Jeremy Jastrzab
14 Oct, 2005

Dungeon Siege II Review

PC Review | Return of the Pack Mule!
PC’s have never been short on Americanised action-RPGs. From Baldur’s Gate to Neverwinter Nights to Morrowind, you’ve got plenty of long, sprawling, open games with plenty of story, dialogue and essentially options and customisation . Pretty much anyone whose into PC gaming, will have at one stage have played one of these kinds of games. Though not all will have appreciated what the games provide, there is definitely a huge market for these kinds of games. The original Dungeon Siege was slightly our of left field when compared to the rest of these titles. Mainly because it wasn’t as deeply entrenched within the same general conventions as most of these kinds of titles are expected to. Dungeon Siege 2 attempts to somewhat vindicate this scenario, yet keep what made the original unique. A much more straight-up game that was much more accessible to everyone. Oh, and now you can bring some friends along as well.

The single-player campaign starts with you choosing your character. You can choose between four races: human, half-giant, elf and dryad. Each race has an inevitable stat bonus that will assist with certain actions. You can customise your look but it is nowhere near the scale that some avid gamers may be accustomed to. From there, you’re thrown into the story. Your character is a mercenary hired by a group know as the Morden. The Morden are led by a Prince who along with his band of black wizards, are searching for a special sword and shield (the same from the first game). Well, the Prince has already found the sword and in similar fashion to Soul Calibur is possessed. Your first task, is to storm the dryad temple and help the Morden recover a piece of the shield (which was broken in the interim), well, if you finished the first game, you know what happened.

Unfortunately, the Prince has done you over and leaves you and the rest of the hired mercenaries for dead. You wake up in dryad village, as their prisoner. From here, you have to work up the dryads trust, earn your freedom and continue the game. It isn’t until you manage you free yourself that you’re able to essentially able to take advantage of everything the game offers. The story from there relatively straightforward, as you’re mainly working your back home and attempting to solve a few unexplained occurrences. As simple as it may seem, the story manages to take you in excess of 40 hours of gameplay, just don’t expect to be enthralled the whole time.

Good thing the mule is carrying lots of weapons to help beat the big blue monster

Good thing the mule is carrying lots of weapons to help beat the big blue monster
As action RPG’s come, Dungeon Siege is all about covering the basics and taking it from there. While it may not be the deepest or most complex game, it is at least accessible. The general aim is to take your character from point A to B, collect/meet/explore/destroy/kill at point B as well as everything in between. Though there are a few ways that your character can go about doing this. At the beginning of the game you need to make a choice of specialising between one of four battle classes. These being: melee, ranged, nature magic and combat magic. The choice is made by which one you use most often in battle, as you gain experience based on the amount that you use it.

This works to an extent. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry too much about making conscious choices. Grab an axe and hack away to your content or cracking out the bow and sneakily spearing though enemies. Experience is automatically collected purely based on what weapon your using. On the other hand, it is highly cautioned (even the game tells you) to avoid trying to specialise in all four classes. You’ll get to a point in the game where your attacks are way too hurt anyone. That and there are some points and enemies in the game that you’ll wish that you concentrated in the other class or had a bit more control over where your experience went.

An addition to Dungeon Siege 2, is a character development tree under each battle class. Not only does your character level rise with experience but so does your battle class or “speciality” level. As your level rises, you are given points. These points can be put towards abilities that are on the development tree. The abilities include being able to use two-handed weapons or to dual-wield under melee. As with most development trees, you can add more points to each ability to increase its effectiveness and you can’t acquire a new ability without already learning the previous one. Where as the conventional experience system may seem a bit hands-free, this system rekindles some of the hands-on feel that these games are good at giving.

You’re going to be doing a lot of fighting, so it’s good to know that it isn’t going to be an arduous task. Your basic melee, ranged and magic attacks are controlled by right clicking on the enemy. To continue the attack, hold down the mouse button. You’ll have a primary weapon equipped and you can have several spells and powers as well. Switching between weapons and magic is as easy as clicking on the appropriate icon. The powers, which are gained by unlocking abilities in your development tree are at the ready, are also under the click of a mouse button and are activated by one of many hot keys. However, they require the right weapon to be equipped.

