Dungeon Siege II is a difficult game to describe to someone who’s never played it before. At first glance it plays, and looks, similar to the classic Diablo, but as more members join your party and you get further into the game, Dungeon Siege II turns into something else altogether. You’re still killing baddies and swimming through the loot they drop, but it almost becomes more of a sports game than a hack-and-slash.
So, I’d like to describe it by putting you in a gameplay scenario: A big group of monsters, with a larger leader behind them, approaches your party. You recognize the creatures as having given you a hard time in the past, so you pause the game and tell your main character, “Use this staff and this heavy protective armor. We’ll save the magic enhancing armor for another fight.”
“As you command, my master.”
Turning to your fighter, let’s call him “BoBo,” you say, “Use that lightening sword I gave you and charge the front as you usually do.” You almost want to pat the top of the big metal helmet he’s wearing. “Me smash ’em, boss. Me smash ’em good!”
“Good, BoBo, good. But if you run off into the jungle again, I swear to God I’ll put you up at the inn and never let you out again. Do you understand me?”
“I mean it, BoBo! Don’t go chasing after some squirrel in the woods and end up in front of a demon army for us all to perish under.”
You then turn to the healer in your party. “Now hippie lady, you stand back here and keep that lovin’ feeling going strong, and barricade people in ice when you can. Fluffy?”
Your giant spider pet approaches. “Shrrrriiieekk!”
“Good boy. You know daddy loves you. Here, chew on this sword for a bit. Good boy. Okay team, let’s go!”
Mayhem ensues as your party clashes with the horde of monsters. You focus your main character’s attention on the monsters’ leader, and at this point in the fight, all you really have to do is keep a close eye on your team. The fight seems to be going well. Then suddenly you notice one of the soldiers has broken past everyone and is running to attack your fragile healer. You focus BoBo’s attention on the enemy to stop the attack, and the hippie lady casts a freeze spell that somehow doesn’t work. Now she has no mana and can no longer heal anyone. Your fighter’s icon flashes on the screen to indicate imminent death, with the monster boss and two others pounding on him.
You hit the health and mana hotkeys to have everyone recharge, then realize you didn’t check to see how much mana you had from the last fight. The health comes too late. Your fighter dies. Your pet spider is overwhelmed, but the healer is safe again, so you dive back to attack. But whom?
The leader hasn’t really been damaged all that much, so you decide to focus your attention on him. You glance at the stats over his head, which indicate he has a weakness for fire. So you pause the game, or let’s say “call a time out,” and the coach steps in.
“Switch to your fireball and start nailing him with that. Hippie girl, move up here and start using your fireball as well. Spidey old boy, you’re on your own.”
Break! You kick it back into drive and your spider is fighting bravely, but his near-death statistics inspire you to whip out the big guns and set off your special power attacks. They recharge after you use them based on the amount of damage you dish out, so once the respect ball is filled, you press one of the number keys and the screen is filled with dazzling special effects. Now all of the monsters have been killed except the boss, who is barely alive. And you aren’t in much better shape yourself.
You pause, switch your healer back to healing, and once the monster boss is dead start to revive everyone with cool graphical sweeps of magic. Unfortunately, your fighter, BoBo, died some distance away from everyone else, so after he’s revived he spots something moving in the woods and decides to run after it.
“BoBo! Noooo! Come back here, BoBo!”
That’s Dungeon Siege II in a nutshell. Needless to say, it’s a fun game. You have to give it some time to pick up and get going, and it can be a little too easy for veterans of the genre, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
People who enjoy customizing their characters have a lot to love about DS II. When it comes to character menus its Tab City, with all the attributes, stats and skill trees you can imagine to click around and adjust. It’s almost overwhelming at times, but the addition of more party members makes it easier to get used to.
Death can be pretty bad if you’re into your money, because unless you pay someone all your party’s gold at the portal, you will find yourself leading your party back to their place of death completely naked. They give you a stash trunk on the other side of the portal, but even with that it can be a very time-consuming task to equip and run across the map only to die again and repeat.
Fortunately, you don’t die all that much, because the difficulty actually goes down as you progress further into the game. Your party, even the squirrel-chasing BoBo, becomes an unstoppable force of destruction. Once you’ve mastered the controls and understand how things work, you can easily destroy most any foe, and during the fights you only make light adjustments, much like a coach watching a finely tuned team.
This is a good thing for casual gamers, but it may leave some hardcore players a little bored. It depends on what you enjoy getting into. Like Diablo, if you’re into getting goodies and upgrading your guys, you’ll have loads of fun. But if you’re into games that challenge your strategic fighting, or your reflexes, you may want to pass this one by.
The voice acting in the game is downright terrible at times, with awful dialog like “You hit me, now I’m going to kill you!” To make matters worse, these lines are delivered by voices that sound like the kid next door doing a bad impression of Yoda. The music is ambient but bland, with nothing really entrancing, but it does an admirable job of providing background noise.
The graphics, on the other hand, are rich and obviously had a lot of work put into them, but they still lack the “wow” factor of next-generation PC games. Taking the genre into consideration, and the amount of creatures moving around on the screen at once, I’d call the graphics excellent. You can stop most anywhere in the game and say “that looks nice,” and the scenery gets especially good towards the later half of the game.
Moving around those gorgeous maps is done exactly as it was in the first Dungeon Siege. The game has that open look, but also tunneled directions. Moving and navigating around with the interface is done easily enough, but sometimes all of the pretty scenery gets in the way when you have your camera pointed the wrong direction and are jumped from the bushes. There were several occasions where I couldn’t see my character, let alone the creature I was fighting.
Acquiring a pet is a wonderful addition that Dungeon Siege II brings to the RPG hack-and-slash table. It’s a fun way of getting rid of the junk you don’t want to sell (you can feed it to your pet), and this junk makes it stronger in different areas depending on what you feed it. Dungeon Siege II has other ways of offing loot, like having your healer upgrade to a spell that turns things into gold. You can also sell items without going back to town, which means you end up saving the interesting items for the real dealers and deal less with the junk.
And that’s really what Dungeon Siege II is all about: dealing with less junk. You have to give it some time to get going, and it can be a little too easy for genre veterans, but its accessibility is geared to bring more people into the hack-and-slash fold. If you’re into goodies and giving your characters upgrades, I recommend picking it up. Dungeon Siege II is good fun.
- Gameplay: 8
- The goodies and upgrades are excellent, but the lack of a cinematic feel keeps this score from going any higher.
- Graphics: 9
- Although they look a little outdated, they’re excellent for the genre. For hack-and-slash RPGs, these graphics stand well above the competition.
- Sound: 6
- More attention in this area would have pushed the final score up a lot higher. It’s just not very intriguing. The simplicity, sound and music separated Diablo and Diablo II, and it’s the same thing here.
- Overall: 8.5
- Quite a fun game, once it gets up and going.
– Robert Dusseau