After more than a year's worth of delays, Gas Powered Games and
Microsoft are finally ready to toss players into the fantasy RPG
Dungeon Siege II. According to members of the development team, some
of this delay was due to the fact that they want this game to
be free from certain flaws that hindered the original.
From the looks of things, there seems to be an increase in general action. Whereas players started in the roles of farmers in
the first Dungeon Siege, they will now take on roles of royal
mercenaries. From there, Gas Powered Games is taking measures to
enhance the diversity between classes and deeper interaction with the party, making for more varied gameplay
and greater longevity. Said diversity is achieved with deeper skill sets. A rather common complaint from players of the first Dungeon Siege was that characters within the same general category were played no differently than each other, despite differences in class. This problem is expected to be resolved, as there are now reported to be greater differences form one mage to the next, from one melee fighter to another, and so on. Using that first example, a Nature Mage (curative) and Combat Mage (attack magic) are still the only two types of mage, but there is now far fewer overlapping charcteristics between the two, and both have a greater number of abilities, adding greater strategy to their use. The same is true with the other example of melee characters; there are now broader paths to take with such party members, meaning one could be the damage magnet while another has a bigger focus on hurting bad guys. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To that same end, characters no longer automatically keep attacking their first target until it dies. Players must click the enemy continuously in order to keep bringing the pain. Another change is that group orders can now be issued, unlike in the original, in which each character always had to be told exactly what to do. This time around, players can choose more general things like a target and a battle plan, then act more like a military officer than a soldier. Developer Erik Johnson explained the system by saying, "...players can organize their party in the form of discrete Party Orders such as Mirror and Rampage. Mirror mode keeps the group under tight control, doing only what the player tells them. Rampage permits the heroes to unleash destruction on their own, while still following along with the player's main Hero." Oddly enough, in spite of what's just been said, the party size has been reduced from eight to six.
"[Gas Powered Games wants] this game to
be free from certain flaws that hindered the original."
Enemy AI has seen a few revisions, and obviously the place to look for an example of this is in some of their battle patterns. In Dungeon Siege II, certain groups of enemies will have a formation they stick to, with the leader being protected by minions. Some even go so far as to make special effort to keep the spellcasters and archers out of range from the player's melee fighters, and enemy groups may even go so far as to make a special formation around a leader. When the player-controlled character attempts to break the enemy's lines, the player should expect clever resistence, as the foes will do all they can to protect their leader and reform themselves. Killing the leader benefits a player's party by throwing the enemy's formation into disarray and in some cases, taking out its best healer.
Even with all of the above changes, the original engine used in Dungeon Siege is back, just with some special effect upgrades. There are other small, yet noticeable modifications, including increased zoom capabilities on maps and control layout.
Dungeon Siege II's multiplayer experience has been enhanced since the days of its elder. Players can connect through LAN connections or through Gamespy, and characters leveled in multiplayer mode can be exported into other modes. With the new systems in mind, Gas Powered Games has updated the interface to make it more focused on simultaneously controlling a group of people, rather than one individual character at a time. In fact, using a single macro can change equipment on multiple characters.
This sequel is a standalone game, not requiring knowledge of the first to play it. That notwithstanding, the game does take place in the same universe as its predecessor, 100 years later, on the continent of Aranna, so veterans may recognize a few references. Don't be mislead, though; this game is not story-focused by any stretch of the imagination. Gameplay undoubtedly takes center stage in Dungeon Siege II.
Dungeon Siege II is scheduled to be released on August 16, with a price of $49.99. The game's official website can be visited here.