Saturday, August 06, 2005

 

Dungeon Siege 2 Demo

SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE DEMO. I spoil certain plot details of the demo below.

The demo is pretty good. For one thing, it starts you off in 800x600 mode for the default so be sure to go change your graphics settings. I bumped it up to 1280x1024 and it looked much nicer. The textures though, still look kind of muddy for some reason. For whatever reason
the graphics in DS2 just don't look as crisp and clean as DS1's graphics. In some ways they are better (more polys on the characters I believe), and maybe it's just the opening areas, but overall I was not blown away by graphics like I would have expected to be, since DS1 was
ahead of it's time graphically I guess I thought DS2 would follow in that tradition. But, graphics, of course, aren't everything.

I played through the first little bit where you're a mercenary working for the army of the Big Bad. I think the opening movies with the dragons carrying the troop transports was pretty sweet. I like the fact that you start the game off on the "wrong" side, that's an interesting
twist.

I am only just now getting the mission as the slave to go and destroy the towers of the invaders, and just kind of starting out there. I'm playing a half-giant melee type character and I'm having problems not having enough healing potions it seems. DS2 is much, much more action oriented than DS1. There is no "set the orders and then watch what happens" in this game. You have to actively seek out targets and press the right mouse button to attack them, and it seems to me that even though holding the RMB down on an enemy makes you attack continuously, it seems to be more responsive if you just keep pounding RMB on the baddies. But maybe I'm just imagining that.

Your henchmen seem to be brain dead. For example, in the opening sequence, I had a magic-using character helping me out, but when he ran out of mana he would just stand around instead of switching to melee. So I would have to switch him to melee myself, or sometimes I'd just press "M" to have him quaff a mana potion so he could keep blasting. The good news is that magic seemed to be very powerful, his fire bolts were killing the baddies quickly and at range. The reason I picked a melee character is so that I could "tank" for my henchmen who will be
ranged attackers (magic, or bow). Plus that way I could hopefully control aggro that way. I'm hoping I can find some better armor soon, because now I'm just soaking up damage like a sponge and can't last too long against multiple opponents.

I'd say melee-focused characters get kind of screwed at the start. I have died a LOT. And death sucks. You basically have to run back to your corpse "naked" or lose 25% of your gold and still run back to your corpse "clothed". When you click your corpse after a brisk walk, you get your stuff back (that you were wearing). But the good news is you can wear an alternate set of gear for your "corpse runs". I've noticed that when you save your game it works like D2... monsters respawn back in the areas you've completed. So I guess I could go back and kill easier mobs to build up my melee skill some.

Music was more Jeremy Soul remixes of the themes from DS1, it all sounded very good and somewhat familiar. Sound effects are decent. Voice acting so far has been decent, but nothing terribly great. The "queen bitch of the universe" that is your jailor once you get captured
had a lot of lines where she was supposed to sound "cold" and pissed off at you, but her lines, delivered one line per click as most RPGs do, just didn't flow that well. But not terrible either, I haven't encountered any voice acting that was overly annoying or sounding like
programmers did it. Overall sound has been as good as DS1, maybe better.

Story wise, this game has a better story than DS1. Lets face it, DS1's story was a flimsy excuse to send you through hordes and hordes of monsters, and hell if I could actually figure out what was happening. In the first 2 hours of DS2, however, not only does your character witness a major event with the Big Bad, but his best friend gets whacked, and your character gets taken prisoner, and essentially you switch sides. Oh yeah, and you rescue some people and win over some of your capturers so they think you're on their side now. I mean, things are actually happening to your character in this game, not just wandering along a path. Although yah, there's a lot of wandering along in this game but to me the story seems stronger. YMMV.

On Game Balance - one of the big complaints by hardcore RPGers was the the item drop balance and overall class balance system in DS1 was lacking.

I'm not sure this is fixed. For one thing without talking about specific mechanics that you thought were broken in DS1 I won't know if those are fixed or not in DS2. Plus I just don't have enough play time in with enough variety of character types to be able to judge if there are balancing issues or not. So really this kind of question will have to wait until after I can play the full game.

