Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dungeon Siege --- Nostalgic Ryview

In my Nostalgic Ryview series, I'll be looking back at games I loved when I was growing up to see if they hold up today.

My first Nostalic Ryview is Dungeon Siege, by Gas Powered Games.

Currently $6.99 on Steam.
Dungeon Siege is a dungeon crawler RPG where the player assumes the role of a humble farmer who saves the Kingdom of Ehb from the Krug and the Seck. Along the way you fight undead, spider people, angry scorpions, evil crystals, steampunk goblins, and some humanoid hellspawn that strike an odd resemblance to Martin Manhunter.

And now I'm fighting The Brood...

To be fair, when I played this back in 2002 I didn't care. It was a game where I got to smash stuff and kill dudes. What more could I want? And I think that description is still a pretty good way to characterize the rpg. However, I use the term "RPG" lightly when applying it here because there is no decision making when it comes to the experience. No skills, no skill points, no discretion about where to apply your hard earned xp. If you use melee weapons, you level up your melee skill and your strength. If you use ranged weapons, you level up your ranged skill and your dexterity. Combat and Nature magic follow the same theme. It makes for a very dry experience.

So why I am playing it again? Well, I've been toying with the idea of watching the Dungeon Siege movie for quite some time. I finally bit the bullet and watched it on Netflix, and it was pretty much as laughably bad as I hoped. And after I questioned my priorities in life, I decided I wanted to revisit the original game, because it holds a very special place in my heart.

Right off the bat, I want to clarify that even growing up I was pretty aware that this is a terrible way to code an RPG. You can't choose where to put your skills, there's no way to re-roll your character, there's a limited number of enemies and gold, and if you have a party, everyone earns their experience individually. So a mage in the back of your party may be essentially no experience in a dungeon and therefore will be worthless for the rest of the game. The list goes on. There should be a better system for sharing xp and there should be a way to replay areas or grind a bit. With a full party, the game is extremely difficult, especially when trying to outfit your team with the best supplies.

There's an easy way around most of those holes if you use a one man attack force. When I play, I have my hero and a bunch of pack mules for supplies (and, to be clear, I use pack humans too until I can fill my party with pack mules). That way, no experience splitting. No need to outfit multiple people with armor. Just my main character. That actually makes the game much easier and much more fulfilling. But, let me tell you, corralling 6 pack animals onto a small elevator is definitely an infuriating challenge.

Seriously? Why?

The controls could definitely be better, but they also could be much worse. The constant clicking for movement is frustrating. I can't recall ever craving WASD more than when I'm playing through this. But there are some nice default commands you can give your party members (and your main character) to create their attack profile, such as how far they can move to engage and if they attack the closest enemy or the strongest enemy. And when you attack, you automatically keep attacking until the enemy dies. You don't need to swing every time you want to hit (which is a nice break from Diablo and Diablo II).

So, the game itself is not laid out the best. But I really enjoy the world that this game created. It has a tremendously complicated mythology, involving ancient kingdoms and armies, that I really like. And the later games help build that universe. And honestly, after playing through this game several times in my youth, I have very fond memories of each dungeon. It's a straightforward hack and slash adventure. It may be limited in what you can choose, but I like the loot, I think the speed at which you level up your strength and can upgrade your gear is well balanced, and I really like that the game assigns you a title based on your current skillset. It's a small little quirk but it definitely increases my enjoyment.

I will never contend that this is a game deserving praise (and I can't even really recommend that anyone play it unless they have good memories of it already) but I do think it helped launch an interesting franchise. And any game with steampunk goblins is okay in my book.


Time Value
Money Value
Final Score

If you played Dungeon Siege when you were younger (or fancy yourself brave enough to give it a go for the first time), let me know what you think of the game!

Until next time,


Images courtesy of Gas Powered Games

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