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Review by: Phillip Hiner
Published: October 11, 2005
In 1997, Blizzard released Diablo, which introduced a new genre of gaming to the wide spectrum of gamers. With Diablo II, they refined and broadened the scope of their vision to such a level that we are still, years after its peak in popularity, seeing Diablo II look-alikes. And I will admit that upon my first glimpse of Microsoft’s Dungeon Siege 2, I had already deemed it to be yet another game to be added to the pile of misfit Diablo II clones. I will further admit that I was very wrong.
The story behind Dungeon Siege 2 is completely separate from that of the first one, and, while sometimes exceedingly cliché, is a very gripping experience. As well, there is a multitude of side quests which further enrich the plot of the game. So many, in fact, that most of the game’s duration is devoted to these optional missions. If one were to skip all except the primary objectives, completion could be achieved in less than 30 hours. But, to do everything possible takes this span easily into the 80+ hour bracket.
After the first high quality cut-scene, the player gains control of their character and learn that he is a mercenary in Valdis’ army. But, after an assault on a dryad temple and gaining one of the pieces of the fabled Shield of Azunai, Valdis turns on his mercenary henchmen and the character blacks out. This betrayal sets in motion a plot that carries the player around the world of Aranna, seeking the rest of the shattered Shield of Azunai in order to oppose Valdis, who wields Zaramoth’s Sword. These two artifacts, when whole, were what destroyed the First Age of Aranna in a cataclysmic upheaval of power when their wielders finally met one another on a battlefield. It is interesting to watch the character develop from an egocentric mercenary only concerned about his next paycheck to a valiant hero struggling to save the world (as I said, the plot can be rather cliché) from the vile clutches of the warlord Valdis.
Dungeon Siege 2 stays mostly true to the gameplay of its predecessor, but has some pleasant surprises of newly added goodness. All of the major cities within the game contain Pet Shops, whose name is a fair descriptor of their purpose. Pets take up the spot that another character within the party would otherwise contain, but there are benefits and drawbacks to using them rather than another character. Pets are not included in the division of experience points. Rather, they grow in size and power by being fed items, and the type of items they are fed determine what sort of bonuses are received when they are given enough to move to the next stage of maturity. If fed primarily melee weapons, they will grow in strength and if fed mage armor, they will gain more ac and mana. Freezy, my chilly pet ice elemental, ate a diet consisting almost entirely of potions, which are almost irritatingly overabundant, and grew to maturity, at which point he exuded an aura that vastly sped up the mana regeneration of anyone near him. While I am not certain how palatable it is to subsist on weapons and armor, a party will generally level faster, since the experience is being divided only among the non-pets.
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