Gamestock 2001: Hands-onDungeon Siege
Read our impressions on the latest build of Chris Taylor's upcoming dungeon crawl.
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Gas Powered Games' Dungeon Siege attempts to combine the gameplay philosophy of fantasy RPGs with real-time strategy elements. Judging from the build that was shown at Gamestock, the developers are well on their way to achieving those goals. Dungeon Siege lets players create fairly generic characters, devoid of specific character classes and with limited customization options. The idea is to allow the player to grow and evolve as they progress through the game. In this open-ended class system the player evolves into a specific character class as a result of their in-game actions. For example, players that like to cast spells will develop into mages in terms of physical ability, while players more inclined to hand-to-hand combat will grow into warriors.
The real-time strategy elements are introduced in battle. Players can traverse the game's 3D environments solo or add up to ten characters to their party as they adventure across the varied worlds. Once in battle, players can assign specific tasks to each of the characters individually or as a group. For example, players can choose to send three members of a five-member party to attack the enemy directly, while the remaining two team members can be told to circle around and attack from the flank. In one sequence, we had our warriors perform a direct attack on a group of skeletons, while the mages were able to sit back, create a wedge, and cast spells, all in real-time. Players can also set up characteristics for each member of the party to determine how they behave both in and out of battle. This entire system is highly customizable and is very effective. The multiplayer options lets players adventure with nine other humans online. Gas Powered Games plans to include small field maps that are primarily aimed at character development and multiplayer battle arenas that will include such traditional contests as capture the flag.
Perhaps the primary selling point of Dungeon Siege is the seamless real-time 3D world. There are absolutely no load times in Dungeon Siege once the player is on the field map. Players can travel in and out of dungeons and homes seamlessly as they move freely through the world map. Playing the game we were able to walk through and out of caves, walk into dungeons that were basement structure as part of a large house, and traverse miles upon miles of the game's 3D worlds. The world also expands on a vertical axis, as players can fall off bridges and cliffs. Weather effects such as real-time rain and snow add yet another element of realism to the Dungeon Siege world. The dungeon maps are built in real-time as the player progresses through these chasms and the map is easily accessible.
Easy access and countless customization options are the driving ideas behind the development of Dungeon Siege. The control system is essentially point-and-click, but players can customize their own hot-keys to their specific preferences. However, the point-and-click system should suit most players who are familiar with such games as Diablo II. Additionally, players can customize everything from the game's levels and spells to the individual NPCs using the so-called Siege editor. Even the menu interface is customizable. According to Jacob McMahon, vice president at Gas Powered Games, the high level of customization and the intuitive battle system is designed to make Dungeon Siege accessible to every level of game player.