When we reviewed the original Dungeon Siege three years ago we were bowled over by its graphics, addictive gameplay and absorbing plot line. So we have been eagerly awaiting its successor.
If you, too, were impressed by the first version of this Microsoft and Gas Powered Games collaboration, you will find yourself in familiar territory with DS II. It's the same mix of fighting and wizardry, combined with the goal of building up skills and amassing loot, but there are plenty of new features to set it apart from the original.
You kick off the game in the same manner: by choosing which race you want to play as. Each has a unique mix of skills. For example, Dryads make up for what they lack in strength with dexterity and intelligence, while Half-Giants are more brawn than brain, as you might expect.
A new feature in DS II is the skill tree system, which allows you to further refine your character's special features. Each time you move up a character level you win a point you can put towards your skills - so if you are a fighter, you can put your points towards combat attributes, such as 'weapon and shield'. These new skills can help you to increase your powers or provide you with super-strength techniques that have to be recharged between uses.
As with the original, the challenge isn't really made up by complex gameplay - in fact, hardened gamers might say it's really pretty easy, since it's hard to die and you are kept at a low level of difficulty for the entirety of your first trip through the game.
But that's not really the point; it's the storyline and the sub-plots that keep you amused. When you get tired of the main quest you can go off and do mini-quests that require you to solve puzzles along the way, giving the game plenty of longevity.
One of the characters we remembered fondly from the first version of the game was the mule, and he's back again, but even better. In DS I the mule was little more than a pack animal, kicking away vainly at the monsters until one of the main characters came to his rescue or he got killed. Now he is super mule, who can hold his own in combat and even gain new skills.
And the mule isn't the only animal companion you can get to tag along with you. There are several others that pop up along the way, sometimes as a reward for completing a task.To add abilities to any of the creatures you have to feed them special items - a bit weird, but it's nice to add a new dimension to these previously passive game elements.
As with most RPG games, the action consists of completing missions, hoovering up the plentiful loot that is scattered along the way and fighting off scary monsters who bar your path. And, as with the first game, it's all done in style. The graphics are fantastic, if rather demanding - a good graphics card and fast processor will help you get the most from this game.
There is a multiplayer version of the game as well as the solo setup, providing you with several options to play with and against others over the internet or a network. But there are problems with this - for example, it's hard to see where other players are, as the mini-map only shows them when they are nearby; there is no way to divide treasure, other than gold, between all the players; and only the player who clicks on a quest can read it, which can be rather annoying.