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Dungeon Siege Preview

Ben_Silverman By:
PUBLISHER Microsoft 
T Contains Blood and Gore, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Make a saving throw versus tradition.

Critics are always yammering on and on about how badly they want fresh, innovative experiences. Sometimes it seems like we don't want good games so much as different ones. Does it introduce brand new gameplay elements? Does it expand the genre? Does it create a new genre entirely? We want the artists who make these games to look beyond profit margins and sales potential and let their creative juices flow.

The refinements continue when you consider the interface. Streamlined more efficiently than a Great White shark, Dungeon Siege takes the control out of the inventory screen and onto the desktop. You can switch between four weapon slots (bow, weapon and two spells) at the click of a button. You can change party formations (again, much like Myth) by right-clicking and using the mouse wheel to change the distance between characters. Handy health and mana potions can be clicked to allow the whole party (or just whomever needs it - the AI decides) to drink up. You can do all of the important tasks without having to shuffle through screens upon screens.

Heck, they even made it easier to pick stuff up. Press a button and your characters will zip around picking up all the treasure on screen. Not sure what's there? Then turn on the item labeling by clicking an icon. The cool part is that all these buttons and tools are pushed to the borders and can be hidden/viewed easily. The screen isn't cluttered.

In another nod to BG, Dungeon Siege can be played cooperatively or even competitively. The multiplayer will feature both the single-player world set in Ehb and an alternate world called the Utraean Peninsula. And yes, you'll be able to take your character from the single-player to battle in multiplayer.

The beta I've been losing sleep over covers about 20% of the game and has taken about 8 hours. With at least 40 hours of single player gameplay in this puppy, it's sure to keep you awake too late as well. Refine your tastes and look for Dungeon Siege to hit shelves in April.

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