Dungeon Siege, by MacSoft
Posted: 18-Nov-2003

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

Overview
Dungeon Siege combines the immersive elements of a role-playing game with over-the-top intensity and non-stop action. Dungeon Siege plunges you into a continuous 3D fantasy world where you face off against an army of evil that has been unleashed. You begin as a humble farmer, and as you travel through the world and gain new skills, you can gather a party of up to eight characters to aid you.

Dungeon Siege came out on Windows a year earlier than the Mac, and I had the chance to play it on Windows XP. This review is for the new Mac version of the game, published by MacSoft, and is for OS X only.

Game Play
To those of you that have played Diablo or Diablo II, Dungeon Siege will have a very familiar interface. You determine what your character will equip (armor and weapons), and as your character gains experience, better things can be equipped. You travel through different areas, killing enemy creatures, and picking up goodies that they leave behind (gold, armor, weapons, etc.). Dungeon Siege is broken down into chapters, and within each chapter are various quests to complete. You obtain information about your quests from people you meet along the way, mostly in towns. Some people want you to rid their basement of monsters, or retrieve some lost books, while the bigger quests focus on long term goals of fortifying a fort, retrieving an important artifact, or hunting down an evil enemy.

As the overview states, you start off as a humble farmer, with minimal armor and weaponry, embarking on a wild and exciting journey through mystic lands. Similar to Diablo, you can only get new armor, weapons, potions and spells at a shop, either in a town or a secluded trading post, or find the items left behind from fallen enemies. Unlike Diablo, there are several towns that you can visit (Diablo II has two primary towns), and the journey is more linear rather than "spider-like" (Diablo centered around the town, going back and forth between it in various areas of danger). In Dungeon Siege, the game focuses on the story, and on progression. When you start off, the monsters you encounter are easy to kill. You gain experience as you go along, which improves your performance. The strength of the enemies parallels your own experience and armory (i.e., monsters become much tougher as you become more experienced).

In Dungeon Siege you encounter other characters who are welling to join you on your quests (some for free, others for a sum of gold). In addition to your comrades, you can also purchase mules in certain towns, providing you with extra capacity for collecting items as you go. I found the mules quite useful, as it meant less effort picking and choosing what to keep when my inventory was full... just throw it on the mule. Your game party has a limit of 8 characters, including mules. In the beginning it's not an issue, but once you have 6 characters and 2 mules, and then encounter another character, sacrifices have to be made (lose a mule or a weaker character to accept a new character).

What really sets Dungeon Siege apart from other RPG's I've played is the interface, graphics, and soundtrack. The interface is something you notice immediately, as everything uses true 3D modeling, and zooming and angling is as simple to control as moving the mouse. You can change your perspective 360 degrees at any time, and zoom close enough to see the details of your characters, or far out enough to see all your characters as well as much of the terrain. The 3D graphics are unbelievable. Great detail has been given to every object, creature, plant, building, and rock. The terrain effects are five star. There are areas where it is raining, snowing, or fog drifting in, and the translucent affects of the weather, as well as obstacles which might otherwise block your view, are done fantastically well. For instance, you may be heading into a forest area thick in trees, but once you get right up on the trees, the translucent effect allows you to see past the trees, providing you better visibility and creating the next best thing to peripheral vision. And while the effects enhance the visual experience, they don't impede on the game play, as most of the "eye candy" you can virtually walk through (such as trees, plants and small rocks). The larger items, such as buildings, cliffs, boulders, fences, and other objects that are intended to block passage must be ventured around.

