Dungeon Siege II
Reviewed: 09/25/2005


Dungeon Siege wasn’t exactly a fun trip for RPG-ers looking for story and characterization. It was, for the most part, a straightforward grind from start to finish, and quite frankly, boring. Gas Powered Games had an uphill battle to fight in order to make Dungeon Siege II a noticeable improvement. And the company did just that. The second game, although debatably more like Diablo than Dungeon Siege, prevails and shows significant steps in the right direction for the series.

But with the building ground being the original Dungeon Siege, such improvements really shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. The biggest example that comes to mind is with the story. You’ll hear many folks talking about how Dungeon Siege II has such a better story than the original. They’re right, but what they aren’t mentioning is that the original’s story sucked to begin with–that of DSII simply sucks less. You get a premise and a motive, then that’s pretty much it until right before the end. “Improved story” in this case did not mean stunning scenario segments, moving dialogues between party members, or plot twists. It just meant better framework where a really good story could have gone, but didn’t. Players will meet the main antagonist, one Valdis, then just plow through an action RPG level grind until they find him hanging out at the endgame like the stereotypical boss.

Filler plot details in between this? Not really. There are some minor enemies, but you might not even learn all of their names or find out anything about their backgrounds.

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Bad situation, that is

Players begin Dungeon Siege II by creating characters and setting out into the continent of Aranna, 100 years after Dungeon Siege. The only difficulty level selectable from the beginning is “Mercenary,” the easiest mode of the three possible to unlock. One must player through an entire 45-50 hour single-player campaign in order to unlock the other two levels. I personally think that’s a bit silly, but whatever. The changes made to enemy AI were good. In fact, they were, in a away, too good. I don’t mean to say the enemies are tough, I mean that the developers seem to have gotten a little carried away in making nearly every enemy attack in the exact same way, using the exact same strategy. This is great when you’re a new player and just trying to develop strategies of your own, but after only 6 or 8 hours of game, you’ll be really desperate for some kind of new challenge. Sadly, the only thing in sight is more repetition, with no pickup in story to compensate.

On the brighter side, there is a greater selection of character classes is available in this game than the last; and I must admit, despite comments about it getting boring, the combat has seen improvement. It’s more fun this time around, especially with multiplayer LAN hookups. Finding another human to play with instead of the AI is one area where the game is genuinely entertaining. In the same way you would a full-scale MMO, you and a friend can do business in town or hit the quests at your own pace. As well, you don’t have to be together all the time, so if you want to split up and complete separate quests, that might be good too, because both will get credit when one finishes. If you already know other people that play Dungeon Siege II, it might be worth looking into just for the fun multiplayer mode.

Comrade AI is a killer in Dungeon Siege II–literally. Way too often, your party members will decide to attack a target that strategically makes little or no sense, and might even be far away from the enemy you’re working on. This “Divide an conquer” works some rare times, but more often than not, it’s not the best way to clear out the baddies. With strong ones, it can even get you into trouble. Maybe this wouldn’t even be such a big problem if your party members thought to take a defensive or heal themselves once in a while, but don’t count on that happening. It’s like your comrades are just programmed to go attack something until one of the two combatants is dead, using no thought or tactic.

Screen Shot
Fighting a group

At least the game’s got technical points going for it. The sound effects are good, music isn’t bad, and the graphics look great. All of these factors are pretty well upgraded since Dungeon Siege, even though the exact same game engine is used. And using that same engine was a good idea, as there wasn’t really anything wrong with that itself. (If other things had changed too, that sure would have been nice.) All of this technical glory can be experienced without a whole lot of tax on your computer system, surprisingly. There also aren’t any load times in this game, with area-to-area transition being quite smooth. That’s a plus, for sure.

Control isn’t as much of a pleasure. One must click, click, and keep clicking in order to move. After a long session of gaming, your clicking hand may easily have some pain in it. This is especially true when considering that in battle, you must click once for every time you want to attack, in lieu of the original game’s system of auto-attacking until the enemy died. Granted, the one-click-one-attack method makes changing a target much easier, but the old way is still preferred. Not stopping there, the newly modified camera movement has made fast escaping a dangerous task–the camera itself is the player’s worst enemy in the heat of a big battle. It becomes a game of clicking a location on the ground, waiting, clicking another, then anticipating a camera swing…click again, click again; “whoa, the camera moved,” so move your mouse around and start clicking again. Hopefully this problem can be fixed with a patch or something.

In the end, Dungeon Siege II does a lot of things wrong, but can still provide a fun multiplayer experience. Absolute die-hard PC RPG lovers should consider picking it up, but be prepared for a technical struggle getting in the way. This game has some good things going, but developers couldn’t quite rid it of the flaws that weigh down certain other PC games, like bad AI and sloppy control. Dungeon Siege II falls only 1 place short of our average, but plunges far shorter of the fans’ expectations.

-Eric Emerson

Score Breakdown
Below Average
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Below Average
Story Offensive
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Good
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: 4