DUNGEON SIEGE

Dungeon Siege is not a complicated game. It is simple in design, simple in execution, simple in story and simple in every other aspect as well. However, simplicity can be bliss and in the case of Dungeon Siege, it is doubly so, for Chris Taylor has delivered an outstanding game that keeps on pleasing.

Dungeon Siege is an action/RPG that takes place in the wondrous Kingdom of Ehb. A race of creatures known as the Krug have recently risen up and starting attacking the local townships and people. Naturally, as a mere farmer, you rise up to take on these new foes and get entangled in a far more sinister plot in the end.

Sure, Dungeon Siege’s story is not deep. Although it could have been, as the world design, history and lay of the land all present a lot of richness that could be explored. Instead, the game gives you just enough and sends you on your way to lands unknown. This simple presentation is enough to push the game forward at a decent pace and if you pay attention, you will gather enough information to get things accomplished, although more depth would have been welcome in the game.

The most interesting aspect of the story actually would not be possible with a deeper plot though. You actually feel left out of information, always lacking in your pursuits. But the mere fact that you are a farmer turned hero in a land of strife makes that feel more realistic and well placed. So, while you long for more in the story and the understanding of Ehb, it makes sense within the context of the game and is enjoyable for that reason.

Although the story does not give you a whole lot of information about the land’s locales, they really speak for themselves anyway. This is due to Dungeon Siege’s absolutely outstanding visuals. While I am not a big graphics junkie, I can not imagine Dungeon Siege in any other form but the eye candy bliss it is. By creating spectacular lands, Gas Powered Games has allowed the world to come alive on the screen and in the players imagination.

As you travel, you encounter murky swamps, icy caves, crystalline caverns, dingy dungeons, war-torn villages and other interesting places. Each part of these areas looks great, from the texturing to the overall design. The game also has incredible draw distant, so if you are up on a high ledge, you can see the land below and see the enemies that await you. Dungeon Siege also sports some great character models and very nice effects. The effects bring spells alive on screen, without over doing it and the models reflect characters accurately and help make monsters look the gruesome beasts they are.

Another key feature to bringing the world of Dungeon Siege alive is the sound. The game uses this area very subtlety, but frankly, very well. Music creates a type of creepy, foreboding feel on areas, playing softly in the background and creating great atmosphere. Its tempo also increases for certain parts, giving the game a hastier feel. Sounds work well, with monsters having distinctive growls and roars and spells and weapons giving off familiar clangs and explosions. The voices are good, but not great, with a few entertaining characters along the way. All of this blends into a great atmosphere around Dungeon Siege.

As I said, the gameplay itself is very simple in design. Part of this is simply in how the game controls and plays. Dungeon Siege takes place in a massive, 3D world where you seamlessly click your way through in 3rd person. The no-load-times is great, as is the huge and very detailed world. As I mentioned with the story, the game actually puts you into the role of needing to explore to figure out what to do (with lots of extra places for fun) and the beautiful graphics make this all very fun and enjoyable, as many areas are extremely cool to visit.

Fighting is done with a very simple point and click method as well. Just as in a strategy game, you can group your characters easily, having them focus on particular enemies, types of enemies, and fight in formations. Characters are smart enough to keep attacking most of time, but fall short on occasion. Enemies are fairly smart as well, at times taking out weaker characters, or those using spells, etc., but also do not always stick to this. This simple fighting methods takes some of the interaction out of fighting, but also leaves you room to plan strategies, manipulate characters and so on. Being able to pause also helps you maximize your abilities, spells and items.

The character creation is also simple, but ends up having a lot of flexibility in it as well. You get four options, melee fighting, ranged fighting, combat magic or nature magic. To use them efficiently (or use higher level spells), you must use it and advance in levels in that skill. Advancing also helps strength, dexterity and intelligence, which allows better items.

This simple setup allows you to make and use whatever character type you desire, as you can mix and match skills as you go. It is quite easy and you can then drastically change a party member part way through the game. While the lack of multiple, standard classes is missed, the simple approach has its own charm and fits well with Dungeon Siege’s hack-n-slash gameplay, as some traditional classes have no place there.

The items and spells you get to use are very diverse and allow a lot of customization as well. While ultimately you will use the best bow or weapon, attributes will have you trying to find “just the right one” constantly. Spells range from full-on attacks to helpful boosts, to great summons.

While the caves and swamps I mentioned are cool, Dungeon Siege has some incredibly cool… dungeons. They are well designed, long but not tedious and use some fun puzzles. For example, in one online game, I watched as my friend got trapped behind a door from a switch I stepped on and promptly killed by several skeletons. He could not stay alive enough to open the door until we finally coordinated our moves enough to insure victory. It was intense and very cool and there are many great areas like that in Dungeon Siege, not necessarily with puzzles, but with action as well.

Multiplayer works the same way as single, only in a different land. It too is very addicting and fun and a welcome feature. Although future additions are not taken into the rating’s account, the coming downloads and modding are worth mentioning. Gas Powered Games will be releasing the Siege Editor, which is the tools they used. With it, the mod community should come alive and you then should have a great supply of both big and small adventures for your exploration.

While it is often compared to the likes of Diablo II, Dungeon Siege has heart all its own. It certainly incorporates a lot of Diablo II, but is also part Icewind Dale, part strategy game and uses a lot of new material as well. Combine with incredible graphics, incredible world design and solid sound and you have a game currently like none other.

This all makes Dungeon Siege fresh, fun and well worth any hack-n-slasher’s money. Sure it’s simple in every way. But, this simplicity works so well in the game that you get hooked for hours on end and are ready to delve back in the next day. The single player game is great fun and multiplyayer stands equally well. Certainly an entertaining game that we can only hope to see more of in the future. Until then, there is plenty here for your enjoyment.