One thing I have noticed is that item drops "seem to be" (so far) at least roughly equivalent to your current level of skill. I've found junk I can't wear, but it's usually for a different "class" (set of skills?) and not meant for my character type at all. I did find one really swank "purple"
item that I have to wait a level to weild. But nothing like in DS1 where you find an item and you're not even remotely qualified to wear it.

DS2 keeps the same "skills level up the more you use them" system that DS1 had, rather than a point-buy like D&D or such. But it also has point-buy in a skill-tree type situation a lot like Diablo 2's where your lower skills are prequesites for some higher ones, etc. These typically add
modifiers to your existing skills, like increasing your % chance for a critical, or giving you a % bonus to HP.

Also I think the game is essentially a straight class-bassed system. The game even tells you "don't be wishy-washy on which skills you use or your character is fucked." OK it didn't actually use those words but it DID actually say something to that effect during the tutorial. I haven't tried to see if it's true or not. I am strictly a melee character, though. I personally think that's ass-stupid, why even have a "skill-up by doing" if you're going to penalize characters that try to diversify. Oh well, at least with the henchmen you can get access to all the abilities in your
party, presumably.

The bad thing about the potions (or good thing depending on how you look at it) is that they heal you semi-slowly, so you can't wait until the last second, chug a potion, and pop back into action. Your health slowly rises to the level that the potion can max cure you to over a period of time (few seconds really but it's not instant like in D2). So I found myself running away when my health started to get low and drinking a potion on the way, then when it healed up, run back and attack some more, etc. Hit and run tactics. Might be easier for a ranged attacker to do this.

The game does have instant-town-portal a lot like D2 has, except that it takes longer to do (they show a stupid graphic like the ending credits to Dr. Who or something ... that's what teleporting looks like I guess).

I can see this game being a hella fun multiplayer if they didn't totally fuck up the save system this time (meaning, they have enough "waypoints" in there that you don't spend all evening fighting your way back to where you left off last time).

I guess the big question is, as always, IS IT FUN?!

For me, yeah, I was having fun with the demo. I'll probably play the demo to the end of it, however long that is. If I'm still having fun by the end of the demo I'll most likely get this one. After all, it's not like we're suffering from a deluge of great RPG titles.

But, this game is not going to change your mind if you didn't like DS1, unless your complaint was that there wasn't enough "action" because it certainly has more of that (since the player is required to do a lot more than just issue orders). The game does have a lot of hotkeys for
issuing orders and such, and I'm sure when I get some henchmen in my party those will come in handy. But as it starts you off solo, it plays a lot like Diablo II in that you have to actively click on your targets to keep attacking (you can hold down RMB, but I've found that, like D2,
it's much more fun to just keep pounding the mouse button). If you didn't like DS1 because there wasn't enough RPG elements, like making choices that affect your outcome and strong dialogue, I do not think DS2, at least, not based on the demo 2 hrs in, is going to change your
mind.

I'm hoping that like DS1, DS2 will ship with a good editor, and that a decent mod community will evolve aroudn this title like it did for DS1. It will be interesting to see if any mod-developers for DS1 port their mods over to the DS2 engine, also, or if that's even going to be feasible.

The demo is large. 1.5gb. Plus you'll need a lot of room on the HD to install it. The EXE will extract into a temp folder eating up another 1.5gb or so, then it installs from that directory, eating up around 2gb or so after the install. I didn't actually check the size of the demo
directory after install but I'm guestimating 2gb or so. You can of course delete the EXE you downloaded and the temp folder where it extracted to after you've got the demo installed, but I'd say you'll want at least 5gb free before trying to install this demo. I noticed that someone said the demo was on a PC Gamer disc, so if you don't have broadband i'd recommend getting that, since downloading 1.5gb via modem sound improbable at best. It took around 45 minutes to download it via my cable modem from GameSpot's DLX with an average speed of about
570kb/sec.

Ok, welp, that's my 2cents on the demo.

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