Monday, April 02, 2012

Dungeon Siege 2

So, where's that dungeon?
Review By Kael
Dungeon Siege II seems to have taken its inspiration from Diablo II, with its archaicish looking graphics and a music score that seems to fit better for Final Fantasy XII than the grittiness that is the Dungeon Siege world. In this sequel, you get hosed by your leader and start out as a captive for the enemy. It is your task to stop him from putting back together a stinking sword and shield before he can remake the world in his own image. Also, you get a background on the whole Azunai religion that is front and center in this world.

Listen, if you're looking for a sequel that absolutely knocks your socks off, this isn't it. The slash and hack world is more hands on than usual in this iteration. What new tweaks that this game adds to is impressive, but it doesn't overwhelm you either. The changes are pretty moderate.

There are still four basic classes in DS2. Fighters, Rangers, and your Combat and Nature mages. The tweaks are that you have skills that you can put points into to improve certain skills. For example, the ranger and nature mages have these survival skills that allows you to turn glowing blue and red plants into healing and mana potions. The more points you put into this (up to 20), the larger the potion bottles become. A combination of these skills allows you to develop special abilities that helps you even the odds against a particularly tough opponent.

Magic is revamped as well. You have a wider variety of spells that a lot of different effects from healing, resisting types of energies and damages, to of course damaging opponents. You have four direct spell slots, two slots for spells that you can automatically cast (i.e. healing spells and summoning monsters to fight for you). There are also four reserve spells that you can swap out. This makes the interface a little more bulky, and you can't switch between your weapons and spells as easily as you could in the past. This is complicated by the attacking system which is so heavily dependent on your mouse. I don't think that was really necessary.

There are several new kinds of collections of clothing, armor, weapons, etc. One new aspect is that if a particular item is of really good quality, you can enchant it and choose among various raw materials which traits you wish to add to a particular item. You could develop a pretty good series of select items all on your own. Pets not only carry items, but can attack in battle as well.

The two biggest changes to the game is the way you add people to your party and level up. You start out with a party size of two, and at an inn, it is the difficulty of the game and the amount of gold you have on hand to determine how many players you can recruit in this game. You can finish a game with two people, but at the lowest game levels you can recruit four people, and up to six on the most difficult level. I like this because it forces you to choose your competitors wisely. Some of them come with very interesting secondary attributes. For example, one of your potential party members can fix broken down areas of the game that will allow you to explore more of the area.

Quests are the second thing they changed in this game. There are a lot of quests, and each Act is broken down into a series of chapters, with sidequests that you don't have to complete along the way. You are more likely to advance quicker if you stick with foes who are just slightly tougher than you are, so you are not very likely, unless the first version, to master several levels of a particular class in a few short minutes. The other thing is that Dungeon Siege 2 goes out of its way to discourage you from multiclassing. You level only in areas that you are actively level. Also, your strength, dexerity, and intelligence scores are really nerfed. Do not be surprised if by your 15 level you're already have a score in the triple digits. This is why the interface is a little more cumbersome than in the past. I'm not sure all of this is really necessary.

Eyecandy is a mixed bag. The environment graphics and general overall music score and sounds are fabulous. If nothing else, they nailed how should water react and look. Stop and pause when you enter into an area where there's water rushing or a waterfall. I know, it sounds silly, but that is the jaw-dropping aspect of this game. The movies are very well done as well, particularly the intro movie. If it wasn't for your map and your mouse, you will miss the chance to pick up hidden loot and secret doors. The characters are alright, but they are really small and they look goofy on their own. I think this is a homage to the Diablo or Balder's Gate games of yore. In fact, when you start up a new character, your character is not going to look very flattering. Interestingly enough, you can play as one of four races: humans, elves, dryads (female only) and half-giants (male only). The voice-overs for these games are the same ones you hear for the original one. They don't sound as good.

Dungeon Seige II is a bit tougher than the original. You still can't get away from the fact that you will fall asleep hacking and slashing your way to victory in this quest. And I do wish they were a bit bolder in making this a distinctly different feel than the last time. It is distinctive graphics wise, but it is still keeps fairly familiar parts of the game that links it to its past game. And yet, this mixed bag does not seem to attract me as well as before. Maybe the game should have tried to be more innovative? Maybe.



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