Oh, what could've been: Space Siege could have stolen a lot of Diablo III's thunder by offering up an addictive hack-and-slash action experience set in a sci-fi setting. But instead, it ends up shooting itself in the foot.

Every few years the folks at Gas Powered Games deliver another instalment of their successful Siege series. Until now they've kept the series grounded in a familiar fantasy hack-n-slash action RPG universe but with the release of Space Siege things have taken a decided turn away from those roots, with unfortunate consequences.

Space Siege begins with a fleet of vicious aliens known only as the Kerak descending upon Earth, the result of failed colonisation programs. Just as the planet is being destroyed, a single ship - the Armstrong - manages to make its way out of the system, only to discover a Kerak pod has attached itself to its hull. You assume the role of Seth Walker, one of the ships trained security detail, who leads the resistance against the alien boarding party. As you repel the aliens, something dramatic happens to the ship and you have to solve the whole mess. 

On the whole, the plot seems badly tacked on - several plot points are never fully explained, characters exist only as shallow foils to give excuses to travel to different parts of the ship, and the game's large twist is so predictable that you see it coming from a mile away.

All this could easily have been forgiven if only the gameplay of Space Siege was up to the task. Games like Diablo and Dungeon Siege, which gave birth to Space Siege, would set you loose in detailed environments with tons of interesting loot and character skills serving as an addictive incentive to keep playing.

All Space Siege had to do was just copy this formula; that's all it had to do. Literally. Just be Diablo in space. That's it. But instead, it's a shallow imitation with none of the fun. The loot system is non-existant, replaced by boring "spare parts" which are collected and then used at periodically placed workbenches to improve characters armour, weapons, or your cybernetic helper, the HR-V unit.

New weapons, instead of being dropped at random, are dolled out at regular intervals throughout the storyline, which basically eliminates one of the main draws of games in this genre.

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Space Siege could have stolen a lot of Diablo III's thunder by offering up an addictive hack-and-slash action experience set in a sci-fi setting. But instead, it ends up shooting itself in the foot.

You are who you are


The character leveling system is also incredibly boring. Levelling, classes, and skill development has been almost entirely removed. The only progression seen throughout the game is the allocation of a few skill points once you complete each major objective, which can then be added into either combat or engineering traits.

The only really interesting trait choices come when the idea of giving your character cybernetic parts such as a new eye which helps targeting enemies, or a metallic chest which will improve your health. Installing new parts reduces your base humanity, opening up new skills, but blocking off others. On the whole it's a good idea, but like most other elements of the game it falls short.

While some skills are blocked off by adding new parts, they are a distinct minority, and players stand to gain a good deal more by just installing every part they find. There's also a morality angle - you become more powerful at the expense of your humanity - but it doesn't have any significant bearing on the story.

The level design also leaves you wanting for more. You're mostly confined to the metal lined halls of the Armstrong and everything looks exactly the same. Asides from a couple of embellishments in the background, nearly every level has the same bland, boxy construction.

Several times it came to mind that I wasn't going through a modern colony ship, but merely a drafty warehouse with far too little to show off. No matter what zone of the ship you travel to you'll get a sense of deja vu, that you've probably been here before and didn't like it the first time around. Contrast that to Diablo, which had some incredibly memorable level designs and Space Siege's palette seems even more bland by comparison.

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Space Siege: Specs

  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2/Vista
  • 2.6GHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 3GB available hard-drive space
  • 128MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader/Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6800/ATI 9800 or better)
  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2/Vista
  • 2.6GHz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 3GB available hard-drive space
  • 128MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader/Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6800/ATI 9800 or better)

OUR VERDICT

Space Siege must have seemed a good idea on the drawing board but the execution definitely leaves something to be desired. It had so much potential; just imagine the loot and skills they could have built into the game! Unfortunately, Gas Powered Games forget all the elements that make the games in this genre so damn fun and addictive. It's really a shame because had they done it right, it would have made the wait for Diablo III that much more bearable. But as it stands, this is without a doubt the worst addition to the Siege series yet.

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