My wife and I finished playing the multiplayer level of Dungeon Siege last night.
When Diablo II came out a couple of years ago, we were hooked. We spent many months of late nights killing baddies and ploughing through levels.
Dungeon Siege was, well, playable, for the most part. Technically the game is quite good (though the user interface gets in the way during tough fights, and you can find yourself typing frantic keyboard commands to use health potions into a chat window). The automatic specialization of characters is interesting (though some of the fun in Diablo is planning your character’s skills).
However, things definitely need tuning and fixing. If you find yourself outside of town without any health potions, you’re pretty much toast. Likewise, the game forgets any waypoints that you’ve accomplished, so if you’ve been playing for an hour and are only halfway to your destination, you can’t save the game state and return later. If you’re a magic-user, you usually find the spells you need in creature drops; there’s really not much you can buy in the shops.
If I had to summarize DS in a single word, it would be “Slogging.” You spend an ungodly amount of time slogging around, slogging back to town if you’re out of potions, slogging to resurrection points if you’ve been killed, and so forth. A bit of teleportation would have helped the game move along more briskly.
The reward for finishing the multiplayer quest? Well, the ground shakes a bit and your quest is marked “completed.” That’s about it. Kind of a let-down. (“Typical Microsoft panache,” was my comment when it dawned on us — and it took a little while to figure out — that we’d actually finished the game).
But beyond all of this is something that an ex-cow-orker of mine (Doug Crockford) said many years ago at Atari. The game’s levels are pretty, but kind of monotonous after a while. “Never twice the same, never once very much different.” Even when you’re trashing a really powerful dragon, you pretty much just sit back and whale at the beast, and it gets boring. Whack, whack, drink health potion, whack whack, drink mana potion, repeat until the critter’s dead. Ho hum. You can see the AI in action, and it’s generally pretty dumb and predictable.
While I sometimes return to Diablo II for an hour or so of joyful mayhem, I think that Dungeon Siege is going to stay on the shelf; it just doesn’t have the depth or polish of the Blizzard titles.
I’m pretty sure that GPW / MS is going to take a great game engine and do some very whizzy things with it in the future. [Users of SourceSafe: Oh, just shut up 🙂 ]