Dungeon Siege II Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Gas Powered Games
Release Date:2005-08-16
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Three years ago, Gas Powered Games and Microsoft Game Studios released the much anticipated action RPG Dungeon Siege. In addition to offering a memorable RPG experience with no "loading" screens, Gas Powered Games released a toolkit for Dungeon Siege to provide the modding community with plenty of freedom to create their own worlds and adventures. Now, GPG and Microsoft are teaming up once again to release a sequel. Expanding upon the original game's design, Dungeon Siege II looks ready to stir things up in the online RPG community once again.

In Dungeon Siege, the Seck threatened the vast Kingdom of Ehb, and only fate and a simple farmer stood between the return of the demons and the salvation of a nation. Legends of Aranna saw the return of the Shadowjumper, a demon of immense power with a vendetta against the world. Both of these horrors were destroyed, and Aranna has had many years of peace. But the Prophecies of old are starting to ring true. In the time when Azunai the Defender walked this realm, Zaramoth the Unmaker held strict control of the use of any Magic. His dark Mages were the only other creatures permitted its use, and the Unmaker's sword destroyed any challengers who dared oppose him.

Thus, the Kingdom of Stars was formed, and ancient texts speak of the profound peace and wisdom that held the Kingdom together. The land was rich, and none dared to oppose the power of the Kingdom. Zaramoth had destroyed an entire race to ensure his rise to power, and his sword hungered still for the blood of any foolish enough to challenge his power. Azunai the Defender, however, found his own magic, playing while still a boy by a fountain of mana. He journeyed to the realm of the fallen giants, where he was gifted with a mighty shield, constructed and enchanted to withstand the Unmaker's sword. With an army of rebels at his back, Azunai strode unto the Field of Tears, and Defender and Unmaker dueled. The sword and the shield clashed, killing the Unmaker, Defender, and both armies in a cataclysm that released magic back into the world.

Now, dark things stir in forgotten lands. Powerful and evil mages are once again seen throughout the realm corrupting the very fabric of nature, and magic is becoming scarcer among the commoners. The Unmaker's sword has been seen in border skirmishes, but the Defender's shield slumbers still. War is on the horizon, a war where it has been foretold that the Unmaker and the Defender shall once again come together in battle.

Now that the story has been set, let me introduce you to some of Dungeon Siege II's enhancements. The AI system has been changed to a new (Coach AI), which means your enemies will now act as a unit, with different monsters doing different tasks as the (Coach AI) deems best during the battle. This AI system will also adjust the difficulty of the monsters based on how well you play, and was developed exclusively for this game. This new AI system should provide more realistic in-game combat, and, if all goes as planned, a better gaming experience over that of the first game.

Your main character will always be the center of attention, although you have the option of starting the game with a party or picking up NPCs as you go. Single and multiplayer games are supported, but both now play from the same campaign, allowing you to travel the game's main storyline with the help of your friends.

In single player mode, your companions will fight based on a predefined set of orders you have given them (including (Hold your ground) and (Rampage)). Once you have decided on a set of orders, you will no longer have to give individual orders throughout the battle, although you're certainly welcome to if you'd like. In addition, using the game's autocast feature allows your healers to keep your party alive and your combat mages to roast enemies from a distance.

Combat will be seeing other enhancements, as well. Your character will attack with a normal strike when you click on a foe, but if you hold the mouse button, it will charge your attack for greater damage. You can also have your character attempt to block incoming attacks, which adds a certain level of strategy and finesse to the standard hack-and-slash combat engine used previously.

Companions willing to aid you in your quest can be found all over Aranna. Each companion will have his or her own voice, and they'll use it to both agree and disagree with the party's decisions. There are massive in-game dialogues that will spawn based on who is in your party and how they are doing. A rough mercenary may clash with an idealistic healer, and sometimes it will be up to you to ensure that a simple argument doesn't end in bloodshed. Choose companions wisely, because an ill-formed party will only lead to an early death.

Gas Powered Games hasn't forgotten about the part's pack animal either. The Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna expansion pack introduced the Tragg as an alternative to the packmule, and we'll be seeing these in the sequel as well. Traggs would engage in combat in order to protect their master, although they couldn't carry as much as the trusty packmule (which would ran away from combat unless there was no alternative). Dungeon Siege II promises more options than just Traggs and packmules, however, and these new options will all have a profound effect on the party as well.

Many combat items and weapons remain the same, with rare and legendary weapons popping up randomly for your party. However, weapons and armor will now wear down and will require repairing or even replacing. Additionally, some magical items can be used to enchant your gear, should you have the money and any other materials necessary.

New areas are all over the continent of Aranna, and many of them include massive dungeons you'll have to hack your way through. Shrines containing items of great power must be torn open so the power can be used against the common enemy, but these shrines were not left unguarded, nor will they always be easy to find.

Graphically, the game looks to be exceeding the expectations I had for it. NPCs move and react to their world, ducking down while running down a path to avoid a low branch, and falling as they misstep and inevitably twist their ankle. The jungles and forests are lush, winds whip around trees creating eddies in the fields, and the monsters are far more lifelike during your next excursion through Aranna.

Slated for release later this summer, Dungeon Siege II looks to be on track to fulfill the community's expectations. Aranna is in need of heroes, now more than ever. Who will answer the call?