Video Game: The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall aka: Daggerfall
"Rest well this night, for tomorrow you sail for the kingdom... of Daggerfall."
The second game in The Elder Scrolls series, released for PC in 1996, Daggerfall takes place in the region around the fictional Illiac Bay where several petty kingdoms are vying for power in the wake of the increasingly-absent Empire which rules them all.In the kingdom of Daggerfall the local King Lysandus, a personal friend of The Emperor of the Cyrodiil Empire of Tamriel, has died. Despite seeming to be a good person with no regrets, he comes back as a powerful ghost and terrorizes his capital every night. Troubled by these accounts and in light of the bickering factions, The Emperor has sent a letter to his Lysandus' wife but it became lost in transit. Deeply troubled due to the letter's sensitive contents, he sends the player character to investigate both events, sweeping him into the complex politics of the Illiac Bay.Daggerfall saw the series' transition into full 3D. The world is "mostly flat with some hilly and mountainous areas" but the cities themselves feature solid houses and walls that are climbable and the dungeons just revel in the fact that you can cross over your own path on three or four different levels. Daggerfall is also the last game where Bethesda Software implemented procedural generation as a major part of the game. The size of the game world is massive and they really wanted to implement a go anywhere and do anything feel, limited only by time constraints and a legendary inability to keep the game stable and store things in cabinets. The game has multiple endings; the game has multiple routes to get to those endings; and, there are many things to do, as long as you didn't miss your appointment.Daggerfall has been re-released as freeware by Bethesda along with its predecessor Arena to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of The Elder Scrolls series. It can be downloaded at their website and will work, though a variety of technical tricks may be required (You can also get a version that will automatically set up). Its successor is Morrowind.It was also released in an anthology collection with the four other main series games, bypassing Dosbox entirely.A source port-like clone, called DaggerXL, is currently in development.
Daggerfall provides examples of the following tropes:
You are told, after you complete the final quest in the main quest, that you will "read fate as it shall be recorded upon The Elder Scrolls", putting it alongside Arena in how much of an impact the Elder Scrolls has in the story. At least this time the subtitle is relevant; and technically speaking the Elder Scrolls part is not artifact title, since it was equally-meaningless the first time it appeared.
Artificial Atmospheric Actions: There are hordes of randomly-generated townspeople just walking around. There are also tons of ordinary houses, which may then be populated by more randomly-generated townspeople. They also all have rumors and random things to say on any subject.
Artificial Stupidity: Behold as a civilian witnesses you sticking a sword into another civilian and walks away as if nothing has happened!
Liches have the unhealthy tendency of blowing themselves up with their own spells.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Knight class. You get a bonus to Etiquette and are immune to paralysis (which comes in handy when facing monsters like spiders and scorpions), but you're barred from using any form of Daedric equipment.
The Mages Guild. You get a ton of awesome spells at a discount, and its the only way you can get access to the Enchanter (which, due to a Word of God endorsed cheat code, is the only way to repair magical items and artifacts)...but nearly every major faction in the game (and many minor ones) hate them, so joining them and rising in the ranks will cause your reputation with a lot of groups and people to plummet.
The only way to get in to the Mages Guild (and advance in rank enough to use their exclusive services) is to be good with magic. And since non-mage classes can never have more than a maximum of 50 magicka (The default magicka value is HALF of your Intelligence, and only mage classes have magicka equal to DOUBLE their intelligence), warriors had better be ready to shell out hundreds of thousands of gold to guys who will train their magic skills high enough to qualify for entry and advancement. Not that you'll be able to cast spells afterwards anyway since, you know, 50 magicka.
Homes and ships. They cost a LOT of money, yet only offer a place to rest for free (virtually useless, since most of time you'll rest in dungeons anyway or while travelling) and to store your items.
Well, ships do allow you to travel for free by sea, and can be accessed at any time from anywhere outdoors, so they have at least niche applications. There is absolutely no advantage to having a house when you can have a ship, though.
The Wabbajack artifact. Having trouble with that vicious harpy? Turn it into a rat! The tradeoff? That very same harpy could also become a much more dangerous ancient lich, since you can't choose the monsters you wish to turn the target into.
Badass Preacher: Your character can become this if you rise in the ranks in a Temple.
Big Bad: Interestingly subverted, as due to the Grey and Gray Morality, there isn't actually a major evil force you have to fight. The closest things this game has to a Big Bad are Mannimarco and Lysandus' murderers, Lord Woodborne and Queen Elysana.
Blatant Lies: Some nobles will request you to simply bring an item to a friend which happens to contain smuggled goods which in turn must be delivered to a third party individual. Oh, and you'll be targeted by the thieves' guild.
Others will plead you to recover an item stolen by orcs and when you enter the dungeon the item is located, you'd wish you were fighting orcs.
