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Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna Review
developer: Mad Doc Software
PII 333, 128MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 1.5GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 11, 03 (released)
|» All About Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna on ActionTrip|
Before I pass my final judgment on Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna, let me just say that features-wise It is hard for me to add anything about this expansion pack that I haven't already discussed in my hands-on preview. Expansions are like that. It's hard inventing new things to say about a more elaborate version of an already popular game. So, before we continue, if you're a newbie to the world of Dungeon Siege, or to this add-on, please take a moment to read the hands-on preview. OK, I'm waiting... how was that? Good, lousy? OK, let's continue then.
Oh hell, I can't go on without at least giving the most basic outline of the plot. (Ed. - Which you stole right out of the manual, admit it.) (A black crow whispered the plot in my ear as I was dreaming about Power Rangers. - 2Lions) (Ed. - YOU SICK BASTARD!!! Although the Pink Ranger is hella hot.) Your adventures take place in the Kingdom of Ehb, one of the youngest states bordering the Plain of Tears. "Protected by a ring of superb fortifications and heir to the 10th Legion - arguably one of the best trained armies in the world - the Kingdom of Ehb has, so far, been shielded from the raids and invasions that have devastated many of its neighboring states on the Plain." Unfortunately for the World of Ehb this fragile state of tranquility is about to be shattered. An evil entity by the name of Shadowjumper seeks vengeance on its captors and is prepared to use the Staff of Stars, a weapon so powerful it threatens the very existence of Ehb. Naturally, it is up to you and your party of up to eight companions to hack and slash your way through numerous dungeons and spooky caverns and stop the Shadowjumper.
The most important thing to note about Legends of Aranna is that it's in many ways both a qualitative and quantitative advancement over the original. It's really, really rare that gamers are treated to such a phenomenon but let's just be thankful that such things still happen. The game's layered story offers you a chance to avenge the death of your parents as well as save the world, while the side-quests ensure that the gameplay is more open-ended than in the original. Naturally, with this more elaborate approach to game design come even more new enemies, spells, weapons, boss monsters and so on. One of the secrets to a good action RPG is being able to create a game world that's visually immersive, and combine it with some addictive leveling, item handling, and well-paced combat sequences. To that respect, Mad Doc has pretty much managed to do it all. They not only expanded the original Dungeon Siege universe, they managed to deepen the gameplay and make it even more addictive. The key word here is addictive. Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna is so addictive I had a really hard time of letting it go. On top of that, Aranna provides many hours of gameplay, more so than many of the full games that are currently on the market. Finally, those of you who are new to the Dungeon Siege franchise will be delighted to hear that the expansion comes bundled with the original game and that you can play the original now with the addition of all the new weapons and spells from the expansion.
Besides broadening the gameplay, Mad Doc has also made some subtle changes to the gameplay mechanics. They've tweaked the AI code (enemies act more believably now) and added small but significant enhancement to the interface that make the combat more fluent and enjoyable. Here's a helpful hint though, learn the keyboard shortcuts!
Considering you get all this for thirty bucks, I see no reason why every action RPG or DS fan shouldn't go out and grab this one right now. If you're into addictive games, I can almost guarantee you won't be disappointed with LoA. If you read my hands-on preview you'll see that the multiplayer mode offers a way for you to save your quest, which is certainly an awesome and welcome addition for those of you who prefer the online experience. There's no question that Legends of Aranna offers solid replay value and more than enough content to justify its price tag.
My only beef with the add-on had to do with signs of inconsistency in level design and a slightly unbalanced gameplay difficulty towards the end of the single-player campaign. Certain dungeons would appear too similar to others, and I would sometimes come across sections that were too linear and restricted. As far as the difficulty balance is concerned, I felt that my party members became too strong towards the end of the game, dealing massive death quite easily to my opposition. (Ed. - This massive ass-kicking has been brought to you by: Bad Balancing, when you can kick the ever-loving shit out of everything with one hit.) (It's not that bad, but it does stand out. - 2Lions) Of course, I did finish every side quest and break every barrel and crate along the way to buy the best equipment, but I still feel that the last few chapters could've been a bit more challenging. I guess there is always the option of upping the difficulty level. I finished the single-player campaign on 'normal.'
One other thing that bothered me about Aranna, but this is only a very slight annoyance, is that there is no way to switch to resolutions higher than 1024x768. The rather aging Dungeon Siege code didn't seem at all dated to me. The weather effects and dynamic shadows and lighting appeared quite satisfactory for an action RPG. The musical soundtrack and voicing were equally as good, so the only problem I had in terms of the game's appearance had to do with the lack of higher resolutions, as I felt my system was quite capable of handling it.
Overall though, I immensely enjoyed playing this game. According to Mad Doc, the Dungeon Siege tools are quite easy to work with and offer plenty of creative freedom. They also had a lot of help from Gas Powered Games. Not only have they done the franchise proud, they have in many ways succeeded in besting the original. Good job, guys!
8.6 Very Good
Plenty of good content, solid replay value, very addictive;
Examples of repetitive level design, difficulty balance a bit off, resolutions higher than 1024 not supported.
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