Space Siege PC Review
For those of us waiting for the next Dungeon Siege with bated breath, it turns out there was a surprise in the works. Someone decided down the line, and perhaps rightly so, that the medieval RPG genre had been done to death, and it was time to branch out, take a chance, and apply similar gameplay mechanics to a sci-fi universe. That somebody is now at the top of my hit list… above P Diddy. Here’s the game’s story in its full and righteous glory:
Earth got attacked, and now some aliens are on your ship.
…I’m being overly harsh, there is more to it than that. Humans have developed space flight, and in our insatiable curiosity, we have stuck our noses into someone else’s galactic backyard (the Karaak), and they aren’t too happy about it. Like, genocide-style not happy. There are more of them, they’re more technologically advanced, and every ally you might’ve had on the ship has cleverly been put into stasis. Welcome to Space Siege.
You wake up as a droid engineer called Seth, and take it upon yourself to be the ship’s last hope of survival. Here begins your adventure in repairing ship systems, rescuing crew members, scavenging weapons and parts, all while blasting your way through wave after wave of Karaak and various other enemy troops.
This is where the game falls flat on its cybernetically-enhanced backside. Previous Dungeon Siege titles, although basic, had the balance perfectly right. Each swing of your sword/wand rewarded you with experience, making you play second to second, with a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Add to that several other controllable characters, and a robust randomly-generated loot system, and there was always something fun for you to be doing. Space Siege sees you level at specific story-related points and gives you new weapons in scripted positions, removing all sense of your experience with the game being a unique one. Armor and statistics are modified by collecting upgrade materials from every box, computer and enemy on the ship, thus portraying your character as some lunatic who can’t stand to leave one piece of scenery intact before he leaves an area. The ship itself is full of explosive materials, which I wont point out as ridiculous, because the game comments on it itself. But some fun can be had by linking a chain of explosions over to the enemy, or luring them to a tasty pile of explosives you have your gun pointed at in preparation.
As an action game, the combat system is flawed and clumsy. To sustain an attack you have to leave your mouse cursor over the enemy with the appropriate attack button held. But as is the way in space battles, lasers are flying everywhere, and every gunfight sees you dodging almost as much as shooting. Every dodge requires you to stop shooting at the enemy you have your cursor trained on, select the direction you want your character to roll in, and press the correct key. This always feels like a cumbersome and time-wasting maneuver, and becomes even more infuriating as you push through the game into the harder sections. The game is also further hindered by the absurd amount of key commands you have to get your head around, and a camera you have to control while trying to keep your cursor trained on your current target.
The only interesting aspect in the game’s repetitive combat is your robotic sidekick, HR-V (pronounced ‘Harvey’). He adds a second gun to your arsenal, and his stats and weaponry are just as customizable as the main character himself. But when you compare that to Dungeon Siege 2’s four-man teams, with completely differing combat roles, it’s hard to find HR-V’s company remotely impressive. Skills are purchased when the game decides to dispense a couple of skill points in correlation to an event in the story, but with very little in the way of diversity, you’re left staring at the combat skills like a stunningly ignorant Western parent in a Chinese orphanage. “What’s the difference? They all look the same.”
A lot of effort seems to have gone into revamping the Siege franchise. Along with a general graphic overhaul, a fully-epic FMV greets you as you start the game, with a fancy physics engine following closely behind. I admit these things seem like they should be in every game nowadays, lest they be dubbed as backwards and outdated – but when I can only assume the addition of these things meant that everything that could’ve been good about the game became an impossible pipe dream, I’d be quite happy to take a step back to keep everything outdated, but fun. Perhaps the decision to have only one single character was made for narrative reasons – perhaps they believed that with one main character to relate to, the universe would draw you in more easily. As it is, you’re left feeling complete loneliness as you’re wandering around endless grey corridors, with your braindead robot ally. And the only thing that breaks the monotony is the competent voice acting of the other human characters, all of whom seem completely unable to lift a finger to help you out.
Cybernetic enhancements are given to you when and where the game sees fit. These permanent additions to your character have a buffing effect to your abilities – the only downside being that some later skills aren’t available to you if you’re more cybernetic than human. This would be a nice addition, if the game made the reasons remotely clear about the moral decision you’re making, but it leaves you to figure it out on your own. But with the human-specific skills being so far down the skill tree, and with leveling taking place when the game decides you have done something of worth, you’re left wondering why you should make the game harder for yourself now, for a skill that, in the future, could potentially suck.
With forgettable characters, and a storyline that throws more and more flimsy reasons for you to run through the same level segments, laid out slightly differently, all the while trying to figure out if the map objective is above or below you, there really isn’t a reward for playing the game moment-to-moment, let alone in the long term, or online with anyone else.
I’ve played all the Dungeon Siege games, multiple times. And I have recommended them to people over and over again – sure they’re shallow and lacking in the storytelling department, but they were fun and light-hearted, with non-stop hack-’n'-slash jollies from start to finish. Yet even with Space Siege’s slight resemblance, there is little reason for me to recommend it, even to a long-term fan of the series. It’s not interesting, it’s not fun, it doesn’t look that nice, and various other games have done action sci-fi RPGs a lot better, so it gets no props for doing something different.
Give this game a miss, and get your EXP-grinding gums around Dungeon Siege 2. And if then you can come back to me, with an explanation of why you didn’t have fun, after experiencing the crimson firework display of exploding the entrails and brains of 30-plus enemies with a single berserker attack, I will shake your hand, and crawl back into the hole I came from… no matter how much my mother objects. Good day!