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Platform: PC

Developer: Gas Powered Games

Publisher: Microsoft

Format: 2 CDs


Sys Reqs: Pentium III or Athlon 500Mhz, 128MB RAM 1GB HD Space


Reviewer's Machine: Athlon 1.3Ghz, 384MB RAM, GeForce3, SBLive




Chris Taylor's gamble pays off big time.

Does the name Chris Taylor ring a bell? For casual gamers, probably not, but hardcore gamers should recognize him as the designer of the RTS hit, Total Annihilation. They should also recognize him as the father of Dungeon Siege. He left Cavedog soon after TA caught the eyes of gamers to form his own company, Gas Powered Games, under the wings of Microsoft. Dungeon Siege has been in development ever since he started the company three years ago, but the time was spent wisely, as Dungeon Siege lives up to all the hype.

Dungeon Siege belongs to an exclusive niche of RPGs that stand out, due to their heavy emphasis on combat and constant action. The RPG community affectionately refer to this niche of games (which includes Diablo by the way) as "hack-and-slash" RPGs. These are types of RPGs that can end up as great, enjoyable games despite the fact the story may seem to have been written by a middle school student. In Dungeon Siege, the story is poorly written indeed. In the beginning you simply fight a race of brutes called Krug, then various other creatures and they somehow have a connection to the plot. The plot is simply about a hidden evil that has risen, warrior shows up, everybody happy, so on and so forth. There's no need to further discuss the story since gameplay is what saves Dungeon Siege. Its unique brand of action makes it strangely addictive and enjoyable, albeit repetitive.

What makes the game unique is its mechanics. Yes, you still level up by pummeling beasties, but there are no classes to choose from. Your character starts out as a blank slate and throughout the whole game, you mold him or her into your ideal hero. You have three basic stats and four skills. The stats are Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. The skills are Melee, Ranged, Combat Magic, and Nature Magic. They all pretty much explain themselves. Your stats rise according to what skill you use to kill monsters. For example, using Melee raises your Strength the fastest, the Dexterity second, and Intelligence the slowest and vice-versa for spell casters and archers. This allows you to make almost any imaginable class, from Archer/Mage, to Warrior/Healer. After you have leveled up your skills enough, you will be given a class. These are completely assigned according to your skill level and there must be at least twenty. Aside from your class, skill levels, and appearance, differentiating yourself from others is very difficult. Since there are no skills unique to certain classes, everybody is almost similar to one another. This makes replaying the game as another class completely useless, giving the game's replayability a hit.

The interface is very intuitive and user friendly. You can switch between an equipped melee weapon, ranged weapon, or spell with a push of a button. You can dunk a potion by simply clicking on an icon or pressing an assigned button. Managing party inventory is very easy. You have the option of opening all your members' backpacks to exchange items.

At first glance the game may look like Diablo II with a new 3D engine, but while the two games bear similarities, Dungeon Siege is a very different game. First of all, the game uses a terrific 3D engine that can render several characters at one scene and maintain a playable frame rate. The engine is also responsible for some great visuals, despite the fact that it was conceived years ago. It supports resolutions up to 1600x1200 and utilizes volumetric fog and hardware TnL. While the graphics engine is splendid, it sports no technological leaps or bounds. Polygon counts are decent and the models look their part, which isn't anything too amazing. The attention paid to details is one of the engine's highest points. Every piece of armor you wear and every weapon you equip is faithfully portrayed on your character, so they can really look their part, whether they are burly steel coated warriors or anorexic Amazons in leather thongs.

The sound is exceptional and provides the accurate atmospheric effects that give you the sensation that you're really there. Strikes reverberate realistically and dying moans echo convincingly. This is one of the few games out there that successfully uses 3D sound to immerse a player. You can totally tell the difference in immersion when playing with four speakers rather than two. The sound isn't without its problems though. Luckily they're fairly miniscule problems. The reverb effects have been misused during character speech. No matter where they are, they speak as if they were in a cavernous steel box. As stated before, this is a minor problem and it doesn't get in the way of the game since there is little dialog.

Even with a relatively short single-player scenario, Dungeon Siege was a unique and very entertaining experience. Action is never in short supply and there's always something to kill. And with the release of the Siege Editor coming near, the game can only get better.

Highs: Unique and addicting gameplay, beautiful sound, and decent visuals.

Lows: Can be short, gets repetitive, unique skills would have been nice.

Verdict: 92%

Bottom Line: Chris Taylor definitely has a winner on his hands. The wait was worth it and it's everything he said it would be.


                                                                            - Toma