The enemies are using sub-woofer technology to put you off

The enemies are using sub-woofer technology to put you off
Another issue that arises from the class choice is that you’ll often come across items and equipment that can’t be used because you level is not high enough. But in the very least, there are a lot of items and equipment that you’ll come across. It’s just a shame that at most points they’ll be pretty much useless.

You’ll come across a wide variety of enemies, that all cover the battle classes and just about every nook and cranny of the realms of fantasy. Each enemy that you attack, will have a bar over his head indicating how much health they have. Most aren’t particularly intelligent, as you can easily out run most if you’re in trouble. They mainly charge at you once they’ve noticed your existence and dealing with most enemies isn’t that much of an issue, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.

Essentially, battles boil down to waltzing into swarms of enemies and hacking your way through them using your specialties and powers as you see hit. It’s simple enough to do and hot keys are placed in a learner friendly manner. However, the system can get quite tiring, as the enemies further on in the game aren’t really harder or smarter. They pretty much get their HP boosted and you’ll be at points where your character is so far advanced that you’ll be barely hurt while you sit and watch as you hack away at the enemies.

Yes, let's just turn our back, nothing's going happen

Yes, let's just turn our back, nothing's going happen
Though you generally won’t be playing this game through with the one character. You can have a party of up to six people/pets. You start by only being able to have a two-man party but a quick trip to the inn can fix this. You can buy party slots from the innkeepers and increase your party space. At anytime you meet a character with a shield-sword symbol on his/her head, they can be recruited as a party member. At any time, they can be disbanded, either permanently or for later recall. Party members will grow in strength as you use them. There are a handful of different Pets that act as party members as well. The pack mule returns and this time he can hold his own in a fight while there are other creatures such as dragons and wolves. They can grow and gain abilities through battle and by you feeding them useless items. Again they can be disbanded temporarily or permanently.

As with any good RPG, there is plenty of loot and pick-ups throughout the game. Though eventually, you may be inclined to think that there is a little too much. Too much to the point of you really don’t know what to do with it. A lot will be useless and others will be a waste of space. You can use storage boxes in towns but otherwise, most items will be sold, thrown out or fed to the pets.

Outside of the battling, you’ve got your essential RPG elements. These include, town-exploring, side-quests and general traversing around the world. Sure, Dungeon Siege 2 does manage to recreate its own little world but there really isn’t much that sets it apart from other similar games other then its simplistic and accessible system. NPC’s aren’t particularly memorable with some being particularly boring. But nonetheless, the world itself is on quite a large scale and there is a lot of terrain to explore.

The trusty beating-stick never fails

The trusty beating-stick never fails
Dungeon Siege 2 allows you to link up with five friends over the net or a LAN connection to join in cooperative multiplayer. It helps, given the games average AI and can be somewhat satisfying over periods of time. However, you’ll be playing through the single-player campaign, just with your buddies instead of the other CPU controlled characters. Players will have some fun traversing with friends but there are a couple of slowdown issues and the novelty may wear thin for some.

Visually the game looks fairly similar to the original, save for the obligatory upgrade. The games models and textures are now much sharper and the general look of the game is much clearer. The result is a fairly good-looking game with some style. Though not everyone will warm to the art-style as much as other games. Otherwise, there really isn’t much wrong with the games visuals. In all, they’re pretty good. Now, they’ve added some very detailed cinematic scenes to help with the story.

The music and sound effects of the game are very good. They are able to set up the scene quite well. The voicing is quite erratic. Sometimes it’s very good but at others, it can almost be laughable. The fact that the dialogue is at times stale and even stereotypical, doesn’t help.

When it comes down to it, Dungeon Siege 2 is a very decent game. It won’t stand up in terms of depth or total enthralling value, but it does provide a rock-solid game that both aficionados and RPG-newbies can find some pleasure. Some of the new additions go a little way to improving this game but it still doesn’t stand up, depth-wise. Multiplayer is cool for a while but with other more exciting offerings available, it won’t hold your attention for months on end. It may not be the best but Dungeon Siege 2 is one of those games that make for a decent filler, until something better comes along.
The Score
Dungeon Siege 2 gets the job done for everyone. And it will continue until the next best offering comes along. But till then, let the pack mule's loose and lose yourself in an interesting, if not familiar world.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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