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Dungeon Siege Review

After playing Diablo 2 and Diablo 2 LOD for almost two years, the need for another hack and slash RPG that does not dddrrraaaaggg on with a story or have a turn based combat system that you can take a leak during and not miss anything. Funny thing is, I did take nature breaks in Dungeon Siege during combat and lived to tell about it!

I usually do not care much about a story since very little is “new” in terms of story line from the norm: Unknown hero gets bless with skill and saves the planet. When I fired up the Single Player mode, a cut scene started with a “farmer” working and a wounded friend collapses outside the field. The farmer gets the task of, well, in short, saving the realm. I liked how the introduction came about, for about 5 minutes, until I realized that this realm is totally infested by monsters! You must assume the farmer is oblivious so long as not to notice the transition. Regardless, as I have said before, story is not important. If I wanted a good story, I would read my Steven King Novels. 🙂

Beside the lack of storyline pulling the game together, I did notice one thing right off. The world is beautiful. All the textures, from the forest floor to the structures littered throughout are truly outstanding. Lush environments like a snow covered mountaintop and a green forest, complete with swaying trees. Water flows and mist forms. Something that I have not seen is a gratuitous lens flare that tends to be a standard annoyance in some games. Be warned, having all details cranked up does require a bit of horsepower. Since there are no real “loading” scenes, all game information loads, by the looks of the hard drive LED, constantly. This is a good and a bad thing. Good not to stare at a static loading screen, bad because the hard drive access will slow your frame rate down. If you have borderline system pushing the minimum requirements, you should turn details down or if anything, invest in more memory. By the looks of the task manager, this game uses more memory than ANY other game I have played to date.

Do not think that this will be a one sitting game, though. After I played for a few hours, I felt that I did not even scratch the surface of single play. Continuing through the realm, I did realize that leveling up a character is going to be quite a bit of time investment. Luckily, you can take your single player character and import it into a multiplayer game for further advancement.

As itself, I will have to compare Dungeon Siege to Darkstone and not Diablo like everyone else tends to do. Diablo has statically rendered imagery and a fixed isometric view. True, hack and slash is there, but like Darkstone, Dungeon Siege renders everything in a 3D environment. You may rotate the camera, and zoom in and out at will. Let me make this perfectly clear. Camera action implemented well MUST be there for me to even give it a good rating. I always had a constricted feeling with Tomb Raider’s “up close to her booty” view and clipping issues. I usually play Darkstone from a “2D Gauntlet” overhead view, mainly because it was easy to control battles and I hated constantly adjusting the view with the cursor keys. Not with Dungeon Siege. Using the camera zoomed all the way out, it still performs rather well. Building roof’s seamlessly become transparent while entering and all environment objects (trees,
etc) become transparent to be able to view the party better. You may also move the cursor to the edge of the screen to adjust the camera view. Perfect for morons like me that are not coordinated enough to use any other method. Game developers take note: This is how it is supposed to be.

Your character, even though there is set attributes, to include the standard Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, but no strict rule when it comes to leveling up. Do you feel like wielding an ax? Go for it. Wish you could switch to a bow? Can do. Use some spells to heal and summon creatures and you are in route to a well-rounded Dungeon Siege character. I discovered, though, that not specializing in a particular field might make the game a wee bit longer than I had wanted. One character made level 12 Combat Mage before another character had 5’s in all skills. This makes it difficult to continue through to harder areas until the easier ones are completed over and over. That is ok. It does make some frustration factor because the game, even though your skill levels are around 8, considers you a level 15 character. High-level items and spells are available in the shops but seem far, far away to reach. I may create (yeah, I will) more characters with 2 skills in various configurations to balance out the difficulty and time factors. Hm. Looks like replay value increased! 🙂

Combat can be as simple or complex as you wish. You can micro manage all available characters (up to 8) or let the computer figure it out by setting up battle orders for your formation. I did notice that, even on the “highest most aggressive” setting, the character may kill a monster, stand still until another monster hits them from a distance, then head off after them. Usually this activity effects melee characters as the ranged spell casters and archer types tend to attack properly… as long as you move forward a few feet. I must say, though, that fleeing a battle with my melee characters to regroup and heal has never had more meaning than now while viewing multiple arrows sticking out of them. You can see the hit. 🙂

I discovered that you colud click on another characters portrait icon and put them in “guard mode.” This seems to follow the guarded character around and protect them by fighting with whatever equipped weapon to select as well as automatically heal with little input. One time, I put my character in guard mode and took a nature break. When I came back, I expected to have to wait the customary 60 seconds to “get out of ghost mode” after death. What I found was my character kicking butt and healing my partner’s character much better than what I could do. I asked her what she needs me for and the reply was “I don’t know.” The fact that the AI can take on advanced path finding and battle scenarios is a total plus. Rejection from a multiplayer game because I was “not needed” is a bummer.

I am also not one to have the music running. After all, it sucks up CPU cycles, but with Dungeon Siege, the music fits. From swords hitting icemen to birds a chirping, the environmental sound effects fit well to set the scene, as does the music. Every movie, from the dawn of time, has used music to set the scene. A critical plot twist or mass murder is around the corner, the music changes to convey that fact. The same thing happens in Dungeon Siege. I do not even realize the music is running most of the time. It just fits.

After logging many hours of game play, including both single and multiplayer mode, I must say that this is going to be the next time killer for me. Combining outstanding graphics with hack and slash game play will keep you interested for some time. Even though I was initially angry that the “Siege Editor,” a development utility for creating your own Dungeon Siege worlds, was not released on the retail CD, it does give me the time to figure out what I do and do not like about the environments. Unfortunately, there is not much to dislike.

Whether you are seeking an open-ended RPG and have a nuclear powered system, or looking for something other than Quake 3 to show off your graphics card, go out and get Dungeon Siege. Unless you are looking for a thick plot to read, you will not be disappointed.

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