Some individuals may give you false direction to your quest target.
But Thou Must: Averted. You can turn down each and every quest you're offered, even those related to the main quest. Though refusing those, makes the game unwinnable.
Canon Name: Lhotun's missing brother you are quested to find out about is given a random name, but the Morrowind book Night Falls on Sentinel (which details an agent of his dealing with the murderer) gives the brother's name as "Arthago".
Same with Uriel Septim's sons. In the randomized backstories for the PC, s/he may befriend Uriel by saving one of his sons from Cannibals or Assassins. Yet their names are randomized. Their canon names (Excluding Martin) are Geldell, Enman, and Ebel.
Character Customization: You can design a custom class at the beginning, with a lot more freedom than most games — you can add a huge variety of unusual and highly-specific advantages or disadvantages, all of which will affect your leveling rate.
The relations between the various factions and gods are also mostly abandoned in later games.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Enemy versions of the PC classes don't have to obey equipment restrictions. It's actually possible to find Dwarven armor on a Spellsword corpse.
Covers Always Lie: The sickly-looking fellow on the cover can be an ally, and in fact just wants to die.
Crazy-Prepared: You better be. You never know if the cave you're about save the drunk priest from is a vampire coven or not. You better stock up on healing and resistance potions and extra weapons and enchantments.
Cursed with Awesome: It's hard to feel sorry for super-strong immortal undead creatures with magic powers.
Werewolves and wereboars. Being forced to kill civilians once or twice a month and transforming on days when there's a full moon is a small price to pay for immunity to diseases and permanent +40 boosts to Strength, Speed, Agility, and Endurance.
Though werewolves and wereboars have a massive downside. If you fail to feed, your stats drop massively to single digits as well as hitpoints causing you die in one hit. So, if you fast travel to the dungeon you want to traverse, and rest there for a long while. If you didn't pay careful attention to your werewolf schedule, you're going to have a bad time.
Cut and Paste Environments: There are about 40 different buildings, spread across hundreds of towns and villages, which have about 5 different layouts each (the cities also use those same buildings, but due to being randomly generated their layouts are at least unique). Similarly, the infamous dungeons are a few dozen pieces put together in different (insanely lengthy and complex) configurations ad infinitum.
Dark Is Not Evil: The Underking, undead-minion-commanding sort-of-lich that he is, is probably the closest thing to a good guy the games have had.
Disc One Nuke: if you choose, during the chargen, to define your character's personality by answering some questions, you could start the game with an ebony dagger, which is *significantly* more powerful than anything you'd find till level 6-7 (since equipment scales with player level).
Also, the game allows to create a custom character class. Among other options, you can define special advantages and disadvantages, each one of them affecting the "difficulty dagger", i.e. how fast or slow you level up depending on how many hitpoints you get per level. Now, high elves are immune to paralysis - in spite of this, you can still choose a high elf and put "critical weakness to paralysis" as one of his weaknesses by creating a custom class. This dramatically lowers the dagger, hence allowing to gain levels far easier than normal without additional handicaps - if you know what you're doing it's possible to gain 3-4 levels before you exit the first dungeon. The same applies to other weaknesses as well (for instance, if you create a warrior you can choose "inability to regen spell points" and "lower magical ability", again climbing up the level ladder in no time).
Some special advantages are also hilariously unbalanced: for instance, if you choose "spell absorption general", which unsurprisingly lets you absorb enemy spells, not only you don't take any damage, but also regenerate your spell points whenever someone throws a spell at you. Since in mid to late game most of the enemies are spellcasters (though they also have melee attacks), you can see where this is going...
Dummied Out: Prostitutes, and one of the multiple endings. Oh, and about half of the magic spells, which can still be learned at the Mages' Guild, and either do nothing or cause bugs when cast. (Later patches removed them.)
Many, many, many other things as well. According to a pre-release FAQ: at least three additional guilds (prostitutes, necromancers, the Order of the Lamp), wars between nations in the gameworld with city sieges, a working barding system, multiple additional terrain patterns, roads and more detailed wilderness, burglary on player-owned houses (which were meant to be furnishable: carpentry stores are still in the game), Non Player Characters reacting to player's clothing, active NPCs actually competing against you during the main quest and so on and on.
Dungeon Crawling: The majority of the game - in fact, a Daggerfall dungeon can be more complex than dozens of Skyrim dungeons put together!
Early-Installment Weirdness: While Daggerfall laid the framework that Morrowind would take and run with, establishing the "true" Elder Scrolls canon, a few things are a little off. For example, the Daedric princes have different personalities, and Talos is not a Divine (he would be Ret Conned into one in Morrowind).
Daggerfall is basically a first-person roguelike with a ton of other features and a main quest thrown in. Guilds are mainly focused on benefits & training. Later games would be focused on pre-written content.
