Just when geek chic seemed too lofty a concept to take hold, along comes Dungeon Siege
to prove that even role-playing games can be cool, as long as there's plenty of fighting in them.
Not surprisingly for an RPG, the story is set in a medieval world of sword and sorcery. Your society finds its 300-year stint of peace being wrecked by newly arisen hordes of the obligatory ancient evil. So it's time to down tools, pick them up again and beat the uglies to well past an inch of their lives. It really is that simple.
Just as easily mastered are Dungeon Siege's controls, with each character developing more skill, dexterity, strength and magic as they battle. Rather than picking a character class at the beginning of the game, your adventurers advance in the disciplines that you use the most, so wade in with your axe strength and your melee skills will improve, favour magic and your intelligence and magic skills increase. Controlling up to eight characters is also remarkably straightforward, they all have large and easily manageable inventories (you can get the handy addition of a pack mule instead of an eighth party member), and usually need no prompting from you to get stuck in.
Dungeon Siege isn't just easy on the brain, it's also a treat on the senses. Your journey takes you across dense forests, over dizzying precipices and through the odd dungeon; all are incredibly detailed and beautifully rendered. A reasonably well-thought-out camera mechanism compliments the spectacle, allowing you to take in everything from numerous different angles and distances.
The game's faults are few, and stem from the it's finer points. Character control can be fiddly, characters can get separated stepping on and off platforms and there is a fine-line balance between setting their combat option to defend (then seeing them get slaughtered by some archers) or to attack (and then seeing them throw caution to the wind, wade in and get slaughtered). Secondly, the game is quite linear, but this is arguably down to Gas Powered Games striving to make a simplified and more accessible adventure.
Dungeon Siege offers scant innovation, but does dish out cartloads of extremely polished and friendly adventuring, set in a beautifully realised world. Hard-core RPG fans may see it as a bit of a package holiday, but anyone who fancies walking a while in their sandals could do far worse.-Tae Mawson