PC gaming mags (from what I remember reading)
    but it was also a buggy game, needed multiple patches (like Terminator: Future Shock did and I still could not
    finish the main quest of that game b/c it would always crash).

    Loved playing this game in the winter when my godparents (maybe my Mother) bought it for me from a gaming store
    btw but it does require, like all Elder Scrolls games (Fallout 3 and New Vegas included) patience, lot's of saving, leveling up, exploration, and lot's of free time as well to play :)


Semi-Random Game Box