I greet news of the completion of a Unity remaster for The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall with equal parts excitement and horror. Excitement because I have never played Daggerfall and it is one of the weirder, more fantastical Elder Scrolls RPGs - the one with multiple endings which sequels have explained away as somehow all being canon thanks to a metaphysical event called a Dragon Break, whereby timelines branch and reconnect. And horror because I have never played Daggerfall, which is said to be 620,000 square miles in size, and I'm getting to that point in life where I seriously ask myself whether I can finish certain games before I perish.
Still the journey is more important than reaching the destination, right? Perhaps I can treat it like an occasional walking sim.
Daggerfall Unity is an open source community project launched by Daggerfall Workshop, a team of Elder hobbyists that includes Gavin "Interkarma" Clayton. It's been in development since A Long Time Ago, and reached fully playable alpha status in 2019. It supports Windows, Linux and MacOS.
You'll need a copy of the original 1996 Daggerfall for DOS to run the thing - fortunately, it's free on Steam. Here's a triumphal breakdown from the developers, which includes an installation guide and system requirements:
Cross-platform without emulation (Windows/Linux/Mac)
Retro graphics are boosted by modern engine and lighting
High resolution widescreen with classic style
Optionally play in retro mode 320×200 or 640×400 with VGA palettes
Optionally overhaul the graphics and gameplay with mods
Huge draw distances even without mods
Smooth first-person controls
Quality of life enhancements
Extensive mod support with an active creator community
Translation support via community mods
Daggerfall Unity already has plenty of mods. The Daggerfall Workshop team have recommended a few, including the glamorously named Quest Pack 1, which adds 195 quests, and Archaeologists, which adds a guild dedicated to uncovering Tamriel's history. Good lord, I like the sound of that. Who plays these games just to murder bandits? You? Well in that case, you might want to prioritise Physical Combat And Armor Overhaul. Me, I'll be over here theorising about the ruins.
We've written a grand store of things about Daggerfall over the years, but in particular, I recommend Adam Smith's (BG3 in peace) article on its dungeon design. "These are not places in which parties of adventurers go through familiar motions to wend their way to a glowing chest of goodies guarded by a monstrous villain - they are places for lone wanderers to lose themselves, the thread that leads home and their lives," he wrote. "They make these imagined worlds far richer and far stranger than a library of lore ever could."
Here's hoping for some equally captivating dungeons in The Elder Scrolls 6, which is rumoured to be set south-east of the Daggerfall region in Valenwood, and probably won't be out or indeed, properly revealed, for years. Bethesda's former design director Bruce Nesmith reckons it will continue Skyrim's approach to levelling and progression, and will likely keep aspects of the magic system he invented for that game. Katharine has thoughts on what it should steal from Zelda.