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Dec 18 2018 16:09:27
       

Dungeon Siege Review

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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 it.

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 to import.

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 difficulty levels.

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 my interest.

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 (inept@the-nexus.co.uk)

In Short
 

Great graphics
Great user Interface
Excellently done

Shallow Gameplay
Repetitive

 

Score
 
 

6 / 10

 
 
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  www.microsoft.com/games/
dungeonsiege
 
   


 

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