Every time I've sat down to write this review, I've ended
up really putting this game down. I think now I've worked
out why, and perhaps I can give it a fair go this time. The
Dungeon Siege box, you see, states quite clearly that Dungeon
Siege is a role-playing game. Not a chance. Someone should
quietly explain to all concerned with the marketing of this
game that 'sharing a few features of' does not equate to 'being
the same as'. Hence I've sat down to review this game as an
RPG and I've been seeing a dismal failure, when in fact it's
not a bad game at all.
Dungeon Siege is a hack and slash, pure and simple. It's set
in a fantasy world replete with a large variety of monsters,
magic and armour and a great evil that needs to be overcome.
Where this all differs from what I see as an RPG is that it
offers little to none in the departments of character (personality)
development, plot and interaction with people or problem solving.
Gameplay is literally summed up by going through dungeons
on your way from A to B and killing hundreds of enemies.
The system that Dungeon Siege uses is simple, and perhaps
lacking in subtlety that would allow a player to expand on
tactics as they get through the game, but it's easy to pick
up and doesn't cloud the issue with things you might not need.
Characters get better at things by doing them, and in so doing,
improving both their skills and their stats along the way.
You get Strength and Melee for front line fighters, Dexterity
and Ranged for Archers, Intelligence and Nature or Combat
for the mage types, but you can mix and match what you train
up however you like.What this all means is that your character
is completely defined by experience, and so isn't really that
much of an individual when compared to other characters of
the same sort of specialisation, but since the entire focus
of the game is combat, this isn't an issue. To add some variety
and interest to characters, there is a wide selection of weapons,
armour and shields, which are generally quite basic, consisting
of damage ranges, armour ratings and the like, but are spiced
up by frequent magical bonuses, almost all of which is hinted
at in the animations and effects for the weapons. In the end
though, everything comes down to dealing out damage or preventing
Spells come in Nature and Combat varieties, for two different
magical specialities. The manual describes the difference
between the two types being between the accuracy of the damage
- Nature focuses on pinpoint damage, while many of the Combat
spells have deal damage to areas. Nature magic also provides
spells for enhancing the abilities of your party.
In reality the difference between the two sorts is harder
to describe. Both Nature and Combat magics have summoning
spells, and both have damage spells, although Nature magic
damage spells tend to either work directly, or home onto the
enemies, while Combat spells are usually shoot and hope affairs.
Nature magic has the best spells for healing up your party,
but certainly in this version, it seems very difficult to
get a Nature mage to go up in level (I've had a Combat mage
go up 10 levels while a nature mage stays the same) - I'm
hoping this problem will be eased with a patch.
When you play this game, I think it's important to remember
that you shouldn't come to it looking for something to think
about. This is a game where you can snatch a spare hour in
your day and load up the game, without worrying about remembering
important people for your quest, things that you should or
shouldn't say, or anything like that. You probably won't even
feel any regret when you quick save the game again and shut
it down to go and get on with something else, but it's precisely
this quality of relaxed entertainment that requires very little
of you that is so beguiling about the game.
When I might normally turn on some music, relax and close
my eyes, I can now turn on the music and play Dungeon Siege
and get some entertainment for very little in terms of concentration.
To all intents and purposes, there's little distinction between
the single player and multiplayer game types in terms of mechanics
- the major difference, naturally, is that in multiplayer
you play with other people and only control one character.
You can import your characters from the single player game
and maintain them as multiplayer characters that grow separately,
unfortunately, re-importing the same character from later
on in the single player game will overwrite any character
with the same name, meaning that you can't decide to run it
as a separate character after working on your single player
character more than online. It would have been nice if there
had been some way for your extra work in the single player
to benefit the same character in multiplayer, so that you
wouldn't lose items and work the next time you feel the urge
Both the single player and multiplayer games seem well balanced
- if your character is in an area where they are intended
to be (in multiplayer, talking to guards usually gives you
a good idea, if the monsters don't first. On the regular setting,
the enemies in multiplayer are easier than in the single player
game) you should find that with a party, you should take down
groups of monsters without too much danger except for the
odd fight. It's actually fairly possible to do areas that
your character is too weak for, although this is probably
a fringe benefit for mages with a lot of patience, mana potions,
something to lure off the odd monster and summoning spells
- I doubt it would be so easy to do with a fighter or archer.
Part of the reason is that most of the bigger, nicer items
require higher statistics, and since the statistics are tied
into your experience and class, the strongest weapons and
armour are effectively sealed off to all but the high level
fighters, and similarly for the other classes. In this way,
the system quite subtlety limits the power of people at a
certain level, and prevents someone with a high level character
trading down ultimate equipment to lower level friends to
unbalance the game. This isn't to say that they couldn't sell
the items for large amounts of cash in order to equip themselves
as best possible for that given level.
Disappointingly, although it seems that items and spells continue
to get better as you increase levels after finishing the single
player game and move on to the multiplayer game, monsters
are simply recycled at tougher skill setting, simply made
harder to kill. This reduces the possibilities for replaying
the multiplayer game after playing the single player through,
since most dungeons on the multiplayer will by then be possible
to walk through without regard for the monsters therein, and
these dungeons will essentially not change even on harder
You'll also notice that the spells at very high levels seem
to be copies of the lower level spells with more thrown in
- for example, after you get fireball, you get fireball rain,
which is distinctly similar to fire rain and so on. When you
sit down and look at it, there are perhaps 10 different types
of combat magic spell, with 4 variations thrown in and then
the summoning types.
The graphics in Dungeon Siege are lush, with beautiful
scenery that covers castles, lava caves, forests, grasslands,
mountains, deserts and snowy peaks with stunning ease. Players
with tight hard disk space may begrudge the one gigabyte installation,
and some people may find themselves caught out by the 128Mb
Ram requirement, but it's all fairly reasonable.
The sound and music in the game are good, but nothing
special. If you plan to play Dungeon Siege over an afternoon,
I suggest that you consider putting your mp3 player on to
provide a little extra distraction.
Dungeon Siege is a good game - it's certainly well produced
and implemented, but fundamentally, it lacks the sort of depth
to plot, combat and interactions that could have prolonged
it. Beyond twenty to twenty five hours playing time, I'm struggling
to see many reasons to keep playing it besides looking at
bigger spells and nicer items, which isn't enough to sustain
When it ultimately comes down to the crunch, unless this
is specifically the sort of game that you're looking for,
I'd suggest waiting for something that will more closely live
up to an RPG title. If you're wanting for ideas, Neverwinter
Nights and Morrowind come easily to mind. To my mind, it's
a shame that such a good basis wasn't pushed that much further
to really become an RPG.
Daniel 'Inept' Speed (firstname.lastname@example.org)