Escort Mission: Many of the randomly-generated civilian (non-guild) quests are escort quests. Thankfully, the escort target usually gets absorbed into your body.
Evil Pays Better: The highest paying quests? The shadier ones for corrupt nobles. The lowest paying (in fact, they pay nothing at all except for some extra equipment and a house after you do a few of them)? The Knight Orders' quests.
The real reward for Knight Orders' quests, though, is that once you're higher rank in the guild they'll send you out to quest for artifacts, which you're allowed to keep. At higher levels those artifacts can be worth a lot more than mere money. A secondary reward is that doing Knight Order quests gives you standing in the Knight Order, which after a while raises your rank — and those ranks makes more things free as you rise through them.
Face-Heel Turn: In an official "semi expansion", one of the new Fighters Guild quest involves major NPC Lord K'avar attempting to betray the Queen of Sentinel and take the throne for himself. You have an option of revealing this to the Queen, siding with Kvar, or going directly after him.
Faction-Specific Endings: The game has seven endings: one for each of the four rival kingdoms of the region (Sentinel, Wayrest, Orsinium, Daggerfall), one for the Tamriel Empire (represented by the Blades), and two for supernatural forces (the King of Worms and the Underking).
Fantastic Racism: Pretty much every race hates at least one other race. And everybody hates the Orcs.
Level Grinding: Since the levels are calculated by skill, not experience points, you do not necessarily have to kill enemies to level grind. But imagine one of your primary skills is "etiquette" or "streetwise". In that case you would have to endlessly start random conversations with people, does not matter what you say, only to say anything politely or bluntly respectively.
Live Item: Horses, when not being ridden, are kept in the player's inventory.
Multiple Endings: So far, the only game in the series with them. Due to nature of the final McGuffin they are all canon (except the one where the McGuffin destroys all Tamriel, maybe).
Nintendo Hard: Cheat codes are not only encouraged, but sometimes necessary.
Nobody Poops: Possibly averted. Skyrim has confirmed that people use barrels as toilets. One NPC in this game, is a man reading a book while squatting down on a barrel. Make what you will of that.
Noob Cave: Privateer's Hold, in which you begin the game. Notably, if you didn't have the paper walkthrough which came with the game, you may not recognize the exit and get stuck in the dungeon for days.
Preorder Bonus: The "Limited Edition" had a t-shirt and mousepad and a few other goodies. However, a separate "Special Edition" that could be bought only at CompUSA had bonus content for the game that was not included with the preorder edition — cue a tidal wave of angry customers, followed by Bethesda hastily making the bonus content available as a free download.
Randomly Generated Levels: The thousands of cities and dungeons in the game were pseudorandomly generated prior to release. The various non-artifact magical items are also randomly generated. This leads to items like the "Loincloth of Undeniable Access", the "Blouse of Opening" (both have an unlock spell), the "Breeches of Venom Spitting" (actually casts levitation), and the "Khajiit suit of the Orc Lord". An Orc in a catsuit? Brain Bleach please.
Reality Ensues: Unlike future TES games, Daggerfall takes great pains to make almost all of the game mechanics realistic. For example
You can't just join any guild willy nilly. You need at least one of the guild's major skills at 22 and at least one of their minor skills at 4 before you can join, and the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood have special requirements. Also, almost every guild/faction has a major rivalry with at least one other guild/faction, so don't expect to join a Knightly Order and then be allowed into the Thieves Guild, even if you meet the requirements. Also, once you're eligible for an increase in rank, you have to wait at least one month in-game before being given an opportunity to be promoted.
These conflicts are also well portrayed in many of the quests: you often have to decide whether to stay loyal to your original questgiver or betray him and end the quest in a favorable manner for a conflicting faction (the obvious example being the quest where you're to deliver a report to the local mages guild, yet you receive a letter from a Dark Brotherhood associate requesting the same report)
If you are affiliated with a guild and don't take any job for a month, your reputation with the aforementioned guild will start to deteriorate till it reverts back to neutral. The same applies in reverse as well (interestingly enough, though, this does not happen for you reputation in the eyes of the law).
If your reputation with the law is low enough in one of the regions, presumably due to your indiscriminate massacres of innocent civilians, the guards will arrest you by charging you with criminal conspiracy.
Fatigue will always drain at a fixed rate, rather then only when you're running, jumping or fighting.
You can't repair weapons yourself, nor is it an instantaneous action. Even once you find someone who can repair your equipment, you have to leave the equipment with them for a set amount of days before the item is fully repaired.
You actually have to pay attention to the game clock. All sidequests, and even a few main quests, are on a strict time limit that leaves little room for error.
