Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dungeon Siege Singleplayer Annoyances

So for a long time, all I'd ever played of the original Dungeon Siege was its multiplayer.  It was fun playing it with friends, or even soloing, and so my impression of the game was based off of that.

However, it's got a perfectly good singleplayer campaign sitting right there asking to be played, and I'm currently partway through it.  The party system is unlike anything else I've ever used, and carries a number of annoyances within, which I will attempt to enumerate here.
  1. Switching weapons and spells is awkward.  This is because you press 1, 2, 3, or 4 to select melee, ranged, and your two spells, respectively.  However, pressing those keys switches everybody, even if you only wanted to change one character's selection.
  2. In battle, the characters you have selected matter.  Only the characters you've selected will attack or perform whatever action you've set forth, and in the heat of battle, changing your selection to order individuals around and then selecting the group for later group orders is incredibly awkward.  The ability to select party members by clicking on their character models also means you'll be accidentally switching your selection around all the time.
  3. You can't dump aggro, or really modify it in any way.  This is especially annoying when everything decides to aggro on your backline instead of the melee guys who can actually take a hit.  This is compounded by this next issue.
  4. You have to distribute health potions (and mana potions) to everyone who needs them, in advance.  It's tough to know how much you're going to need to heal during battle, and some characters naturally need more potions than others.  I'd use healing spells more regularly, but...
  5. You have to manually switch each spell caster between their two spells.  You also have to shuffle spells around their spell book(s) to make sure you can select what you want.  In addition, when you change spells, it stops them from acting for a brief but tense moment.  When I toggle to my healing spell, I want it casted now, not three seconds from now.
  6. There's no AI for your party.  You have to control everyone yourself.  Considering that you can have up to eight party members, this gets very complicated, very quickly.  A mage with a damage spell in one slot and a healing spell in the other won't do anything other than what they're currently set to do.
  7. Characters automatically equip items they pick up if there's an empty slot for it.  This means, as you're using the auto-loot key to grab everything that's dropped, you have to manually go through and remove all the bows off of your melee characters and casters.  This is all so you can press 2 and have only your ranged characters pull out their bows.
  8. The resurrection spells require you to level up their respective spell types first.  To hold you over until then, there are one-time-use scrolls of resurrection that anyone can use, but what if you don't have any?  You're screwed.  This alone makes it very important to keep a spell book full of resurrection scrolls in all your characters' inventories.
  9. Merchants are few and far between.  I have a mod installed that doubles the size of my characters' inventories, and I'm still running low on inventory space, annoyingly far away from town.  There are zero random merchants in designated "safe spots" around the game.  Especially considering everyone in the second town is dead, except for one recruitable guy, and he's not a merchant.  This means if you run out of space in the second dungeon, you have to run all the way back to the first town.  And there's no fast travel, town portal scroll, etc. to speed things up.
  10. Having multiple party members actually makes the game harder.  You'd think it would make it easier, since more characters = more sources of damage.  However, due to how the game hands out experience, per-character-per-hit rather than per-kill for the entire party, a character that gets in more hits is going to get more experience.  If you're only playing one character, that character then gets all the experience and levels up much faster than if they had anyone fighting alongside them.
  11. Having packmules doesn't completely alleviate inventory space issues.  Again, I have a mod that doubles my characters' inventory space.  I also have both of the packmules that you can purchase from the first town, and I'm still running low on space uncomfortably far away from a merchant.  Also, in battle, if you don't set the packmules correctly, they'll run around and aggro more stuff onto your party.
  12. Inventory space issues are further compounded by the fact that items can take up multiple inventory slots.  I've never liked this in an inventory system (see: Diablo, Diablo 2), because you quite easily run into a situation where you have enough open slots for the item, but because they're not the right shape or orientation, you can't put the item into your inventory.  These types of systems hardly ever have a way to re-orient an item to fit it into your inventory, but there is at least one mainstream example of being able to re-orient an item (see: Deus Ex: Human Revolution).
  13. Enemies will chase you ridiculously far from where you originally encountered them.  This hurts a lot, especially given how the game likes to throw huge battles at you and the aforementioned fact that you have to micromanage each individual character in your party during battle.  I've had to lead an obnoxiously large group of spiders a very long distance away from where we were fighting so that I could juke them and get back to the area to revive my dead party member.
  14. Reviving an unconscious party member doesn't heal them enough.  This makes mid-battle revivings almost impossible, as enemies will beat on an unconscious party member with the hopes of killing them, so you heal them and they begin to get up, then they get hit and fall over again.  It's not fun.
  15. The singleplayer is basically the multiplayer, but with only one player.  You have to manage all the characters in the party yourself.  Due to everything above, this task is vastly different from other games where you have multiple party members in singleplayer.  It's even different from dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder and Legend of Grimrock.
It's still a good game, but I still recommend the multiplayer over the singleplayer.  It just makes more sense.  Heck, you can even play the singleplayer campaign in multiplayer.  Multiplayer does forfeit a lot of things, like the cutscenes, voice acting, and ability to hire party members and packmules, but it's still the way to go as far as Dungeon Siege is concerned.

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