One small step for man, one giant leap backwards for RPG kind. So many things it does wrong, and only a few things right, makes this a below average title! A huge let down, as I was looking forward to this one!
I was looking forward to this game, I really was! I had really enjoyed Dungeon Siege, though I never finished it. My attention had been grabbed, wondering how they could convert an RPG for the Space age. Normally these games are set in the “ye olden” times. I hoped this would be good, a new change of era, might set the way for some more titles. This might lead to a richer diversity and they wouldn't have to revert back to the old ways.
The first introductory screen lets down the whole story. Basically, in a nutshell, it goes a little something like this: Humans explore space, meet the Kerak, who decide to exterminate all of us. I feel so much shame for the developers, Gas Powered Games; my suggestion is fire the script writer, if you even had one to start with. I'd hate to see how they would write “The Usual Suspects” or “The Crying Game”. Perhaps something like this “In the late 22nd century mankind took to the stars ..." a good start, followed by a quick dash to the end, "he's Kaiser Souzai!” or "She's a Man!”
While the story does evolve a little, it's the initial setup, which creates such an unbelievable tone of disbelief. So much, that it becomes a game that you care nothing of the story. Space Siege is all about what is happening on the ship, and the internal struggles going on, no real mention of the bigger picture. But one thing to praise Space Siege for is the different endings, or the choices you can make. Near the end, you are given a choice, work for the dark side, or stay on the good. While this choice comes way too late, because you have been good all the way so far. What I do commend them for, is the story continues if you choose to join the dark side. What normally happens in games, if presented with such a choice, and you choose bad, the game ends prematurely. Well-done, you're bad, game over, roll cut scene!
Still the storyline follows a similar path, despite the side you choose to join, only a change in the dialogue. At least by allowing a natural conclusion of the game, it means that you don't feel ripped off! A word of warning though, if you are thinking of seeing all four endings, don't go for cybernetic enhancements until after this point, otherwise you will have to replay the whole game. Depending on your humanity level, there is a good and a bad ending, and two possible outcomes for each. As for the cut off point I am not sure, but it definitely has to be higher than 57%.
As for an RPG, it is fairly weak too. For starters there are no characters to interact with. Only a few stragglers you have to rescue, but contact is minimal afterward. Any spoken dialogue you do get, is normally in the form of an order. Most of the stories involved, are learnt through data pads, which people leave lying around. You know the story; one man is all by himself, trapped, alone, and in imminent danger. So he picks up a data pad to scribble a few sentences, just in case some passerby might read it. The one story, which grabbed my interest, is of a father looking for his daughter. However, suddenly, about halfway through the game, it stops. The story doesn't pick up until the end of the game for its finale, by that time you've stopped caring.
It was only afterwards, when I truly thought about it, I realize there wasn't any music. Sound Effects, yes, Voice Actors, yes, but actual music, not a note. Sound Effects are all good, well placed, and lend well to the situation on board. The Voice Acting is a little shaky, and sometimes listening to them was like taking a bitter “suppository”, but after a moment of pain it's not too bad. But apart from the music in the beginning FMV introduction, it's all quiet on the western front, not even one Christmas carol. This is probably why you aren't drawn into the game, as sound, much understated, is an important part of your emotions. You only have to think of “Apocalypse Now”, and every one immediately knows what I am talking about, as they start to sing "Ride of the Valkyries". That's how music can draw a person in, make them apart of the story, give them an understanding to the emotion you're trying to convey. Does this make Space Siege emotionless? Did I notice the music was missing, no, but now that I think of it, maybe this game could have been 10 times better with some atmospheric music!
You are Seth Walker! A mix of ye old Wizard, Warrior, and Archer, no choosing, you are all three. While you think the story is about the survival of the human species, it's not. Most of the time you are made aware of your humanity, to cybernetically enhance, or not too, that is the question? Any enhancement will affect your humanity levels, though it is questionable by how much. The direct effect is on your weapons and armor. Choosing enhancements will allow you to pick up heavier weapons, such as the minigun, while keeping your humanity will allow you to obtain different special abilities.
Statistics have been simplified drastically; basically there are three stat pages, one for you, HR-V, and for each of your weapons. These pages allow you to increase speed, damage rate, armor, and other such abilities. The fourth page is equipment you can buy, like health packs and grenades, and where most of your money should be spent.
HR-V, the side kick, pronounced Harvey. He is a little robot that accompanies you on your quest. Following you around, saving you more times than you'd care to mention, him I care about. On the many trips around the ship, you'll find proximity mine fields. One trick is to command HR-V to walk through them for you. He obeys your every command, with ten times the personality of any other character, and never utters a single word. While it's really heart wrenching to see him on fire, don't be too sad if he dies, as you can revive a new one, at the numerous manufacturing points dotted around the game. Which makes me wonder why you can't have an army of them?
