Dungeon Siege II

a game by Microsoft
Platform: PC
Rating: 7/10

It is near the end of the Second Age. You have been hired as a mercenary by Valdis, prince of the North, to eradicate the enemies of his reign. Wealth and glory await you, so you are told. But when Valdis betrays you and your friends at his moment of victory, you find yourself captured by the very creatures you were busy fighting. How could things get any worse? Believe me, they will.

Dungeon Siege II from developer Gas Powered Games takes you to the same world of Dungeon Siege, albeit a different continent than the original. Here, your character is again completely under your control as you strive to become a great magician, or fighter, or ranger, or whatever combination you desire. The character driven story is, like the original title, quite excellent and engrossing, with exciting although predictable twists and turns in the story. A myriad of secondary quests are available, some quickly and easily solved, others making you backtrack to earlier towns or areas in search of previously inaccessible areas.

If you're familiar with the previous incarnation, or any Diablo-style game for that matter, you'll notice the interface to be much the same as the original; an isometric top down view with better zoom and directional control. The new interface, however, has some differences worth noting. First off, though many new features have been added (which I'll discuss later), some earlier controls have been simplified. Instead of the more familiar party controls that selected party distribution and aggressive/defensive behavior, you now have a much simpler interface that allows either Mirror (everyone attacks the same target) or Rampage (free for all) formations. Personally, I liked the old interface better, but that's just a preference issue. Products such as potions and spells consume and replenish health and mana differently as well, replenishing health slowly rather than instantaneously, which makes for some getting used to.

Graphics are very, very good. A more polished version of the original Dungeon Siege graphics, Dungeon Siege II boasts richer level design, a better, more intuitive 'radar'? and much better skinned items and NPCs. Audio is a mixed bag, with sound effects being acceptable, but voice acting ranging from acceptable to appalling.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Dungeon Siege II is a more detailed analysis of leveling and character creations. The addition of leveling pets, along with summoned creatures, is a plus and works well. Also, a lot of the clutter is reduced from the original with less nature and combat magic spells, but different unique and rare items (perhaps a bit too many for my tastes). Ranged weapons increase from the bow/crossbow limitations and add thrown weapons, and skill sets with melee branch off into specialized sets, such as two weapon and sword-shield fighting styles. There is also the special attack option for skill sets, which add the extra punch necessary for winning some combat situations.

Frankly, Dungeon Siege II is everything Diablo should have been. Better story, more diverse action, continuously loading world, and better graphical interface. Highly Recommended.

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