Preview: Dungeon Siege (PC)
  Dungeon Siege Cleanse the world of darkness with up to ten other players in this real-time RPG that combines the best elements of action-RPGs and standard RPGs.

More snow

Blue Dragon

Tower Ruins

I'm covered in bees!

Colorful war with the undead

Oh... crap.

The map editor

Sparkly Magic

Platform: PC
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Rated Teen (13+): Violence

    Chris Taylor, best known for Total Annihilation, hopes to become a household name with the release of his PC RPG Dungeon Siege. Dungeon Siege strives to take the best features of action and fantasy-style RPGs to create a game that is intuitively accessible while completely immersing the player into its storyline. The game attempts to solve many problems plaguing PC RPGs, including the elimination of loading times and transitions between locations, and will focus on character development, a deep storyline, and an intuitive interface.

    Console RPGamers have known for years that the first step toward immersing the player into the game is the creation of a deep, involving storyline. Dungeon Siege is driven by its story, which proceeds based on the main characters' interactions with others and actions within the game. The story begins with an ancient evil descending upon a failing empire, and the separation of a small group from the empire before it was too late. This group settled in another location, where centuries later, the main character receives warning of an impending attack. Despite being a simple farmer, he is forced to defend his homeland and eventually will become a powerful force. Unlike many other RPGs, straying from this storyline is not only allowed but encouraged, allowing for the discovery of new equipment and other bonuses.

    Even the most involving story will fail without interesting characters. Luckily, Dungeon Siege allows for a great deal of character customization, allowing for the creation of the most interesting character of all -- the player himself. Characters ranging from archers and mages to packmules can be found throughout the world, with the main character eventually being able to form a party of ten people. Any character can become proficient at anything with enough practice, but the main character will remain stronger and more prominent than the other characters in his party. Proficiency and experience are a must in the later stages of the game, with at least eighty enemy characters making an appearance, each requiring various techniques to take down.

Character development builds on a system seen in many PC RPGs, where characters will find success in the abilities they use most often. Dungeon Siege expands on this by allowing characters to become proficient in all abilities rather easily, but can excel in only a few choice skills. This creates unique characters that can do most anything, but do certain things more easily than others. Once the characters have discovered their lot in life, they can be arranged in the party so as to maximize their efficiency. Formations can be assigned automaticaly, and can be given standard commands, such as "attack the strongest enemy" or "engage the closest enemy." Characters can also be controlled individually, for those players that prefer the hands-on approach. While walking, characters will follow the leader closely by default, but the player can set up other formations as different situations arise.

    A seamless game engine is the next step for drawing a player into the game, and it is this aspect where Dungeon Siege makes the largest strides past other games in the genre. The user interface follows Windows-style conventions, allowing for drag-and-dropping items from one character to another, multiple selection for transferring multiple items between characters. Both a beginner and an expert mode will be available, with the beginner mode showing more stats and giving additional help, while the expert mode is more bare-bones and meant for those well accustomed to the interface. A fully rotatable, zoomable camera will be at the player's command, allowing for spectacular images and unobstructed viewing of the entire playing field. Potions can be sipped rather than drunk, so mildly wounded characters can avoid wasting an entire potion. If players tire of the game provided, a full editor will be included to allow players to edit just about every aspect of the game. Perhaps the most immersive feature included in the game, however, is the seamless transitions between scenes. Travelling in and out of a dungeon will require no noticeable load time and show no transition scenes -- the player will simply walk through it as if he were walking in any other part of the world.

Despite players' cries for storyline above graphics, few modern RPGs would succeed without a powerful graphics engine to back them up. Everything is 3-D rendered and viewable from any angle with the free-roaming camera, and the developers' attention to detail is immediately evident. Leaves, plants, bridges, waterfalls, a night-and-day cycle, and realistic weather effects combine to draw players into the world of Dungeon Siege.

Dungeon Siege will be released on April 5th, for an estimated price of $49.99. It should be available at online and retail stores across North America around that date. For more information, check out RPGamer's continuing coverage on the title.

by Justin Weiss

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