Hack ‘n wheeze.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
isn’t just the name of a film - it also describes the arc of that cosmic ski slope, entropy. Just ask Evander Holyfield, who had a nice downhill run through goodness before hitting the icy flats of badness, and is just now making the ugly struggle back uphill
in search of a lost championship fanny pack. Leave it, man. The ski lodge and hot cocoa await.
The Dungeon Siege
games have experienced a similar slide. The series started off fast, bringing a streamlined, aerodynamic approach to a genre infamous for unsightly 80s baggage. Then Gas Powered Games streamlined it a little too much, throwing the gameplay in Dungeon Siege II
out of balance by cramming it full of auto-commands and redundant dungeon crawling.
They saved the wipeout, though, for this expansion pack, fittingly named Broken World. Somebody call the ski patrol - this one has fallen and it's not getting up.
The best thing about Dungeon Siege II
was its weird, scientological plot about a demon sword, zombie crystals, and a fight to end the world. Somehow you’re still alive, and so is a lesser dark wizard who is making more zombies while trying to get his hands on the demon sword. Your goal is to stop him and his undead friends from continuing this series. That’s an ugly task, though, one only a pervert or a professional would undertake willingly. Fortunately for you, I am both, though for ten hours Broken World
made me wish I were neither.
In all fairness, though, it does address one issue I had with the original through the inclusion of two new classes: the Blood Assassin and the Fist of Stone.
In Dungeon Siege II, archers and fighters were “set it and forget it” classes. The Blood Assassin, on the other hand, is an archer with a spellbook. You’ll have them use certain abilities against mobs and others against bosses, all while swapping in and out passive spells, of which characters can now equip four. The Blood Assassins don’t improve the game, but they do make archers a little less lame.
The Fists of Stone, on the other…fist, are warriors
with spellbooks. Now, it might seem like a big deal to have a warrior that can heal himself, but not in the context of this clickfest. You right click on anything that moves, thus killing it, and right click on characters who are hurt to heal them, except this time it’s the warrior doing the healing. While the archer and warrior classes have become a little more complex, the game itself is as simple as a kobold with a learning disability.
Matters are marginally complicated by new reagent recipes. Instead of constantly finding a new sword or axe, you now find a root or gem used in making a new sword or axe, or perhaps a recipe. Theoretically, the creation of these ultimate weapons gives you something to look forward to, but whether you’re wielding the Snake Staff of Venom or the Ultima Lance of Poking, you're just right clicking on everything and watching it perish. Since Broken World is just as unceasingly linear and predictable as its forebear, collecting stuff is practically automatic. Any time you stray from the main trail, you slay a bunch of monsters and find a Duskberry of Swordmaking or something. You then head back to the yellow brick road and on to your showdown with an evil wizard. It's uninspiring stuff.
It's also largely unchanged stuff. Warriors and archers with mana bars and a slim reagent system does not an expansion make. You’re still just directing a band of adventurers down a corridor while clicking the right mouse button like a strung out coke rat. That was already starting to wear thin when Dungeon Siege II came out. What could possibly make this Broken World worth your thirty dollars?
Presumably, dwarves. Dwarves are a fine race to include in any game, but not as the new bonus race you just spent thirty bucks to play. They add absolutely nothing to Broken World
, aside from the fact that their bonuses are tailored to suit the Fist of Stone class. If you’re going to add a new race, make it three-headed vampiric ostriches or fire-breathing lizard trolls. Something exciting,
not something on The Learning Channel.
Or better yet, improve the game. Dungeon Siege II
was way too easy, yet in spite of the two new difficulty levels included in Broken World
(Veteran and Elite), it suffers from the same balance and A.I. issues that nearly lobotomized the original. You characters do so many things on their own, it's almost like you're watching the game play itself rather than being invested in what happens.
The environments still look fine and enemies still pleasantly explode into torrents of blood, but it's more serviceable than notable. The music, meanwhile, is normal fantasy stuff and the voice-acting is pretty good in spite of the boring writing.
It’s a little unfair to blame Broken World for all of its failings since several of them are holdovers from the previous game. Still, this was an opportunity to fix some of those issues and add interesting new content to liven up a hurting series. Unfortunately, this expansion fails to add any worthwhile new gameplay mechanics or modes (multiplayer, anyone?), proving that some worlds are harder to repair than others.