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  Dungeon Siege II review

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Back in July, we brought you our hands-on impressions on the Dungeon Siege II beta, and now we are back to give you our thoughts on the full game.  The beta that many were able to test only offered a few hours worth of gameplay, and abruptly ended after finishing the last quest included in that version.  We understand that many of the Dungeon Siege fans have already purchased a copy of the game or are planning on buying it in the near future.  For those of you that are still sitting on the fence about whether you should purchase the game or not, hopefully this review will help you make that decision.

A common complaint about the original Dungeon Siege was that it didn't have a very good plot.  It appears that Gas Powered Games heard those complaints, and obvious improvements have been made in DS II.  You start the game as a mercenary that was captured for a merciless warrior named Valdis, who now has an ancient sword that possesses some great evil.  After the tutorial and first battle of the game, you'll wake up in a dryad prison, with a "ring of submission" on your neck (this is the part of the game that beta players will remember).  Your new goal throughout the game is to stop Valdis from finding some artifacts that will unlock the evil in his sword.

There are four different combat types you will get to choose from: melee, ranged, nature magic and combat magic. Something that RPG fans will enjoy is that starting as a melee character doesn't mean that a player cannot dabble with a combination of the other combat types. It is possible to level up as a melee fighter and then decide to equip a bow and begin dabbling with ranged attacks. This makes gameplay a lot more flexible and enjoyable, because it is possible to have a character that is strong with several different combat types.

Players will be able to choose from four different playable races in Dungeon Siege II:  Dryads, Elves, Half-Giants and Humans.  Dryads make excellent archers and have high dexterity.  The Elves are the most intelligent race, which makes them the best suited to cast spells.  Half-Giants are physically stronger so they make melee fighters, but don't have high intelligence or dexterity.  Humans are equally balanced in all traits and can be used for any combat discipline.

A major improvement is the new skill tree system that has been implemented in Dungeon Siege II.  Each time one of your characters levels up, you gain a point that can be put towards any specialty you decide to invest the most points in.  We recommend that you try to avoid spreading out the points in more than one or two categories, because that weakens the character in the long run. 

Each combat type has a specific skill tree that allows players to specialize in a certain type of attack. A lot of the different skills on the skill tree are passive. For example, melee fighters can put skill points into critical strike, which will increase the likelihood to inflict a critical strike on an opponent. Some spells may require a player to meet certain levels first, and also require prerequisites.

Gamers will start out by watching a movie and going through a short introduction that covers how to attack with melee weapons, use spells, gain experience and other basic game essentials.  What is nice about Dungeon Siege is that it unlike many other RPGs, the controls are fairly easy to master.  Once gamers venture into the world and slay a few enemies and complete the first quest is when people that played the beta will recognize the game.

Pack mules weren't the most effective party members, especially since they were not able to attack enemies.  Since the pets do take up a slot that could have gone to a regular party member, it is important that they actually do something useful.  Luckily, players will now be able to add pets that do damage and can attack enemies and defend fellow party members.  Players will be able to feed any old or unwanted items (weapons and armor) to the pet to make it stronger.  The pets will go through several stages: baby, infant, juvenile, adolescent, adult and mature, getting a new attack or special ability each time they level up, so it is important to make sure that you take care of the pet.  You will be able to find pet shops in every town.

Like we mentioned in the DSII preview, enemy AI has been improved considerably yet itís still not tough enough (more on that later).  Not only are some groups of monsters organized, so they attack together and in formation, the monsters often times will have ambushes ready for unsuspecting players.  This sometimes forced me to use hit-and-run tactics to easily eliminate any monsters in the general vicinity. There are quite a few new monsters that you will ultimately run into while venturing around the world.  Even from the beginning of the game you may run into packs of monsters that are several levels higher.

As for graphics, one of the first things I noticed when I played the beta was that it still looked fairly similar to the original Dungeon Siege, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice of GPG and Microsoft worked together and put Dungeon Siege II on the same level of graphics as other current games.

The sound in the game is decent, and there is a large amount of voice acting.  Almost all of the NPCs that you interact with will have a voice conversation with you.  Although it was rare, there were still several parts throughout the game where I found the voice acting was a bit too silly or too amateurish.


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