Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (PC, 1996)

IT BEGINS. The second game in the series, which might well be the largest videogame ever made in landmass, scope, and amount of content. No joke. Hard to believe they released this two years after Arena, given the five+ year development time on every game since. Join me as I do tons of character creation, and a minor amount of actual playing!

In other news, I decided that for the month of July, I'm going to try to do a post every single day and set an unbreakable post record of 31 for the month. I've gotten up around 20 once or twice, but this will be a first. I'll be covering a few games and bouncing around more than a WWE Diva going for a jog.

 This game begins just like the previous one. You choose your homeland, etc. However, most of these places aren't actually playable in the game. This transpires in Iliac Bay, which consists of High Rock and a small amount of Hammerfell.

Wonder if they're planning on giving Hammerfell its own game ala the four south provinces (...at least, I think/hope they're on the way). That'd bring the total to ten games for this continent. Hammerfell is barely covered in this one, but they might consider it done anyway.

I go with High Elf for the innate paralysis resistance, since I'm not going to be a Knight this time. Since these first two games are stun-happy, I'm not even going to try to play as a character weak to paralysis.

The class list has the same 18 classes as the first game. This is a bit odd, I was expecting a few new ones. Not that it matters much, because the best choice here is Custom. THAT is new, and lets you create your own class.

There's a lot to take in. First and foremost, the stronger your character, the more work it'll take to level up (up to 3x). The weaker, the less work to level up (as little as 0.3x). The 18 regular classes all have baseline level up rates, as far as I know. A character with 0.3x will level up NINE TIMES faster than ones with 3x. Too bad I'll be turning this guy into a demigod and burying him deep in the high exp requirement range.

You get to name your class, and I use this to its full advantage.

Where you put skills determines how fast they level up. You're not limited to the skills you pick, but since they'll have an advantage as you go, making the right choices is important. You can also increase or decrease stats as much as you want, but you need to balance it out. If you add 20 to one stat, you have to take 20 out of another. I take 30 out of Persuasion (which is a non-combat stat) and put those points into other more important stats.

You can also increase the HP you get per level, up to 30. The only downside to this is that it increases the exp requirement by quite a bit. It's still absolutely something every player should do, since 30 dwarfs the default HP/level of 8.

Super-Protip: There's a bug where pressing U resets your distributable stat points, so I up all stats to 75 (the starting max) and reset it. It isn't as big of an advantage of punching in a Konami code, and chances are I would have had my stats up to this level before too long anyway. This just gives me a much easier time getting started.

An extremely interesting part of character creation is that you can give your character advantages/disadvantages that affect their leveling speed one way or another and give them innate passive abilities. Disadvantages can be anything from weakness to fire to inability to equip a certain kind of armor.

Some of them are completely crippling and should be avoided completely. The only reason I could see someone going for something like this is if they're role-playing a vampire. I'm sure a few people did that back in the day.

 I went with inability to wear leather (since leather is pretty much noob armor in these games and replaced quickly), weakness to paralysis (since I'm innately immune to it which overrides this), and weakness to disease/poison (since those disadvantages are bugged and do nothing). Also, inability to use an axe or use the weaker shields. I would have also blocked all the other weapon types since I'm sticking with two-handed swords, but this is the maximum amount of disadvantages that you can have.

In retrospect an hour later, I wish I'd given myself another weapon or shield disadvantage and allowed leather armor. Noob armor or not, it drops WAY more frequently than anything else early on.

As for advantages, there are several insanely good ones. Increased Magery literally increases your mana pool by SIX TIMES. Expertise in Long Blade is for two-handed swords like the ones I'll be sticking with. Regenerate Health isn't that great, but it lets me slowly regen in the field. Rapid Healing means it takes less time to rest back to full health. Immunity to Magic makes me immune to non-elemental spells (I think) while Immunity to Shock makes me immune to electric spells, the most commonly-used spells in this game. Spell Absorption is another awesome one, and sometimes (10% of the time, or so) completely nullifies an incoming spell while giving me mana.

In retrospect an hour later, I think I made good calls here. Not sure about Regenerate Health, but the others have all been useful right from the start.

Finally we get back to skills. Long Blade is my weapon of choice, while Destruction and Restoration are your basic damage/healing type spells. I'm trying to go full battlemage type character here, but given the perks he's already much stronger than a Battlemage or Spellsword would be.

After Primary skills, I went with some rogue-ish skills. Stealth reduces the chance of enemies detecting me, which helps with getting the jump on them and helps with times that I need to beeline through an area. Critical Strike and Dodging are self-explanatory. The first four Minor Skills are the other four schools of magic; all spells are important to me, but utility and whatnot aren't as important as damage/healing. Backstabbing allows for very powerful opening attacks when walking up to an unaware foe, and Medical... I'm not too sure, but I think it diagnoses status ailments when you rest.