The sound effects in the game are great, as is hinted immediately when you start the game and watch and listen to the effects of the game menu. Once in the game, everything comes to life. From rivers to rain, critters to characters, everything has a sound, and there is a strong sense of a living environment that you travel through. Added to the great sound effects is perhaps my favorite part of the game, the music soundtracks. The music is original, intense, and wonderfully integrated into the story. From one area to the next, the music transitions perfectly, and each area has it's own theme, some are variations of earlier themes, while others are completely unique. You can be walking through gorgeous and spooky caves with eerie music, or traveling along steep cliffs with fog rolling down the mountain side with suspenseful music. The main theme of the game (or the character's theme as I interpret it) resonates in various renditions throughout the game. By virtue of the long adventures, you become familiar with it, and so while all the music is nice, the character theme brings added excitement upon each return (for movie buffs, it has a similar effect as the Indiana Jones theme).

The "cut scenes" are another thing of beauty in Dungeon Siege. Cut scenes are those movies that are breaks between chapters and at the start and end of certain quests. In most other games, especially older games, these cut scenes shift from the game screen. They are usually movies which are of a greater and completely different style and quality from actual gameplay, often showing generic scripted scenes regardless of the player and game progress. In Dungeon Siege, this has been taken to the next level. Utilizing the amazing 3D engine in the game, Dungeon Siege plays the cut scenes live, right in the game, with the scenes and characters that are already in use. During the scene, it pauses the player's ability to control any of the characters, as angled shots shift and slide, like in a movie. Text scrolls at the bottom along with a scripted voice describing the scene. These characters that you dressed, trained, and befriended during your journeys become the stars of each cut scene! This was a nice treat.

In the very end, after completing the final quest, I was actually sad to see the game end. But that's when you can take your highly experienced character (either your main one, or any of the other characters in your party) and journey out onto the internet to travel with other Dungeon Siege players through a whole new map. As with any internet play, you are at the mercy of the internet throughput, and your co-players can enter or leave any time they choose (unlike your faithful comrades in single player mode). I found the internet play interesting, but it didn't keep my attention or fascination as much as the single player game.

I was hard pressed to find anything to fault in the game, but after playing all the way through (and half way through a second time), it does fall just a hair short of perfection. Some interface functions could be made a little more friendlier. For example, when going to shop, I often loaded one mule with everything I wanted to sell. Rather than having to click and drag each item one at a time, I would have liked to have just sold everything in one step, either a "Sell All" function, or the ability to highlight multiple things and drag them over for one big sell operation. There were also some minor and infrequent graphical glitches I noticed from time to time. For example, when ascending stairs back to level ground, the map would sometimes be reluctant to switch from the lower level to the upper level. The overview mapping function is somewhat limited as well. In areas where things are dark and the path is not as clear, the overview map does not provide as much help as you wish it would. The scope of the map is centered around the current character, and it is not resizable. When lost, I would have preferred seeing much more of the terrain in the map mode to figure out where I was.

The Port
I'm ecstatic to see this game ported to the Mac. Unlike some delays in Mac ports that have taken years, this port has come relatively quick. This was a favorite of mine on Windows, and now it's a favorite of mine on the Mac. The port to the Mac was flawless. Playing the game on the Mac, I could not tell the difference, in terms of graphics, sounds, interface, the whole works. Of course, on my G4, it shines more with my LCD 17" screen and iSticks / iSub sound devices.

Summary
Dungeon Siege for Mac OS X is an RPG game that takes the tediousness out of the RPG experience with a streamline interface, allowing you to focus on the story, battles and character statistics. It emmerses you into a living world full of beautiful graphics, sounds, and music, and challenges you with interesting quests and a huge variety of enemies to fight against. It is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences I've had in a long time. With the exception of a few slight interface quarks, Dungeon Siege provides a masterful gaming experience that seems to focus on the player having fun more than anything else. Originally released for Windows, the port to Mac OS X is brilliant. Whether you're a fan of RPG's or action games, Dungeon Siege does not disappoint.

Pros

  • Streamline interface with 360 degree perspective
  • Awesome sound effects and music soundtracks
  • Gorgeous 3D graphic game play and integrated cut scenes
  • Hours and hours of fun RPG adventures


Cons

  • Limited overview map function
  • A few interface quarks


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice