Even an earth-shattering cataclysm can't stop developer Gas Powered Games from visiting the world of Aranna yet again, this time in the form of an expansion to last year's Dungeon Siege II. Appropriately titled Broken World, the expansion picks up a year after the events in the previous game, where you defeated the evil wizard Valdis and basically destroyed the world in the process. Broken World could have been an interesting look at the aftermath of the epic struggle with Valdis, but ultimately it proves to be little more than a trivial experience. After the lengthy and far-reaching campaign of Dungeon Siege II, the short and narrowly focused 10-hour expansion feels like more of a throwaway side quest than a compelling new chapter in the history of the troubled world of Aranna.
A year after the second cataclysm, you find yourself in a dryad outpost where nobody likes you and everyone is miserably trying to piece their lives back together. You come to find out that the surrounding area is plagued by once-innocent people who have become twisted, deformed "bound" creatures. You also learn that there's a surviving dark mage that you failed to kill when you were on the hunt for Valdis in the previous game, and he's trying to summon the dark lord Zaramoth to bring peace to the world by destroying it. You, of course, recognize the flaw in that line of reasoning and set out to defeat the dark mage before his evil scheme is realized.
When you start Broken World, you can choose to import your party from Dungeon Siege II, or you can start a new game with one of six premade characters. All of the premade characters start out at level 39, so if you've spent the time leveling up your Dungeon Siege II characters, you'll be at a considerable advantage when you start on Broken World. However, if you do that, you'll also probably be disappointed by all the new loot you'll find, because most of it will be worse than what you already have. Another benefit of starting a new character is that it will give you the chance to play as the new race and try out the two new classes.
The new race in Broken World is the dwarves, which fits thematically with the rest of the races in the game, such as the half-giants, elves, and dryads. Playing a dwarf doesn't significantly change the experience of hacking your way through mobs of monsters in one dungeon after the other, though, so the addition is entirely superficial. Your dwarf character can be used in Dungeon Siege II as well, but it seems slightly odd to do so because there are no other dwarves in that game.
Unlike the new race, the two new classes in Broken World can make an impact on how you play the game. The blood assassin and the fist of stone are two hybrid classes that combine magic and combat skills to create unique new abilities. The blood assassin requires you to have a specific level of ranged and combat magic skills, and the abilities combine both of those skills. A blood assassin has plenty of interesting abilities that make it a class worth pursuing. In addition to the ranged-attack skills, the assassin can cast magic to set an enemy's blood on fire and inflict damage over time, for example, or place "marks" on enemies to increase the damage they take in combat. The fist of stone class is a mix of nature magic and melee, which makes characters in this class good at fighting and at healing, making them the most self-sufficient class in the game. The fist of stone abilities include magic that draws power from the earth to increase defense, as well as the ability to strike the ground to cause tremors that damage surrounding enemies. Both of the classes are available to play in Dungeon Siege II, as well as in the expansion, but although they're fun to play, they aren't so different that you should go back and play the previous game for the new classes alone.
There are a handful of new dungeons to fight through in Broken World, as well as a few optional side quests to keep you busy. The main campaign is fairly short, and you'll easily be able to finish it in less than 10 hours. If you take the time to do all the side quests, you might squeeze another couple of hours out of the game. But the problem isn't so much the length of the game as it is the content. The dungeons are all generic and fairly small compared to dungeons in the previous games. There are some larger dungeons, but they aren't any more interesting to explore. The last dungeon in particular feels like one extremely long corridor with nothing to explore, no puzzles to solve, and no secret treasures to find. Instead, you run down a long hallway that occasionally opens up into a large room where you fight a huge mob of monsters, then continue down the next hallway to do the same thing 10 more times before fighting a boss. The bosses in the game are also somewhat generic and disappointing. There are about half a dozen boss fights in the game, but only three different bosses. It also doesn't help that the main antagonist is a poorly developed character who just seems to be pulled from thin air to stand in as a villain. Beyond the dungeons, the story brings nothing to the Dungeon Siege universe and could just as well go untold.
Since the expansion is designed as high-level content, you can expect it to be slightly more difficult than Dungeon Siege II. The monsters all seem tougher and more varied in terms of vulnerabilities and behaviors. You'll still be able to easily hack through just about any enemy in a matter of seconds, but when the game throws a dozen of those enemies at you (as it often does), it can be a challenge to stay alive. With so many enemies, the challenge is derived not only from fending off multiple attackers, but also from the resulting confusion of having so many characters onscreen at the same time. Some of the enemies are very small, which makes them difficult to spot. You'll often just have to wait for your computer-controlled allies to start attacking before you know where your target is.
Dungeon Siege II was a good-looking game for its time, and it offered plenty of variety in terms of scenery. This expansion doesn't fare so well, partly because it's built on a rapidly aging engine and partly because the scope of the content is much more narrow, so you end up seeing a lot of the same places and faces over and over again. The environments are still the best part of the presentation, with dead forests and harsh wastelands that you'll wish you could explore further. However, the textures do look a bit blurry, and you'll see the same few tile sets repeated in just about every dungeon in the game. The character models don't look so good, either. When the camera zooms in close to your party, you'll notice that they all look very blocky. The creatures look better than the characters, but they often blend into the background or are too small to see very well, which can be frustrating. The special effects still look good for casting magic spells and performing special moves. It's especially satisfying the way creatures violently burst into a fountain of blood and guts when you kill them with your special moves.
The accompanying thuds and messy sound effects of battle sound good, too. There's also a ton of voice work for every single non-player character in the game, and for the most part, it's all very well done. The soundtrack is composed of some orchestral tracks that are subdued most of the time but pick up when the action gets intense. It's good music, but it isn't anything you'll remember after you're finished with the game.
Dungeon Siege II: Broken World feels more like it should be the first act of a game rather than the last act. It doesn't bring anything to Dungeon Siege II in terms of the story, and it's too short to stand on its own as a separate campaign. The new character classes are a welcome addition, but they alone aren't worth the price. Broken World also doesn't add any multiplayer-specific features, so that part of the game remains unchanged. You can play through the campaign cooperatively and experience the new content that way, but the multiplayer doesn't increase the longevity of the expansion. If you're just looking for a hack-and-slash role-playing game, you'd be better off replaying Dungeon Siege II, because it's a much more satisfying experience.