In retrospect an hour later, I wish I'd made Backstabbing a major skill, probably switched it with Dodging. It's surprising how many enemies I get the jump on. Also wish I'd dumped Medical and put Running there instead, since runspeed starts out a bit low.

Even after that, the game doles out some more points randomly. I reroll until I have bonuses across the board and give my stray points to Str/Int/Agi. The only downside to my uber-character is that nearly all stats are important to him. It'll take a WHILE to power him up.

255 mana at level 1 is borderline broken in this game. Most of the premade classes that use magic start with like 50.

Also get to put bonus points into skill levels. This is the first Elder Scrolls game to increase skill levels as you use them, something lots of other open world games would copy after this.

My God, how much customization is there? Not sure what the deal is with the reflex settings, so I just leave it on average. Apparently turning it down to Very Low makes the game slower and easier, but also deducts from your leveling rate. Making it Very High speeds up your leveling but makes the gameplay fast and furious.

We get a sweet FMV video as the game begins. 1996! CD-ROM drives!

Chapter II of many. If they stay on their current trajectory, we'll get Elder Scrolls IX in  2032.

This FMV contains real people! They look like refugees from a LARP, and talk on and on for way too long.

Hope you like reading huge blocks of text, because this game has them in abundance. Long story short, your character is stranded in a cave. Because these early ES games HAVE to start with a painful dungeon. This one isn't anywhere near as painful as the one at the beginning of Arena, at least.

The graphics are immediately smoother and less blocky than the previous game. Much more three-dimensional, too.

I start with several spells, and casting them looks a lot better than the previous game.

Here's our hero, Gazpacho the Enraged Hippie. He keeps his shirt open... for the ladies.

I find a yellow poncho before too long. I think the best thing about this guy is the face I went with. That face... My God.

Gazpacho fights demonic bats in claustrophobic hallways. Movement in this game is slower than the previous game and feels "heavier". Like it has real weight to it. I actually like this a lot more, though I miss zipping around. Perhaps it'll get better as I up my Speed stat.

This nefarious bandit gets stuck behind a counter, allowing me to blast him with spells from out of reach. Looting humanoid enemies is your primary source of equipment early on.

As for the three spells I begin with, here they are. Shock damages things, Chameleon makes me harder to see (which is awesome and goes hand-in-hand with Stealth to give me the element of surprise on most foes). Slowfalling is barely useful at all and I wish it had given me a heal spell instead. It can let you soar off an elevated area without dying as you fall down, but you can't control yourself as you slow-fall and there aren't many places where this is needed.

Thanks to Chameleon, our hero has a moment to admire the great butt on this bandit lady.

...before getting killed. The game over screen shows a bunch of druids wheeling my casket into a crypt. The only thing missing is The Undertaker's theme playing.

The linearity of the first area ends with this huge room. Safefall actually has a use here. There's a throne near the banners on the right, and clicking a lever next to it causes the throne to go up like an elevator to get to the next area.

...this post is almost turning into a walkthrough. Well, given how hard this game is to start, I'm guessing a few people will need it at some point.

Gaz faces his most fearsome challenge yet: GRIZZLY BEAR.

At this point I take a moment to read my character's biography. The hero mentioned at the end? That'd be the guy from the first game.

The exit of the dungeon is this very nondescript wall-panel. Doesn't look much like an exit and I imagine lots of people completely missed it as they continued to get more and more lost in this place.

I try to explore some more, but run into trouble. Even tougher than the bear is this skeleton knight. It proceeds to beat me down before I can get off enough Shock spells to defeat it. Seems like attacking as fast as possible is probably my best bet once a fight begins. Before a fight is the time for throwing spells, or if I have the element of surprise, running in for a backstab.

I'm basically a Battlemage-Rogue. Who can use two-handed swords and plate armor. This guy is rad.

I step outside for the first time, and...wow. This game looks SO MUCH NICER than the first one. There are lots of separately-scrolling dimensions here, meaning foreground objects, mid-ground objects, and background objects all move in different ways. It's very realistic and looks great in motion.

The music is also wonderful. While the music in the first dungeon was just the dungeon music from the first game (uugh), the overworld has numerous themes that play. It changed two or three times as I ran around, and every theme that played was excellent.

Here's the actual "world map", which covers Iliac Bay. This is such a small corner of the world; hard to believe this game has more surface area and more locations than any other game in the series.

Here's a zoom-in on the kingdom of Daggerfall, on the upper west side of the above map. Each one of these dots is a location, be it a town or dungeon or even just a remote inn. Seriously. There are 15,000 locations in the game, in total.

Soon it gets to be night-time as I wander about in the fields listening to amazing music.

Then it's daylight again, and I get brutally murdered by a centaur. MOTARO WINS.

I fast travel to a town. Looks like you can fast travel anywhere from the start, much like the first game. This time it costs money, though. I can already see that money is going to be my biggest problem in this game. ...aside from my atrociously slow leveling speed. In any case, the towns look great.

