by Wesley Roberts
reviewed on PC
Welcome to the Jungle!!!
That's one of the feelings I got from playing this game. Once you load it and get through the obligatory, though beautiful, cut-scenes, you are placed on a beach as a Mercenary. The main story is fairly open ended, even if linear. Let me explain. You do not get into this game with the generic story of some big bad evil wizard taking over the world, and you are the lone adventurer sent to destroy him. The game simply starts with you as a Mercenary and soon after, you realize that all you want to do is pack up and go home. To facilitate that trip, you must accomplish a myriad of tasks. Without giving away much of the plot, be prepared to perform quests to further the story, and be ready to be limited in your movements around the map, at least for the first hours of gameplay.
Your first few minutes into the game will be a thinly veiled tutorial, walking you through the basics of movement, attacking, opening boxes, smashing crates, and the like. Once you have learned a part of the game, your 'Journal' is updated with the same information, for later reference. This can be helpful for later if you need to research a part of the game. Completing the tutorial brings us to another cut scene, and a save point. Now we can truly get started.
As with Dungeon Siege I, character creation (a part most of you are particularly interested in) is a bit odd compared to other games in the genre. As with any RPG, it is a vital part of the game. You start with the basics, choosing a race and sex and appearance. That's it, no muss, no fuss. Much like in its predecessor, your character evolves as you play but the heart of Dungeon Siege II lives in the Class Selection, and the leveling. There are four classes namely: Ranged, Fighter, Combat Mage and Nature Mage. You don't just pick these though. You 'become' a class because you use its main feature more than you do others. So when you use a melee weapon, you gain melee experience and will edge towards becoming a Fighter. When you use a ranged weapon, you gain ranged experience and hence edge towards the Ranged class. The same goes for Combat and Nature magic.
Now, you could just do everything with your hero, and become a 'Jack of all Trades', but it's usually wiser to pick a skill and stick with it. Specialized characters are far stronger than their generalist counterparts. As your party grows you can have certain members specialize and thus create a balanced team. When you begin your game, you start with one partner so you can start building your skills. Personally, I went with melee for my hero. The next members you pick up can be set up to perform the other classes, since you get them fairly early. Once you start gaining levels, whether it is your hero, or other party members, you can place skill points towards specializations, by class. These will increase some stats, damage dealt, or allow you to perform a feat. The feat you get will be determined by class, and skill. It is reusable, and recommended to be used often, especially with the Bosses in the game.
Dragging it along
The inventory system is much the same as the original game, whereby items take up a number of slots in your limited space. A new and welcome aspect of inventory management is that you can now select an item from your inventory and then look at your stats to see if what you are holding is better or worse than what you are currently equipped with. Something I'm less thrilled about is how items are exchanged between characters. When you are in the inventory of the first and select an item, you must drop it on another character's portrait and then switch to that character. It would have been more logical switching to another character while holding the item. It's a minor inconvenience that can fortunately be circumvented by opening all characters inventories at once and mix and match from there.
Another item of note is that some weapons or armor, or mainly anything that is dropped, may or may not require a special skill, or stat so it can be used. You may for instance find a bow that requires the user to have a Ranged skill of 6. If you do not have a character with that skill, you cannot use the weapon. Obviously you can sell the items you've snatched up and can't use. As with the original, you'll find better items than you'll be able to afford in the stores.
There is a wonderful Quest system in your Journal that tracks all quests you are currently working on, including telling you what your next step should be. The system tracks both main and side quests. It automatically updates as you complete portions of the quests. On top of that, your overhead map will display a marker to help locate a quest objective.
As you explore your surroundings, you'll notice that there are many objects crying out for your attention. An Incantation Shrine will allow you to chant a party spell that will grant special effects to your party. You must first however, have learned a chant. The game is extremely forgiving with the introduction of each new item or special circumstance. Trust me, when you come across your first Shrine, you'll be introduced to its use.
Another special object is the Teleportation location. You find these mainly after you've completed a specific task set before you. This Teleporter will instantly take you to any other Teleporter that you have already activated, and the main one back at the first town you are introduced to. Use these often, and if you find the right Nature Spell, you can make your own 'one use, round trip' Teleporter. This is great for those times, when you are in a dungeon, fat with loot, and need to make a trip to the store.
No Pros and Cons at this time