Still very much Daggerfall, just slightly better. And better and better with each passing month.
Those who have undertaken the arduous task of reading my early archives, will remember Daggerfall, the greatest single-player roleplaying game of all time. The game remains the largest single-player game ever in terms of sheer geography, with a game world roughly the size of Great Britain. It takes weeks of Real Life to cross the land on foot, although luckily fast travel is available in the game. There are hundreds of centers of habitation from cities to farmsteads, and many dozens of dungeons, each of them enormous in size. (You can and will get lost in them, even after years of playing. Or at least I did. Luckily a patch to the game gave a way to cheat yourself to the exit after completing a dungeon quest.)
I could go on and on about the skill system, the magic system, the item system, the crafting etc which were all far ahead of their time. But unfortunately the ambitions were too high for the computers of the time. In further bad luck, the game was developed for MS-DOS but released only after Windows had largely replaced MS-DOS as the dominant operating system. (Windows 95 made away with the need for MS-DOS, and Daggerfall came in 1996.) And of course, pushing the boundaries as it did, the game was buggy. Also of course, trying to make the most of the available hardware, it became unplayable not only on older PCs but also on newer. As such, only a few of us got to play it for years. Some of the most enthusiastic players formed an informal online community known as the “Daggerfools”. I have lost touch with them over the years, but clearly we were not alone.
The game got a second lease of life with the coming of DOSbox, a program that allowed MS-DOS games to run within Windows. It created an environment the game could not distinguish from a real MS-DOS machine with the specifications set by the program. The two games I used DOSbox for were Master of Magic, and Daggerfall.
But even with that, it was clear that time had run away from Daggerfall. The graphics were quite blocky by today’s standard, especially on modern screens. If you played it in its original resolution, it would just make up a small box on the screen. If you played it full-screen, it would be distorted on wide-screen monitors and the picture would consist of colored squares.
Daggerfall Unity uses the original resources from the game (which Bethesda has given away for free for years now, honor to them for that) but the game engine is replaced by the modern Unity game engine used in various multiplayer games. The game is still single-player, but it is improved in many other ways.
The graphics still use the old sprites, but with modern software that scales up the images to a wide range of screen resolutions without visible distortion, including the wide-screen formats that are common today. The game also allows modded resources, so you can replace the original sprites with new, more detailed ones. Some such mods already exist, as well as the first gameplay mods
In addition to less blocky graphics, view distance is greatly enhanced, letting you see things in the distance. Random terrain generating in the wilderness is fixed and the odd “dead zone” around towns is also gone.
The many bugs and instabilities in the game engine have been removed. (There are probably new ones but I haven’t seen them yet.) Controls are more like those in modern games (like mouse look and mouse click attacks instead of mouse swing attack – yes, you would swing your mouse side to side to swing your sword in the old game. You can still do this if it feels right for you.)
The game runs faster (which makes it harder) and the enemy AI has been improved (which makes it harder). Enemies of different types may now fight each other (which makes it easier). Luckily you can turn these off in the settings and also make various other changes if to make the game look and act more like the original, if you so prefer.
I was unhappy to find that Daggerfall Unity has removed the “donation piles” in temples. As a new member of the Mercy of Stendarr, I was used to rooting through the donation piles for money, potions and better items than I already had. Later when my fortunes had improved, I would drop my own gifts in the donation pile. Please bring back the donation piles! They are an essential expression of the spirit of the game.
The old game only had 6 savegame slots. Daggerfall Unity has the modern system where you can give each save a unique name, or re-use those that are no longer relevant. Savegame location has also been moved to a standard location for each operating system (the game runs under Windows, Linux and Mac) and at least in Windows, this is a hidden folder unless you change your settings in Windows. (I have done that long ago for other reasons.) I would assume that the old savegame editors like Daghex will not work with the new games, or at least those with a higher number than six, but I have not tried yet.
I mentioned that Unity is moddable. The first mods are already out, and a search for “daggerfall unity mods” should give you an up to date view of what is available. I expect new mods to trickle into the world for as long as the generation who played the original game is still alive. After that, I do not know. Maybe we, as Lord Stone once mused in alt.games.daggerfall, will go to Daggerfall when we die. If I have understood the author of Narnia correctly, this is not entirely impossible, but I don’t pray for this to be my eternal destination. Despite my claim long ago that I could play this game for a thousand year. Obviously I can’t in this body. But even if I could, I would probably not have explored all of Daggerfall’s towns and dungeons, or all of its magic and crafting options. The most ambitious single-player RPG of all time will most likely outlive me by a good many years, thanks in no small part to this project.
Link to Daggerfall Unity’s home: https://www.dfworkshop.net