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  Dungeon Siege II preview

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Although this awaited sequel has been delayed for over a year, many impressive changes have been made since it was shown at E3 2004. Dungeon Siege II, the sequel to Gas Powered Games’ fantasy role-playing game, will be upon us early next month, so here you have a quick take on the beta version in the meantime.

Players in the original game began as farmers and made their way through the world while having to learn new skills and gather new party members to help destroy enemies in the Land of Ehb.  In Dungeon Siege II, you will start out as an imprisoned mercenary that was hired by Prince Valdis.  Captured in a horrific battle, and have now imprisoned on the Dryad island of Eirulan.  The story begins to unfold even more as adventurers begin questing.

The obvious start, character creation was a simple and short process, which should only take a couple of minutes.  Something that is good about Dungeon Siege is that a character name is chosen on the same screen as the race and characteristics of the character.  The races that players will be able to choose from are:  Elves, Dryads, Half-Giants and Humans.  Once a race has been chosen, a gender (if applicable), some physical characteristics like appearance, hair color and hair style can be chosen.

There are four different combat types that players 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.

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.

As mentioned earlier, each race has characteristics that have to be taken into consideration.  The Dryad (+4 to dexterity) would make a good ranged character.  The Half-Giant (+6 to strength) is a good melee character because of his power.  The Elf (+3 to intelligence) is best suited to cast spells.  The Human (equally balanced with all traits) is ready for any combat type.  Don't forget, though, it is still easy to switch weapons or spells and begin leveling up a different combat type.

Pack mules weren't the most effective party members, especially since they couldn't 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 help attack enemies and defend fellow party members.  Players will also be able to feed any old or unwanted item (weapon, armor) to the pet to make it stronger.  Arguably the best thing about having a pet in the party is that they also level up.  They go through several different stages: baby, infant, juvenile, adolescent, adult and mature.  The pet will level up faster if the item being fed is more powerful.

Overall improvements and changes

As an owner of the original Dungeon Siege game, I must applaud Gas Powered Games’ decision of making controls for this sequel as similar as possible to the original, making for a less painful transition.  Although having to incorporate the WASD keys into a non-FPS game may be a bit strange for some players, it really is easy to get used to.  The D key rotates the camera to the right, the A key rotates the camera to the left, the S key rotates the camera up and the W key rotates the camera angle down.  Left clicking somewhere on the map will move the characters to that location and right clicking on an enemy will attack the intended target.

While the original game was sometimes too easy on players as characters actually played too well on their own, Gas Powered Games (GPG) has changed this around several ways, which helps make the game more challenging.  In the first game, it was possible to give orders to individual characters, but only party orders can be given in Dungeon Siege II.  For example, if the "rampage" order is given, every party member is forced to follow the order.  In the same line of changes we have that players now have to click more than once on an enemy to continue attacking it.  This will force people to actually play the game, instead of kind of sit back and let the game play itself.  So while we can understand such a measure, we don't necessarily agree with it.

Another substantial change is that the allowed limit of characters per party has been decreased by two for a total of six party members.


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