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Dungeon Siege
  Previewed By: Marty Weisenburger
Some of the most innovative and successful games in recent memory have intuitively mixed two genres. Throw a first person shooter and a strategy game into a blender, and out comes Rainbow Six. What about action and role playing? Try Diablo. Combine adventure and stealth? Looking Glass` Thief is the result. Now imagine the elements of a realtime strategy title and a classic dungeon crawl together seamlessly. Sound appealing? That's what the creator of Total Annihilation had in mind.

In Dungeon Siege, you'll take control of up to 10 different characters and depart on a quest to discover the reason behind the monsters that have been attacking villages in hordes.The game's world is filled with both NPCs that may join you and plenty of creatures to smite. Although the game may take place in a typical fantasy land, Dungeon Siege should, if nothing else, give RPGers one thing they do crave - sheer size. The Siege Engine allows the designers - as well as gamers - to create a world of any imaginable size. As a plus, you can expect the world to be seamless, and have no load times whatsoever; gone are the days of waiting every time you enter a cave or stroll into a tavern.

A large part of Dungeon Siege is character develop, as players will have complete control over the progression of their parties. As opposed to selecting traits and choosing weapon proffeicencies at the start of the game, characters develop the necessary skills as the game develops. As with Diablo and similar titles, there will be almost no learning curve. In addition, any puzzles will be minimal, so players will be able to concentrate on the exploration and character progression aspects of the game.

Of course, you'd expect a wide variety of spells from such a game, and Dungeon Siege will be no slouch in the magic department. As is the norm, gamers can utilize both offensive and defensive schools of magic. Not only can you expect some pretty spell effects from the game, but the Siege FX engine will allow users to create their own spells and effects.

"So," you wonder, "Where do the RTS elements come into play?"

Well, in Dungeon Siege, battles will be driven in a similar way that realtime strategy titles are. When the player's party encounters a group of foes, his or her group of adventurers will follow a set of orders and tactics in battle. To put the game's RTS half in perspective, you might imagine a battle in Myth erupting while in a game of Diablo. Control is also reminiscent of an RTS - Dragging a box around several characters at a time selects them, and commands are mouse driven. Considering that Dungeon Siege developer Gas Powered Games in headed up by Chris Taylor of Total Annihilation fame, it makes sense that the game would have a good amount of strategy elements intact.

Like almost every other type of game shipping nowadays, Dungeon Siege will include multiplayer components. Two modes of play will be included in the game - the first allows multiple players to embark upon the single player quest, which plays out as you'd imagine. The second mode is designed to be a shorter, faster paced game. In a (relatively) smaller world, objectives are set out that include capturing an item, defeating a monster, or finding an NPC. The quests are user definable and can be set by the host. Up to ten players can play together via the MSN Gaming Zone.

Dungeon Siege looks to be the next step in the action/RPG genre. As much fun as Diablo was, the combat stuck to simple hack `n slash, which annoyed a few hardcore roleplayers. Expect Dungeon Siege to make this style of play more strategic with it's RTS elements and more replayable with it's emphasis on character development and exploration.
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