Review by PapaGamer

"Solid dungeon crawl that doesn't innovate, but does satisfy"

The original Dungeon Siege was meant to be a huge innovation in the dungeon crawler genre (or "action RPG" in modern idiom). Indeed, the seamless 3D world was a huge innovation in the game engine; unfortunately, it was such a huge task creating the engine, the actual game was left behind. Dungeon Siege II is not so much a sequel, or even an expansion, it is more in the nature of the original Dungeon Siege remade with all the good stuff put in on top of the fabulous world engine.

GRAPHICS

If DS2's graphics have been improved from DS1, I can't tell on my mid-range PC. But, that doesn't really matter. The original looked good and the new game looks good. The seamless world is still a marvel of the modern world and helps a great deal with the immersion factor. The character models could use some work--you won't want to zoom in too close. And there's no facial animation in use during cutscenes; imagine mannequins talking to each other.

But, this is a combat-oriented game and you'll spend most of your time with the camera pulled out so you can see the mobs closing in on you. When the camera is pulled out, the full, lush nature of the environment around you makes you feel you are really there.

SOUND

The music is from Jeremy Soule, one of the top composers in the video game industry. What more needs be said?

The voice acting, on the other hand, seems to have been performed by Miss Michelson's 9th grade junior drama club from the local high school. Seriously, is voice talent so lacking that, once Bioware and Obsidian Entertainment (KotOR, Jade Empire, KotOR2) have cast their superb games there's no one left to do any other work? One of the good things about DS2 is the increased interaction with NPCs (see below), but the voice acting is so awful you'll wonder how much interaction you really need. Turn the vocal volume down and click-through the dialogue as quickly as you can.

GAMEPLAY

This is the area where DS2 really shines. The interface has been generally improved. The four base "classes" from DS1 return, but new player-selectable skill trees allow much greater derivations from those four classes.

Instead of just a combat mage, you can have a fire mage, death mage or lightning mage. Your nature mages can follow healing/buffing, summoning or ice skill paths. Rangers can specialize in bows/crossbows or thrown weapons. And fighters get dual-wielding skills. (Can we all say "Woot! Uber 1337 dual-katana roxors!1111!!")

The generic pack mule has been replaced with a variety of pets that actually fight along side you and mix up tactics even more. There are more side quests and more talkative NPCs. You can actually spend an hour or two wandering around town talking to people--almost unheard of in a dungeon crawler. (As noted, though, you may not actually want to listen to the NPCs, just "talk" to them.)

Finally, the story, while a cliche adopted from the standard book of dungeon crawler plots, is as serviceable as most other RPGs and actually provides you, the player, with some motivation for the little 30+ hour slaughter-fest on which you must embark.

Which brings us to the final bit of praise: DS2 is huge. And, once you finish it one time, you can play it on successively harder difficulties (three difficulty levels in all). And, since who you have in your party determines some of the quests you can obtain and what kinds of conversations you will "hear", each playthrough can be different in more ways than just new uber-leet gear to destroy even more dangerous monsters.

CONCLUSION

Dungeon Siege II isn't going to blow your socks off. The WOW-factor of the seamless world is gone, though certainly still appreciated. The story won't make your jaw drop (as KotOR did), nor will it make you question basic assumptions about good and evil (as many of the best RPGs do)--you can't even play the bad guy here, you're the hero, not the anti-hero. At the end of the day, DS2 is just another in a long line of dungeon crawlers. But it's a very good one and will, at the end of that day, leave you satisfied with your gaming experience.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/16/05


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