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Dungeon Siege II E3 2005 Preshow Impressions

Dungeon Siege II is almost done, which made it easy for Gas Powered Games to show us some cool new content.


The folks at Gas Powered Games have it relatively easy heading in to E3. While other development studios are pulling all-nighters to cobble together working demos for the show, Gas Powered Games is already in the final stretch of development for Dungeon Siege II. This means all the developers have to do is burn the latest version of the game to a disc so they can show off a game that's about 99 percent finished, which is pretty much what they did for Microsoft's preview event. And we were there to check out the game for the latest details.

Dungeon Siege II is the follow-up to Dungeon Siege, a hack-and-slash action role-playing game in the Diablo vein. The original was also a game that split players into two factions: Some loved the frenetic combat of it, while others felt it was too linear and automated for its own good. As we noted in our recent hands-on preview, Dungeon Siege II looks to address these concerns. And what we saw at Microsoft's preview event reinforces this belief. There's simply a ton of new stuff that's designed to flesh it out better, giving you more control, as well as more variety, than before.

One of the nice things about watching the Gas Powered Games representatives play the game was that they could show off some high-level characters, which is something we didn't get a chance to see or experience with the beta. Not surprisingly, the level 33 and higher characters are capable of dishing out tremendous amounts of damage, as well as casting some pretty nifty combat spells. As we watched, a party of four took on swarms of fierce-looking monsters, and a flurry of sword and spell strikes inflicted hundreds of points of damage. The interface looks a little complicated at first, but it's designed to give you a fair amount of control over your team, even when the action onscreen borders on the verge of chaotic. For example, you can place spells in a character's autocast menu, which means he or she will cast them when appropriate. Drop a decay armor spell in there and if the character encounters an armored opponent, he or she will automatically cast the debuff spell at that enemy to weaken it.

It was also nice to see the wide variety of customization that's available. Not only does the skill system let you create unique styles of fighters, rangers, and mages, but also the gigantic amount of different weapons, armors, and items will ensure a unique look for your character. What's even more impressive about the game, though, is that level 33 is still child's play. You can play through at the beginning (or "mercenary") difficulty level, which is designed for characters that are levels one through 39. Get through the approximately 60-hour campaign, and at the end, you can start over at the next hardest difficulty level, which is scaled for characters levels 40 to 69. Get through that, and you play through a third time, but at a difficulty setting scaled for characters level 70 and above. Not only are the monsters harder, but also they drop better items. As a result, you won't even have a chance to see some of the most powerful stuff in the game unless you go through it again.

Another cool new feature is the addition of pets, of which there are nine different kinds, including a lap dragon, a pack mule, and more. The cool thing is you can actually feed your pets equipment, such as the stuff cluttering up your backpack that you plan on selling at the town store. Doing so will cause your pet to grow, and the more valuable the piece of equipment you feed it, the more it will grow. There are six life stages for a pet, so it starts as a baby and grows into a fledgling. Then it becomes a juvenile, and so on, until it reaches maturity. And at each level, it gains more hit points and abilities. What's even niftier is that the pet takes on the characteristics of what you feed it. So if you feed it a lot of armor, it will have a really tough hide. Or if you feed it potions, it will have a high number of hit points, and so on. So it's safe to say that everyone can have a fairly unique pet.

Dungeon Siege II looks like it's ready for prime time, but Gas Powered Games still says it's going to spend a couple more months on bug fixing and play balancing. That's good news to Dungeon Siege fans looking forward to the game. And it's probably great news for the development team, since its members can get some sleep between now and E3.

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