According to Chris Taylor, Project Leader of Dungeon Siege, Bill Gates made the decision to have his company publish the game after seeing nothing but a simple demo of it. Luckily for us gamers, it was a good decision. Dungeon Siege is perhaps the finest Action/RPG ever made, and it’s definitely the prettiest.
This is a hard category to judge in this game, simply because DS can be played in a variety of ways. Due to the incredible party member AI and the ability to set party formations on the fly, you can basically sit back and watch your characters hack and slash their way through hordes of enemies. If that style of play doesn’t appeal to you, you can micromanage and play the game in a manner similar to Baldur’s Gate and Freedom Force. At any time, you may pause the game to issue orders to your team and switch out your equipment. Because of the game’s extreme versatility, it should be easy for any type of gamer to get into. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself letting the AI take care of the weaker monsters and directly control them during hard battles.
Of course, it wouldn’t really be a Diablo-style Action/RPG without inventory management, and Dungeon Siege has plenty of it. Throughout the game, you’ll come across a huge variety of weapons, spells, potions, and other equipment. Equipment can be switched between party members quite easily. By hitting a button while your inventory screen is open, you will be able to view all of your characters’ inventories at once. If you find yourself low on space, you can hire a packmule to store your extra goods. Packmules cannot fight, but their inventories are quite spacious.
And where would an RPG be without some kind of character building? DS sports a nifty leveling method, setting it apart from other games of its kind. Characters in the game do not gain “levels”, per se. Instead, they increase in various skills by using them over and over again. Related statistics are raised at the same time. For example, if you wanted to develop a nice melee fighter, you’d just equip a guy with a sword or axe and let him loose. Slowly, he would increase in his melee skill, with his strength and dexterity rising at the same time. If you wanted him to gain some intelligence for some reason, you would just have him start casting some spells. It all works very well. Basically, the characters build up according to what they are doing, not by giving the player stat choices to make.
As for magic, it’s a very simple affair in this game. Any character can equip a spellbook, which is filled with a certain amount of slots. You can then find or purchase scrolls to put in your spellbook. Scrolls are never permanently fixed to the book , so you can switch them around at will. The ability to cast a specific spell is dependant on a character’s skill in either of the two fields of magic, Nature and Combat. This all make for a simple, yet deep, experience.
It’s safe to say that Dungeon Siege is an amazingly beautiful game in every way. Character models are detailed and show every piece of armor equipped. The environments are simply stunning. When you peer over the edge of a cliff, you’ll swear you’re looking into a bottomless pit. Trees and bushes sway and rustle as your party moves through them. One of my favorite graphical touches is seeing each individual arrow shaft sticking out of an enemy as he is assaulted by my archers. Whether you are zoomed all the way in or are viewing the action from a bird’s eye perspective, the game looks wonderful. The graphics can cause the game to lag a bit on slower machines, but this is alleviated by turning off the shadows. Another very nice feature of the game is a lack of load times. You can walk across the entire game world with out ever seeing a load screen or having the game pause itself. This really adds to the immersive atmosphere the graphics already create. If you’re a fan of great-looking games, you need look no further.
The sound in Dungeon Siege is a mixed bag. While the music, composed by famed musician Jeremy Soule (of Icewind Dale and Morrowind fame), is excellent and fits the mood of the game well, it also tends to be too quiet at times. I’ve even had the game go almost totally silent in the middle of a big battle, which really spoils the mood. Voice acting is abundant, and it’s generally well-done. None of the characters has an obnoxious or annoying voice, and they all speak as though they aren’t just reading from a script. The ambient noises are decent, but again they are almost unnoticeable at times. Overall, though, DS is a good-sounding game.
This would be the game’s sole weak point. The story, or lack thereof, is NOT the main attraction of Dungeon Siege. If you’re looking for another Planescape: Torment or Arcanum, you’ve come to the wrong place. Cutscenes occur every now and then to inform you of the events surrounding you, and while they are done decently, they don’t really convey any sort of gripping narrative. The rest of the plot is revealed through conversations with NPCs, but it never amounts to much. Your main character and party members never speak a word after they have joined your party. Also, the game is incredibly linear. You will have a hard time getting lost, as there is almost always a path for you to follow or signs pointing you in the right direction. As for the ending, well, it’s terrible. I’ve seen puzzle games with more imaginative ways to end the game. If you play RPGs solely for their stories, stay away from Dungeon Siege.
The control in Dungeon Siege is on par with pretty much every PC RPG since Fallout. The game is controlled almost exclusively with the mouse, with hotkeys for potion sipping, pausing, and other similar actions. Characters respond to your commands without hesitation. All in all, you shouldn’t have any trouble controlling the game.
Dungeon Siege is one of the best games to come out this year. The graphics and sound are fantastic, and the gameplay is fast and exciting. If you consider yourself a fan of Action RPGs, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.