Welcome to the InternetRPG.com review of Dungeon Siege!
The game comes on two CD-ROM discs, both of which appear to be quite full. The installation program is a little bit jazzed up with some fancy buttons and screens, and it more-or-less gets the job done.
I installed the game on my PIII/1000 Windows XP machine which is running DirectX 8.1 on a matrox G400 dual-head card, and experienced no problems whatsoever. The game does appear to require DirectX 8.1 and will install it for you if you don't have it.
Picking your character is fun, easy, and quick. The program defaults to a female character, or you can choose a male character if you prefer. While you're selecting your character appearance, she (or he), leaning back and forth, moving her hands about, and giving the general appearance that your character would like to get started. Your character's body movements appear fluid, well animated, and realistic.
On the negative side, there's little configuration that you can do aside from picking hair colors, skin colors, etc.
Once you've picked your character, the intro starts. The intro is brief, but fairly well done. Your character is present in the intro, and appears just like you configured him or her. It's a nice contrast to the static, canned feel that most intros have.
Your party can be composed of up to 8 members, not just one or two. You start out with just one character, the one that you designed at the start of the game. Along the way, other people will offer to join your party.
Party control has everything that's come to be expected, including control over their formation as well as the ability to direct characters either individually or as a group. The characters all have built-in AI and will fight back if attacked.
There is a little matrix of options that let you configure how the AI will respond. For example, how aggressive a character is in chasing monsters, etc. The AI does have it's shortcomings. Occasionally I've seen one of the characters just standing around looking stupid while the main character is taking a pounding from a half dozen monsters.
The interface is an impressive third person perspective. Left-clicking on a location moves your character to that location. Moving the mouse off the edge of the screen will rotate the viewpoint. The panning is fluid, smooth, and continuous.
One cannot give enough praise to the technical aspects of the game. It's all extremely well done, with every detail well polished. Your characters animations are well done and specific to the weapon -- early in my first playing session, I came across a pitchfork. Once equipped, my character started making elaborate swinging movements, blocking and attacking monsters with the pitchfork.
The inventory screen is very well done. When opened, the inventory screen will overlay itself on top of the game, allowing the game to actually continue in the background. You can click and drag weapons and armor onto your character. Rather than have a simple paper-doll view of your character, you get a zoomed in 3D view that you can pan and rotate. The designers attention really shines here as the character accurately reflects the items you've equipped him/her with. Give your character a pitchfork and she accurately holds the pitchfork like a staff, not like a sword.
The TAB key allows you to switch between the game screen and the map view. The map view is very nice in that you can actually click on it, and your party will move while on the map view. It's a nice departure for the static map view of other games where you have to open the map and then close it to move.
The designers have made a big deal of the zero loading time between levels. This is a nice feature in that it keeps your playing time continuous and without interruption. Game save and load times are also very quick. We've all known other games which have had enormous pauses every time you change maps, which can really distract from the gameplay. It's a nice touch to have no such distractions.
RPG or Shooter?
Much like Diablo II, this game is in that gray-area between a true RPG and a shooter. To someone who likes true role playing games, you'll find the play system significantly "dumbed-down". The game automatically fights for you, attacking any monster that attacks you first. Your may choose which weapon to use (melee, bow, or either of two quick spells) -- once that choice is made, everything is automatic. You can left-click different monsters to change which ones your party members are attacking.
The problem, for a die-hard RPG player such as myself, is that after playing for any duration of time, you start to feel like you're playing a simplistic video-game shooter rather than an RPG.
Skill and Class System:
Unlike most RPG games where you explicitly allocate points to various skills or attributes, the game automatically does this depending on your play style. Thus, if you use your melee weapon a lot, expect to wind up with a high melee skill. It's obvious that such a system has both positive and negative aspects to it. On the plus side, it's realistic -- practice makes perfect. On the negative side, it's a bit simplistic and leaves you wishing for more.
I've always felt the promotion system is what makes or breaks an RPG. Take a game such as Might and Magic, Arcanum, or Fallout for example... You are continually working to improve your character -- to add a few more skill points here and there. Dungeon Siege sort of takes all that away from you by dumbing down the promotion system.
Gameplay: Linear or Nonlinear
Game play is very linear. Most of the time is spent following a path through the forest, or proceeding through dungeons that are fairly straightforward. Like everything in this game, it's both a curse and a blessing. On the positive side, it's an easy game to play, requiring very little hard thinking or puzzle-solving abilities. Like in the old Atari days, it's fun to just sit down and play a game without being required to put a whole lot of thought into it. On the negative side, if you try to play the game for more than a few hours at a time, you'll get bored with it.
When you first open the box and load the game, the graphics will impress you to the point that you'll think it's the best game you've every played. The overall attention to detail of the designers will astonish you. However, a few hours later, you'll say to yourself "Gee, haven't I been doing the exact same thing for the last three hours?". The game degenerates to:
left-click half a screen ahead
I'm in sort of a dilemma, the graphics of this game are so spectacular, and everything is so well polished and finished off, that it demands a good review. However, the problems with the game play are large enough that it really detracts from the game. Thus, the best I can give it is a score of 3 out of 5.
If you like action-shooters, this game is for you. If you like true RPG's, then look elsewhere.