Do you like breaking barrels, I mean REALLY like breaking barrels? If breaking barrels is your thing (for whatever reason: Donkey Kong fetish, barrels killed your brother, etc.) then Dungeon Siege is the must have game of your lifetime. Don’t think that barrels are the only thing you get to break, heck no, you also get to beat an Avargordos number worth of bad guys to death. Sure breaking barrels and killing things seems like it would be inherently fun, heck some people call that kind of action a weekend, but in Dungeon Siege it’s just boring thanks entirely to a weak plotline. The absence of an engaging plot is a shame because the story is the only thing holding Dungeon Siege back from greatness.
Cats, I appear to be rushing ahead, giving the review before explaining the game. Dungeon Siege can be best described as a video game version of Conan O’Brian’s “if they made it” segment. In the case of Dungeon Siege the parents would be Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. You’ve got a party so you can thank Baldur’s Gate for that but your characters lack personality and are running willy nilly in a hack fest that requires limited planning, ala Diablo. In any event the game is easier to play than Baldur’s Gate but a bit more strategic than Diablo, still fans of either game will find Dungeon Siege instantly accessible.
Dungeon Siege has a lot of things going for it. There is never a pause to load an area, everything is seamless, and a feat I’ve never seen on an involved role-playing game before. The graphics represent another high point, they are outstanding. I’ve never seen anything quite so visually appealing with the possible exception of Twister video featuring Pam Anderson. If you play Dungeon Siege you will be tempted to zoom out to comfortable distance (part of the fun is controlling the camera) and watch the ensuing action from a three quarters perspective. While this approach makes for the most comfortable gaming you will miss some really nifty graphics: arrows sticking out your side, monsters being dismember et al. Zooming the camera in tight on the fight scenes is quite a treat, making the aforementioned Diablo look like Ms. Pac Man, heck watching Dungeon Siege is more interesting than playing the game. Speaking of controlling the camera, take a few minutes early in the game and decide just how often you want to vomit. The default camera controls kick in when the cursor nears the edge of the screen so you can find your polygonal world spinning wildly and your keyboard covered in sputum without really trying. To avoid this I suggest either precise mousing or a quick trip to the settings screen and controlling the camera angle with the arrow keys. Another piece of niftyness found in Dungeon Siege is the character progression. Instead of choosing a class and being stuck with it the characters get better at what they do the most. For example: If you have a character named Mr. Boots who beats everything he meets with a pick axe he’s going to get pretty skilled at melee but not skilled in the use of magic. The system makes sense when you reflect on it for a moment. Another thing that makes sense is the auto arrange button. The characters in dungeon have an inventory screen (predictable) but this one will clean its self up with just one click, very nice in my opinion. Dungeon Siege is also the only game to offer a beast of burden as a character. Yep, you can get a donkey to haul a bunch of stuff around. I really like the donkey, it’s the most sympathetic character in the game, and I just wish you could name it. The rest of the game is pretty much what you expect; you find things, sell things, buy things, break things and kill things.
Technically you have everything you need for the greatest RPG in recent memory, great graphics, efficient interface, yadda yadda yadda. Still Dungeon Siege is a role playing game and with role playing games we expect a really nice plot, some cinematic feeling cut screens and a bit of personality from the characters. The plot of Dungeon Siege is as follows: You’re a farmer, you abandon your crops at the behest of a dying man, and you kill a whole slew of things. Well that’s perhaps a bit too simplistic but the plot is nearly that thin. The plot points that do exist are too widely spaced apart. Basically you get an assignment, you kill kill kill, your journal flashes and then you forget about assignment. This is strange because most RPG’s feature a reward for quest completion. With Dungeon Siege the only reward is being that much closer to the final cut scene. Speaking of the final cut scene my advice is: don’t get your hopes up. After playing Dungeon Siege for hours upon hours you might expect a super cool ending but what you mostly get is some white text on a black background that amounts to little more than an advertisement for a sequel. Egad, I just spent 40 hours of my life playing a freaking showmercial?!
That major drawback of the plot aside everything else is nearly perfect. Dungeon Siege will be a great multiplayer game, it’s very visually appealing, the action is fast and furious but instead of wondering what twist or turn the story would take next I was just hoping the next scene would be the last. If you’re not as entertained by decent storytelling as I am (it’s a big deal to me, I once wrote to Andrew Welch about the story of Escape Velocity, still waiting to hear back) then I can recommend Dungeon Siege without hesitation, if you like your RPG’s to have a bit of a role then look elsewhere. (Note to publishers: Chris Seibold works cheap)
MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5 (Everything but the plot earns a 5)