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Dungeon Siege Ii

(Microsoft; US: Jul 2007)

A Popcorn Flick for the PC

Even more bizarre than the news that infamous German video game director Uwe Boll is filming a movie based on Microsoft’s moderately successful PC hack-n-slash series Dungeon Siege—is the cast itself.

The generically titled In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale features Southern-fried geezer Burt Reynolds as a medieval king, Scream and Scooby-Doo goof Matthew Lillard as a royal duke, and Transporter action star Jason Statham as a farmer. (And, oh yeah, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, and Leelee Sobieski are also involved.)

Why such a cast was assembled might be the first question. (What, none of the Baldwin brothers were available to play an evil wizard?) After gazing at that ill-cast, well, cast, one must ask, “A Dungeon Siege movie… really?”

Not that they are bad games, necessarily—Dungeon Siege II is among the best of its kind—but they are merely a cog in a long line of entertaining, but story-starved action/RPG’s.

When Mark Twain once said “familiarity breeds contempt,” he probably wasn’t speaking specifically about RPGs. Nonetheless, if Mr. Twain were alive today and a PC owner, he might be dismayed to find that it’s been almost a decade since Diablo was released, yet the hack-n-slash model remains virtually unchanged. Dungeon Siege II adheres religiously to the formula.

Like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, and the rest of its kind, Dungeon Siege II uses a threadbare fantasy plot as an excuse for the player to mash their mouse buttons into oblivion by fighting countless hordes of bad guys.

The story, a continuation of the first game, is some nonsense about finding shards of a legendary shield because the big bad guy Valdis has just obtained a powerful legendary sword. Apparently both sword and shield were used a millennium ago in a world war of sorts and ended up almost destroying everything.

It’s a pretty rote fantasy plot, with traces of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series etched in for good measure. You’ll probably find yourself skipping over much of it so you can get on with the action, despite some extensive voice acting.

The gameplay itself is also very familiar and repetitive. You can simply right-click on an enemy creature to attack, or you can hold the button to unleash a nonstop assault. There is very little skill or strategy involved in the combat, but then again there’s something strangely mesmerizing about it for awhile. Unfortunately, hacking up hordes of enemies gets old, especially since bad guys never get tougher, except for the occasional boss battle.

For the most part, enemies come in steady mindless waves with no real variation, waiting for you to hit them with swords, shoot them with arrows, or cast spells. Those who are new to the genre might enjoy the visceral thrills of nonstop hacking and slashing, but if you’ve played games like this before, you might feel a little disappointed with the lack of innovation.

Where Dungeon Siege II shines above most other action-RPGs is its intuitive questing system and slick interface. Though it borrows heavily from popular MMOs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, it’s nice to see main and subquests well-documented through the use of quest tabs. And since there are helpful guiding arrows on main quests and tons of tutorial information, it’s near impossible to get stuck.

Despite its non-innovative, repetitive gameplay and tired storyline, there’s still something addictive and fun about Dungeon Siege II.

It’s slick, well-presented, and the gimmicks work, just like a good summer popcorn flick. Quick, someone call Burt Reynolds.


Ryan Smith is a writer/journalist who recently moved back to Illinois after living in Missouri and Los Angeles for the past decade. A Land of Lincoln (Springfield, IL) native, Ryan won several local and state journalism awards in his five years as a news reporter in central Missouri. His freelance work has appeared in publications such as Relevant Magazine, Vox, and Escape. Ryan has penned multimedia reviews and features for PopMatters since 2005.

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