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PC Preview - 'Dungeon Siege II'

by Mark Crump on May 30, 2004 @ 2:40 a.m. PDT

"Dungeon Siege II" returns players to the beautiful fantasy land of Aranna, but it is a land scarred by civil war, where the lines between good and evil are blurred. Players must lead an elite battle party against Valdis, a vicious marauder determined to return the world to order, no matter the cost. "Dungeon Siege II" promises to set a new standard in role-playing games by combining an intriguing story-line with intense real-time party combat and cutting edge 3D graphics.

Genre: RPG
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Release Date: TBA

Dungeon Siege was a great little hack-n-slash title except for one fatal flaw: it darn near played itself. By the time I finished the original game and its expansion, Legends of Aranna, I felt like I was just managing my party’s health while they automatically beat up anything they came across. Gas Powered Games has listened to that criticism and one of their stated design goals was to fix this little annoying problem.

One of the ways they are doing this is by breaking the classes down further by introducing skills and powers. Previously, a fighter was a fighter, and there wasn’t much difference between two melee-based party members. Now with the skills and powers you can start to create more specialized characters. One fighter can be the traditional tank, where he can soak up damage like a sponge but not deal out much of it while the second fighter deals out fast damage, but can’t take too much of a beating. The magic system is still divided into Nature and Combat schools, but the distinction between the two will be much greater. Your character will also get special powers, like the ability to knock back all creatures in the area, or root them all in one place. The powers look great, and seem to do an excellent job at involving the player in the game more, as well as introducing new strategies. These powers are on a refresh timer, so they won’t be unbalanced.

The developers are promising to create a more involving story – but don’t worry, they aren’t straying too far from their roots, it’s still a beer-and-pretzels RPG as opposed to a Baldur’s Gate type. While you will still meet NPC’s who will join your party, they won’t be the slaves they used to be. Here, they’ll argue amongst themselves, and they may open up additional side quests as well.

The pack mule is back, but has undergone a hefty redesign. In the original game, you’d end up with so much crap loot you were letting significant amounts of it rot on the ground since you already had 15 rusty axes or didn’t have a party member who could use the item. You can now feed those items to the pack-mule which will force him to level – in addition to being your valet, now he’s a garbage masher as well. Speaking of loot and drops, now when a character dies, they don’t drop all their items on the ground; instead they leave a gravestone they can click on to auto-loot all their items and put them back into the slots they were in.

The engine is still based on the core Dungeon Siege engine with some particle effect enhancements. It still looks decent though, so there aren’t any worries about them using an engine almost 3 years old. As in the original, there are no loading times from one area to the next, just a seamless transition. The map has undergone some changes as well; most notably in improving how far it will let you zoom out.

The game is on target for a December release, and the devs feel confident they will make it. The real challenge is to make sure they introduce enough game-play enhancements and content to warrant calling it a sequel, and not just a full-priced expansion pack.

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