All characters that you do interact with are disappointing. No personal stories, means you don't know why they act the way they do. This means there is no emotion for them, and as a result you, again, just don't care. The main characters are Pilot, Gina, Jake, De Soto, and you, Seth. Pilot is the ship's computer, which is acting so suspiciously, that when he does reveal his secret, it doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Gina, Jake, De Soto, and the others I have left out have their parts to play. Gina pro-humanity, De Soto, pro-Cyber enhancements, Jake, pro kill them evil bastards! But basically again, I really don't care!
This game probably would have been better if it were designed as a third person shooter. For starters there is really nothing to collect. No weapons, rings, spells, scrolls, data pads, no nothing at all. The only things that you will find are parts, which are used as a currency, and occasionally new weapons. And what happened to the pack mule? I loved that in Dungeon Siege!
The controls are god awful, then after some getting used to, they just become annoying. WASD control the camera movement, while the mouse controls practically everything else. Left click moves Seth, right for firing. Also, the position of your cursor controls the direction and distance of grenades. So if I press the grenade button, it goes to the cursor point on the screen. This is clever, and yet at the same time really flawed. For example, the dodge key works in the same way. If you want Seth to commando roll out of the way, you have to stop firing, move the cursor to the bottom of the screen, to either side of Seth, then press “E”. In the beginning, what happens is that you press the button, while still firing at the enemy, and dive towards the enemy fire. After a certain point, you realize the stick and move tactic is pointless, it's better to completely decimate the enemy with grenades, and take a few hits. Dodging is so time consuming, that using this will make battles so much longer. While some aspects of the control system are good, in essence, what you really find is that you can't control as much as other games.
The gameplay is fairly easy, and yet, feels curbed, as there are very few parts to scrounge. It almost feels like the designers realized this at the last moment, and then decided to reduce the amount of currency per dead alien. Dead alien limbs also seem to count as parts. Parts are of course the materials that you can use to upgrade your stats, HR-V, and weapons. But how a gooey alien muscle mass can be used to upgrade your rifle is really beyond me!
The ship is inundated with explosive canisters and barrels, they are literally everywhere. Seemingly “carefully placed” explosives will often alert you to a gang of monsters about to approach. But this is where Space Siege is good; the amount of fun to be had with explosives is always entertaining. Watching a group of monsters, tossed around by numerous explosions, now that's what I call ragdoll physics. Watching a group of monsters, tossed around by numerous explosions, now that's what I call ragdoll physics. This is where it also claws back an iota of respect. No matter how many times, it's never boring, and I have tried! Watching the bad guys being launched by multiple explosions is never dull!
The biggest problem I have with this game, beside the high expectations at the beginning, is the developers, Gas Powered Games made Supreme Commander and Forged Alliance not so long ago. While this has nothing to do with Space Siege being good or bad, it was just surprising! In the end, I just keep coming back to the same answer, very average! Some good times, lots of bad times, a few notable moments, but just not enough to play again. Personally I watched two of the four endings and felt that was enough. On that note, I would suggest being bad, a much better ending!
Finally the graphics, again, are average, especially considering the amount of system ram the game hogged. When I took a brief look, I found that at any one time it took around 500 – 700Mb of ram. Frame rates ran pretty low too, around 20 – 25, which just seem a little odd for an RPG game. A brief read of the readme file, informs you that more than 512Mb of ram will increase performance, so I wonder how this will fair under Vista systems? But what really got me laughing was the comment they had in the Gameplay section. Stating “There is no single strategy that will always be effective in Space Siege--there are simply too many strategic variables.” Now I know someone is having a laugh at our expense! Pur-lease; I've constantly worked through the whole game using one tactic. Chuck a lot of grenades and pick off the remaining; every other “strategy” is just superfluous, a waste of your time and energy. James
Minimum System Requirements from the Readme File MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Microsoft® Windows® XP Service Pack 2, Vista 2.6 GHz processor 512 MB RAM 3 GB available hard-drive space 128 MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 6800/ATI 9800 or better) Sound card, instancing required Broadband internet connection (DSL/Cable).
RECOMMENDED SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: 3.0 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor or better 1 GB RAM or better 3 GB available hard-drive space 256 MB video RAM, with DirectX 9 Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader 2.0 support (Nvidia 8000 series or better) Sound card, instancing required Internet connection with Cable/DSL speeds