Product Type: Microsoft PC games
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Fun, accessible gaming from next-generation RPG
Dungeon Siege (PC)
Member Name: the_guru
Dungeon Siege (PC)
Date: 01/05/02, updated on 18/05/05 (215 review reads)
Advantages: A true 3D RPG engine with great visuals, fun and progressive gameplay thanks to great interface design, accessible and easy to play
Disadvantages: a bit linear, not much character interaction, design and story not fully developed
Dungeon Siege is a new take on the role-playing genre that both benefits and suffers from the fact that this is the developer's first attempt at this kind of game.
Role Playing Games generally put you in control of a party of characters in a fantasy setting, who are tasked with quests which enable the characters to develop. The enjoyment factor stems not only from the puzzle-solving elements of the game, but from watching your characters become more powerful as they gain combat experience, magic items and new spells to cast.
It's become expected that role-playing games are based around a story of some kind that surrounds and pervades the game - indeed many developers seem to put more effort into the story than into the game itself.
Computer RPG's have their roots in the early text-adventure games that were an attempt to bring the feeling of the cult "Dungeons and Dragons" game to the computer. Successive attempts, notably by SSI with its "Eye of the Beholder" series, introduced graphics into computer adventuring, and the genre quickly became more about an immersive experience. More recently, developers have focussed on creating game engines that support a very complex gaming world, with variable outcomes that are much more dependent on how the gamer wishes to play the game.
In recent years, Bioware and Black Isle have released many games based on the "Infinity" engine, a complex pseudo-3d game engine that accurately models the "Dungeons and Dragons" rule set. Notable success for Black Isle has followed their release of the "Baldur's Gate" series. Blizzard also released the successful "Diablo" series, which featured their own rule set, featuring similar gaming in a pseudo-3d world.
Gas Powered Games have taken a different tack with "Dungeon Siege" - instead of the overhead perspectives of flat maps enforced by the Bioware/Blizzard engine
s, it uses a true 3d camera-based view that allows the engine to deliver a real feeling of immersion - think "Super Mario World". "Dungeon Siege" allows you to experience real depth to the terrain - the limits to what you can see are based on what the camera can see, not by the screen size or by using a black mask to limit what you can see on the screen.
Navigation is by the classic "point and click" interface - click on an area, and your characters will rush over there, or attempt to interact with the person/monster/item. However, by using a true-3d engine instead of a pseudo-3d isometric one, you can swoop around your characters and see both them and the terrain from practically any angle. Looking over a cliff delivers a real feeling of depth, instead of making flat characters scuttle around a flat map from a single camera angle. Again, I found myself much more in mind of the platform/camera environments delivered by console gaming. Your view may be blocked by trees, walls and terrain, but subtly you can use the camera to negotiate around them.
The game interface is refreshing - everything seems nicely ergonomic. For example, there's a "pick up all" button that stops you having to click on every item around. Managing the game view with the camera is very intuitive, and I was almost immediately comfortable - the mouse wheel is used to zoom in and out, the mouse ball controls the camera view, and the buttons let you manipulate your environment.
There's no distinction between interior and exterior environments, so there's no pause and load every time you walk into a building. Rooms don't behave as distinct entities - a monster hiding on the level above will charge down the stairs to get you, as the room is placed within the same environment as everything around it. This gives the game a much more "real" feel than the crude "walk into a trap" room strategy that'
s so over-used elsewhere.
The game inventory is easy to manage, and you can buy a pack mule as a party member to lug your stuff around for you. The mule follows you around devotedly & scuttles away from trouble when fights break out. You can add up to 8 characters in your party from the various people (and pack mules) that you'e encounter along the way.
Character development is much more open than other RPG's - you aren't confined to being a wizard or a warrior as the skills system is open. Do a lot of fighting, and your strength and combat skills will escalate - a lot of magic, and your intelligence and magic power will grow.
The developer obviously lacks a background in this sort of game as there are a few shortcomings. The story isn't very well developed, and the nature of the quests that you are given are very linear - there's not an awful lot to explore other than the route to the next quest, and interaction with characters in the game is limited to a standard speech that doesn't change. I tried playing the game on the "easy" level, but found it massively too easy, quickly accumulating hundreds of healing and magic potions - normal is much better.
The magic items that you receive are rather unispired, and the magic system is a bit boring - although in its defence, it's an awful lot easier to use than "Baldur's Gate" - you can pretty much leave your spellcasters to get on with the job instead of pausing the game every 2 seconds.
A big feature of this game is multiplayer - you can design and host your own custom games and invite others to play in your dungeon. There are lots of servers beginning to appear out there, and multiplayer is great fun. I'm sure it could replace many of the Saturday D&D games that are happening out there - at least until NeverWinter Nights is released, which will be the acid test for this game.
Overall, the sheer effort that
9;s gone into the visual and interface design makes this a very easy and fun game to play - after the complex mechanics of the Bioware engine, I found it very refreshing. The feeling of the game is one of quick progression on to the next challenge, and it's visually stunning. Your characters seem to pretty much take care of themselves, and take much of the donkey work out of running the game, making it much less of an effort to play. It's a real delight, despite the limitations of the "console" style of play, and I'd recommend it to any game fan who's looking for a fun, accessible RPG.