Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: Space Siege

Short version: Yes, it's Dungeon Siege in Space.

Long Version...

Ok, so it IS Dungeon Siege in Space. That works both for and against it, in that the play is unoriginal but it does put a new wrinkle on the 3rd-person action-RPG for DS fans to enjoy. Instead of slogging through a dungeon, your character is a soldier who has just awakened from 7 weeks in coldsleep to find that aliens and crazed cyborgs have overrun the massively huge colony ship you are on, and just about everybody is dead or turned into a slavering cybernetic killer.

We're not into anything very stunning here. It is put together competently in a manner which should work fine on both current and last gen graphics cards. While not jawdropping or inspired, there isn't anything particularly awful either, except maybe how every area of the ship looks pretty much like every other area of the ship, which can get a little monotonous.

There's atmospheric music which does its job, and the voice acting takes a brave stab at what is sometimes painfully bad dialogue. There's lasers and missiles and explosions and machine gun ratatats, and like most aspects of the game it executes competently without being outstanding.

Ok, this is supposed to be an RPG, so naturally there's some story exposition. Unfortunately the story is the grand amalgamation of all sci-fi cliches rolled into one abhorrently predictable snoozer. Aliens that want to wipe out humans? Check. Shipboard AI that turns against its human masters? Check. Commanding Officer who gets turned into "one of them" and forces you into a showdown? Check. Inexplicable multiple sightings of a giggling little girl running down a dark corridor just beyond your reach? Check. Give me a break, here, people. There is the odd bit of humor interjected from time to time, as you wander around the dark corridors finding the personal logs of now-dead colleagues (gee, what game has done that before?), for instance, one of them makes reference to the caustic/toxic/explosive materials left out all over the ship, and how there isn't enough shelf and storage space to stow it all so there's no point in even trying, "after all, as a wise man from centuries past once said, What you gonna do with all that junk? All that junk that's in your trunk? Words to live by, mister."

Much like Dungeon Siege or Diablo, the game is a 3rd person slog. Left click to move, right click to shoot, WASD to control camera, and number/function keys to use special abilities and order your hench-robot around. I kept trying to hit W to walk forward, which zoomed in the camera, but other than that it was pretty intuitive. There gets to be too many abilities to put on the bar, so you end up having to choose what to have handy.

You also have to make the choice as to how much cyber technology to integrate into your body, as the opportunities to replace your meat parts with cybertechnology present themselves over the course of the game. There are some special abilities that are unlocked by having certain cyberparts, and others that are unlocked by keeping yourself at least 90% human.

There's many weapons to be found and used, but their nature is such that once you get the "new" weapon, it's always better than the previous weapon and as such you never go back to using the old ones ever again (and you have unlimited ammo for all your main weapons). As you kill enemies or break open crates and toolboxes, you find "upgrade materials" which serve as the de-facto currency of the game and can be used to upgrade damage, armor, max hp, manufacture items such as health kits or grenades, and of course replace your henchbot if it gets blow'd up. It serves to attempt to provide you with an illusion of choice and customization but the controlled drop rate and progressively higher cost of upgrading put it right back on rails, making sure you don't upgrade any one area of performance too high before you balance out the rest.

So you slog through this ridiculously huge spaceship so big it might as well BE an underground technodungeon, shooting aliens and cybers and doing the standard dungeon thing and it's all pretty fluid and well put together, but the feel is so repetitive and formulaic that ennui sets in pretty darn fast. I played it for long after I usually would have tossed it just so I could verify that the abovementioned hackneyed plot components would in fact come to pass, and I was not (or was I?) disappointed... So overall I'd have to say it gets a C+ for creating a bland but smooth gaming experience.

Verdict: C+


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the spoilers. Before thrashing the story you might want to clearly state that you are about to reveal plot points that makes it obvious what is about to happen, once you start playing.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, if you think this game has a plot or a story that hasn't been tread 1 trillion times before then you are either

1. A fetus
2. Never played a game, read a book or have seen a movie.
3. An asshole.
4. All of the above.

Please pick one.

Anonymous said...

You were too generous with your score. Chris Taylor is a horrible developer.

DimentoGraven said...

That first anonymous post made me laugh... 'Spoiler'... I'm assuming you're quite young and haven't been playing computer games as long as the rest of us.

Trust me kid, this story line done been done over ad nauseum.

I may STILL get the game just because there's nothing else worth a damn out there, but I dunno... Just depends on if I feel like wasting cash...

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