Now I'm roaming around in the desert. Did I get transported to Mars?

After traveling between a couple of locations, an event finally gets triggered to move the story along. This courier drive-bys me with a letter; Let's see what it says.

 It's a lady, and she wants our hero to visit her at the inn. Gazpacho is ready for action!

Speaking of ladies, in this game they seem to all be sporting the perkiest breasts.

Gazpacho stalks about with a sword, looking as creepy as possible. "No sir, I don't like it" says this stern horse when reached for comment.

AWWWWW SHIET. Is this the lady who sent me the letter? Where are her clothes?

Nope, it's just a random lady, and I get my first real experience with the NPC interface system. Can choose how you talk to people and ask them about a number of different things.

In the inn, a rogues gallery of NPCs awaits. The busty milk-wench can't make up for how weird-ass everyone else in here is.

I find the lady who sent the letter and talk to her, thus ending the first quest of the game. It was quick and easy. Come to think of it, that intro dungeon kinda was too. Maybe because I'm overpowered. No idea. I'm still level 1, and now the game gives me zero clue what to do next because I'm supposed to go out and explore.

Just gotta find things to do as I slowly level up. Level 20 is good for finishing this, like the previous game. It can be done sooner, again like the previous game. 15 is doable, 10 might be possible with great hardship.

As for what to do to get there... there are main story quests, yeah, but they don't seem to follow a set order. So I can seek those out and get them done, or I can work on any of the massive amounts of sidequests for various guilds and factions. Unlike the first game, the sidequests in this game actually have a point and aren't all cut/pasted.

With the game completely open as to what to do next, this is a good stopping point for now. I'll get back to this in the near future. It's a really intimidating game, to say the least. Moreso than Arena, which had a very simple story mode and not much else.

GAZPACHO~! The Enraged Hippie might be level 1 forever. As always, a comment below would be appreciated, and stay tuned.

Read more Elder Scrolls posts HERE!


  1. Wow, you powergamed the hell out of this. Blocking leather armor might seem like a terrible idea now, but it really isn't that important. You'll be fine. Also, it's good that you didn't take Running as a boosted skill. It's the easiest skill to raise in the game, so giving it the initial boost is not necessary. Looking forward to more of this Gazpacho guy, he looks like a Jersey Shore reject.

  2. If you're looking to be even MORE powerful, contract lycanthropy and then get Hircine's Ring. As for money, you can make ridiculous amounts stealing from high-end stores and selling to low-end stores (the ones describes with Rusty Relics). There's also an exploit that can be used to get Daedric Weapons really easily.

    1. Thanks for the protip. I'm trying to avoid stuff like lycanthropy and vampirism, but I'll look up the ring you mentioned. This post is actually a bit behind where I am in the game. I've been making ridiculous amounts by taking out loans from distant cities and not paying them back. Not sure if there will be some huge repercussions for this because it seems way too easy. I'm guessing the Daedric exploit involves recalling to a high-end shop, checking the inventory, traveling for a couple weeks, and recalling again to see if any Daedric weapons have cycled in. At least, that's what I did until I finally got a Daedric claymore. I'll cover all of this in the near future.

  3. You cheated with the stats! Not cool, man. I guess since it's such an easily-discoverable exploit, it isn't a horrible offense.

    1. Eh, I probably would have maxed them out before long regardless. This game makes it easy to really power up your character from the get-go.

  4. Where's Oblivion on the map?

    Gazpacho's brown pants make him look like a centaur without the horse parts.

    Looks like you're in the Mediterranean.

    Gazpacho's chain mail shorts are a HUGE improvement!

    1. LOL, "centaur without horse parts". I can totally see that. Gazpacho might be part centaur... where it counts.

      Oblivion is in the Imperial Province at the center.

  5. Gazpacho is a great name. And very appropriate since it is summer and we all could go for a little chilled veggie soup, right?

    This is (obviously) a very old game. But, it seems ahead of its time in MANY ways. At the time the graphics were probably out of this world and I can tell they put in work making Daggerfall. The complex systems of character creation and stats and all the details of the world of this game seems above and beyond what other fantasy--and really games of any genre--were probably doing at the time.

    Honestly I would just go with a pre made class because, while I appreciate how in-depth it is, I don't have the time or patience for creating my own. That is one reason (among many reallly) that I am not into tabletop games haha. And (Morgan has pointed this out, too) Arena and Daggerfall seem much more like dungeons and dragons than the Morrowind-and-on games in the series. But, that influence is certainly there in every title.

    Anyway, I guess the phrase "ahead of its time" applies to every Elder Scrolls game even down to Skyrim (the seemly shitty "online" notwithstanding...) The sheer amount of work put in and attention to detail these guys have is just damn awesome.

  6. Just sitting there and making your character must have been so much fun. Great intro to everything you can do.
    A game with 15,000 locations? That must be the most anywhere besides the Planet Earth itself. I'm not sure the state of Indiana has 15,000 locations.