I am told that there is an ancient enmity between people who consider themselves “jRPG fans” and people who consider themselves “cRPG fans”, which really only goes to show that people will bitch about anything.
I’m not about to get into the which-is-better thing, but empirically speaking, I guess I fall into the “jRPG fan” bucket. I’ve played tons of console RPGs since I first got hooked back in the Genesis days, but Dungeon Siege is the first game I’ve completed that falls definitively into the “cRPG” genre.
Well, I did complete Ultima III back on the Atari 8-bit, but I cheated to do it. I came close to finishing Ultima IV legitimately, but got hung up in the Abyss and never went back.
Being a cRPG, It’s got the create-your-own-hero thing going on, and you get to pick and choose your party members – you even have to pay most of them to join you. Game designers do this sort of thing for extra realism, I guess.
Then, it’s got characters who aren’t buttonholed into any specific job: you can take a dwarf who’s clearly designed to be a melee fighter and turn him into an archer, or into a mage if you really want to put a hell of a lot of effort in to it, and all the gear in the game is usable by any character who has the requisite stats to wear it.
So after you spend hours and hours casting spells to make your dwarf a mage, you can then turn around and spend hours and hours grinding melee until he can wear plate armor, too.
In short, you have a lot of character customization options, should you really want to get in to them.
I didn’t do much of that. As soon as I had half-a-dozen party members and a couple of mules, I pretty much gave them all jobs and let them go with it.
OK, so I made the dwarf into an archer and turned one nature mage into a combat mage, but eh, these weren’t big things.
The game does sacrifice some story logic for the sake of its openness. For example, let’s take the sad case of Merik and Merik’s staff.
Warning: Light spoiler follows.
At the end of chapter 3 (of 9), you meet a mage named Merik, who is quite upset because some goblins have stolen his staff, and it’s going to be used to destroy the world or something if they can unlock its powers.
At the end of chapter 4 (of 9), you get his staff back.
What was rather amusing about this was that Merik’s staff had a required INT of 28, and Merik himself at this point only had an INT of 23.
So Merik couldn’t even use his own staff until, oh, chapter 6 or so.
This sort of thing dogged me throughout the game, in fact. There’s a point, very near the end of the game, where you’re told:
“Hey, you’re the genuine article. Go forth and save the world. Here’s a shedload of ancient magical artifacts for your own personal use in saving the world.”
Unfortunately, only one of my six characters had stats high enough to use any of the ancient magical artifacts I was supposed to use to save the world, so they pretty much just went and saved the world with their old stuff.
At least I wasn’t penalized for doing so.
All told, it was a good time, particularly the last third or so of it where the action ratcheted up a notch or four. It wasn’t a hugely long game, which was actually something I quite appreciate – I have a couple of games that, even though they’re reputedly AAA-class RPGs, they’re also known for taking 80+ hours to play through and I cringe at the thought of that (Okami, I’m looking at you).
Oh, and it has a really neat dragon:
Downsides: The story is very patchy in the middle – in the start of the game, you pick up a bunch of books that you can read to get a sense of the world, and towards the end of the game you get lots of NPC interaction to tell you what’s going on, but there’s a middle bit where either there’s not much story or I missed the NPCs that would give me the quests where I could get more of the story.
That coincides with the dreaded Swamp Level. It took a bit of mental fortitude to stick with the game through that part.
Oh, and yes, it has a Lava Level, but it’s quite nice looking and relatively short, so I didn’t mind it at all.
You have been stalked. 🙂
Well hello there, stalker dorf. 🙂