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    Dungeon Siege
    Author: Drew Lanclos   Publisher: Microsoft   Developer: Gas Powered Games
    Date Posted: May 2nd, 2002
    SLRating: SLRating: 9.5/10
    Bottom Line: Depending on your view, this could just be Diablo 3 (or Diablo 3D). However, if fun is what it's all about, then this game is where it's at. Be forewarned - It eats graphics cards for lunch.

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    Graphics/Sound

    One major area that works both for and against the game is the display engine. To be flat-out honest, the game is utterly gorgeous. Look at the pictures throughout this article and decide it for yourself. I was continually impressed by how pretty and nice the game appeared, generally. Lighting effects shone out and made an already colorful landscape even prettier. In particular, the spell effects and the colored lighting used in some dungeon areas was particularly appropriate, and in the case of spells…let's just say that it was worth wasting the MP just to cast a spell again to see the graphics. Though it's a simple Nature Magic spell, Transmute comes to mind here, creating some very gorgeous rainbow-colored light spheres.

    In a similar vein, something you should also notice about this game is its excellent use of the whole color spectrum. My biggest complaint with Quake II was its total overuse of earth tones. Whenever I saw a map with yellow or blue in it, it just looked so out-of-place. Similarly, Diablo overdid red and grey, and Diablo II picked a single color in each act to stick with, and strayed little. The environments in Dungeon Siege vary widely, and the graphics and objects placed in each environment vary accordingly. I couldn't help but notice how much effort went into the scenery design and layout of the areas. You can't exactly levy a complaint about this at Diablo, since it uses dynamically-generated terrain and Dungeon Siege does not. Still, it's a very refreshing change, and one I was pleased as punch with.

    The 3D engine is very effectively used in-game. The mouse lets you rotate and scroll the screen as needed, without getting unmanageable. I was able to use the zooming and angle adjustments to make some very useful adjustments to my battle plan when approaching certain situations. It all boils down to the fact that the camera control is now in the user's hands instead of AI control, and the controls given to the player are intelligent enough that you don't have to fight with them. If any objects in the terrain are obscuring your view or hiding the characters, the game will make them transparent so that you don't have to rotate the camera all over the place. Particularly effective use of this is made when moving your characters around inside buildings - Multi-story buildings, at that.

    Unfortunately, there were also a few rough edges to the graphics which, when viewed with the other stunning objects, stood out like sore thumbs. Chief among these elements is the water. I've yet to see a game with believably rendered water, outside of the Myst series. This game tries and fails just as much as any other game has in the past, so there's really no point in making a big deal about it, but I was thoroughly disappointed with the fact that so many great pains could be made to present wondrous imagery elsewhere, and yet the water looked so fake.

    All of this game beauty definitely comes at a price, of course. This game will suck every last bit of processing power from your video card with the engine options cranked. Running it on an Athlon 900MHz with 256 MB of RAM and a Radeon 32MB, I couldn't even play at 1024x768 (the maximum resolution for this title). I had to kick down the resolution to 800x600 before it was playable, albeit choppy. The game generally hung around 15-25 FPS in this mode, depending on the situation at hand - Still playable, but far from desirable. Lowering the image quality some produced better results, though I was disappointed to do so, as the visuals were so pretty. With this in mind, you can pretty much toss the game's original target of playability on a TNT2. Anyone with a GeForce2 or better should be okay, but ideally you'll want more. Savage owners need not apply.

    The in-game sound in Dungeon Siege points out a critical aspect of game audio that I believe I take for granted too often. The background music and sound clips are all fine…nothing really noteworthy I can say about it outside of compliments on the nice background score…but there's one element that's shown in this game that is frequently bungled in some other games, and skipped entirely elsewhere. The game's background music should complement the sound effects, and vice versa. I always get highly peeved when I'm playing a game and I have to stop and fiddle with the sound balancing controls to get the sound effects level to match the background music. And this isn't just about matching volume levels - This is about having sounds that just go well together. The bowstring snaps…the Krug grunts and spider screams…the water flowing and wind rustling…it all comes together and meshes very well in with the music to create what sometimes feels like a dynamic symphony.

    The best counter-example I can think of for this is Wipeout. Wipeout has a fantastic techno soundtrack, but the sound effects in the game are thoroughly underwhelming, and totally drowned out by the music. There's no real engine hum or weapons noise…just the periodic injection of explosions and announcer speech. I can play with the audio controls all I want, but the sound isn't ever going to "mesh" like it does in Dungeon Siege. Diablo is even guilty of this in places. While the score to Diablo II is, in my opinion, better than the score in Diablo, Diablo does a better job of matching sound effects to the music playing at the time than Diablo II did. It's a subtle point that greatly increases your enjoyment of the environment, as it helps to immerse you further in the game.

    Lasting Impressions Go the the next page
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    1. Introduction
    2. Plot/Presentation
    3. Gameplay
    4. Graphics/Sound
    5. Lasting Impressions
    6. Pros & Cons/Conclusion
    7. Score Breakdown

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