I played Daggerfall

I wanted to make this another Homework Notes post, in which I list off all the things that I noticed while playing a classic CRPG from the mid-90s to early 2000s that would be good lessons to remember when creating a game of my own. But it really wouldn't deserve that title.

I played Daggerfall for a total of three hours. Two hours making it out of the first dungeon, and then one more hour progressing the story in the overworld. Which seems like it's probably not enough to properly rate and review a game of this scope. But I just can't make myself go back to it.

Daggerfall is without a doubt the worst game I have ever played. And by a huge margin.

This is just atrociously bad. I would love to mention the things about it that I did find interesting or inspiring enough to say something good about them. But there just isn't a single thing about this whole experience I had that wasn't awful. In the unity engine, the outside world sometimes manages to look a bit evocative, but that's not part of the original game.

It's not "it's an old game and you're playing it 28 years later". I played a good number of pre-1998 games, many of them quite recently, and while I would consider many of them not really very good, they all have something going for them that is fun, engaging, or memorable. Albion, Command & Conquer, Descent II, Final Fantasy VII, Illusion of Time, The Settlers II, Shadows of the Empire, Super Metroid, Super Street Fighter II, Worms, X-Wing. All of them are jank. Most of them look quite bad. But all of them are in a completely different league than Daggerfall.

Daggerfall starts pointlessly difficult with even rats and bats easily able to kill you. The controls for attacking enemies are atrociously terrible. Gameplay for the first two hours was basically running into an enemy, fighting it as many times as it takes until the random number generator makes you damage it faster than it kills you, save the game, rest until healed, save the game, and turn the next corner to do it all over again. Then you finally make it out of the first dungeon and to a town. The towns are huge with hundreds of houses. And every single one of them is just an empty cardboard box on the inside. Even the palace of the King of Daggerfall. And the story is presented to you by interactions with NPCs in the form of a post-it note appearing on screen. I continued doing a number of quests visiting other towns, but they all look completely identical.

Here's a guy who has never made any game, talking shit about a beloved game that is widely considered to be a groundbreaking classic. What basis do I have to criticize the work of highly praised masters? I have only one qualification for this: I have played other games. Quite probably over a hundred games.

Daggerfall is the most unfun to play of all of them. I don't understand how this ever got a single positive review, even back in 1996.