Unlike 99% of other Role Playing Games, money weighs. That's why, when you're starting to become the Elder Scrolls equivalent of Scrooge McDuck, you need to deposit gold in one of the banks and ask for a letter of credit.
When you ask NPCs for rumors, the may say that "ruler x of region y has died and z has ascended to throne", giving the impression of a living world with events happening when the player isn't acting. It doesn't take much time, however, to realize that it's unfortunately just random fluff.
Sometimes, when you ask the NPCs for directions and/or info on some topics, they will lie to you giving false info. This is also cleverly lampshaded by some of the potential questgivers.
Also, NPCs remember quests you do for them and react accordingly the next time you greet them.
You can't swim properly if you're too encumbered.
Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Perhaps the most egregious example ever. Most dungeons are randomly generated, and the random generation inevitably makes them huge, without any consideration for why, precisely, someone would want miles upon miles of elaborate corridors, tunnels, and monster-infested rooms extending in an incomprehensible maze beneath a tiny above-ground entrance.
Save Scumming: A suggested tactic for obtaining good loot is to save in front of a treasure pile and reload until the pile has what you want.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Social characters who have all the monster languages and types of speechcraft as their main skills, 75 base Personality & Luck, can't wear any armor or use most weapons, etc.
Try to complete the game without using cheats. This is actually luck based, since you may encounter game breaking bugs and glitches at any moment.
Spy Catsuit: An available clothing item. May or may not actually fit over the character model, depending on what race you chose.
Take Your Time: Averted for many quests, including the first main quest (which ends up showing why this trope is a good idea for games like this), but also justified for the game as a whole - there is no looming threat or Big Bad in this game, so your investigations is the catalyst for things to happen.
Notably, the Agent canonically took twelve years to get around to finishing the main quest, as opposed to the one year of the other Heroes of The Elder Scrolls.
Tech Demo Game: The graphics are obviously very outdated now, but are amazing for 1996.
Timed Mission: All of the sidequests, and at least two main quests, namely the very first one (you have a month to track down an Imperial courier before she gets bored and leaves), and the penultimate quest. (If you don't give the Totem to someone within exactly a year and a day, the Totem's power will consume you)
Timey-Wimey Ball: The Warp of the West, which occurs at the endgame. A rather innovative attempt by the developers to avoid the necessity of Cutting Off The Branches of the game's multiple endings. The player has the key to the Brass God after travelling through another plane of existence, which he can activate and give to any number of differing factions. This causes a break in space-time where reality suffers a Blue Screen of Death when confronted by several earthshattering possibilities all stemming from one event. The only way for the timeline to cope is to Take a Third Option and make all possibilities true. Everything that can happen from the Brass God's key being given to a faction does happen, even the events that are mutually exclusive, resulting in a massive shift in political alignments and culture shifts that nobody can quite remember the cause of after the fact.
Trailers Always Spoil: The blurb for Daggerfall on Bethseda's site and in the Anthology mentions the Numidium, and tells you its backstory. This is information you don't find out until almost the end of the main quest. During the original release, the only thing the player knew going in was that King Lysandus was not at rest, and that a letter from the Emperor had gone astray. The spoilers aren't even accurate either; they state the Numidium has recently been unearthed in the Iliac Bay region. It's Tiber Septim's Totem that has been unearthed; the Numidium was reassembled at some point in the past (presumably somewhere in Cyrodiil) after the Blades had tracked down all of the fragments.
Unwinnable: A few bad decisions will result in the Main Quest being unwinnable. However, since this is a Wide Open Sandbox game, you can keep on playing for a long time. For an extreme example, you can just plain refuse a required quest — the questgiver won't ask again, and the quest chain is permanently broken.
You don't even have to make any explicit decisions; in an aversion of Take Your Time, simply failing to show up for an early scheduled meeting will render the main quest instantly unwinnable. You get one extension, but only one.
Unwinnable by Mistake: The original release of the game contained a Game-Breaking Bug that made the entire main plotline impossible to complete. Not sometimes unwinnable — it was impossible to ever win the original retail release, fullstop. And this in an era when fewer people had internet connections, so it couldn't be easily patched! The fact that the game was still critically acclaimed shows how its Wide Open Sandbox nature rendered the main quest almost irrelevant.
Vendor Trash: There's a lot of loot that don't have any practical purpose other than selling them to merchants. However, some — like Holy Tomes and Daggers — are very valuable.
Virtual Paper Doll: Rob a few clothes stores and you can play for hours merely designing the outfit for your character.
Wide Open Sandbox: You can do the main quest (which has eight different endings, including player death), raid dungeons, explore the wilderness, join one of fifty factions, study magic, ride a horse, buy a boat, invest in real estate, trade, live a life of crime, become a vampire or a were-creature, and go anywhere at any time. And you'll never run out of side quests because they are randomly generated.