When it comes to Diablo clones, most developers stick with having the player control one character at a time, and perhaps some pets. The only exception is the Dungeon Siege line, where the player can control a half dozen or so characters, along with a menagerie of pets, and maybe a pack animal, the other big innovation of Siege.
Dungeon Siege 2: Broken World picks up a year after Dungeon Siege 2 ended with the destruction of the world by (your) heroes. Minimal as the population centers were in the predecessor (recall that a typical city had under 20 non-player characters populating it), they’ve all been ruined, and the survivors naturally blame the heroes for much of it.
There’s an option to roll up new characters or to simply reuse the ones from DS2; it generally makes sense to just keep with the ones you know (and have already equipped). Newly rolled characters start at a pretty high level, so starting over doesn’t really promise much in the way of more gameplay. A new player race, dwarf, is available, but race means very little in this game past low levels, and this is all high level play. Don’t worry, you’ll see plenty of dwarves in the game, so not creating one won’t detract from the experience.
Weapon and arms crafting, hysterically bad in DS2, are still weak in Broken World, even with included recipes. Even if you get around to making some of the better items, usually there’s a set item that your character needs in that slot, anyway. There probably isn’t any way to make crafting work in these types of games; much of the fun of this genre is playing dress-up in ever more devastating gear, so granting players the ability to just craft great items would probably detract more than it would help.
There are even more “set” items, much as in Diablo. Alas, the time it takes to collect a whole set exceeds the usefulness of the set. A set of items that is awesome for level 45 characters is generally obsolete at level 60 when you finally find the last piece; the only reason set items work in Diablo is the temptation to replay the game with new character classes, but that temptation is lean here.
There are four basic character classes in the game, and if you’ve played DS2, you already know it’s a good idea to give every character at least a few levels in all four of the classes. This may be the reason replay value of this series is so low, as all characters are either mostly fighter or mostly mage; toss in getting to control multiple characters and a player will do about everything possible the first time he or she clears the game. Two new hybrid classes have been added, complete with skill and power tree: a ranger/combat mage and a fighter/nature mage. These, by far, are the main reason to play the expansion. The former class, Blood Assassin, has awesome damage potential, although using the special abilities costs health — luckily, the game is seldom challenging, letting one use the showy and explosive new tricks at will. The Fist of Stone class focuses more on defensive skills, albeit with more than sufficient mass damage attacks to keep the foes off-balance. With so little in the game, it’s disappointing the developer didn’t at least add combinations like fighter/combat mage, ranger/fighter, ranger/nature mage, and nature/combat mage. Had they done so, it might have been tempting to start over the game using just the hypothetical hybrid classes.
"These, by far, are the main reason to play the expansion."
There are also some new pack animals. While it’s nice to pick up loot during the game, animals subtract from the characters one can have in the party; I find it’s best just to keep a herd of such things at the inn, using one animal for each general type of treasure, making them not much of a factor, although I guess some folks will take pleasure in feeding them loot to “evolve” them into truly fearsome load-bearers.
Perhaps the best addition to the game consists of the extra autocast slots. The DS2 magic system has loads of buffs and healing spells, but it’s always been problematic casting them, especially during the hectic real time combat. Having now four slots for autocasts means you can have plenty of buffs, yet still have a slot free for healing spells when needed — and, of course, it makes it just that much easier to use the hybrid character’s new abilities as well. There were even a few occasions where I needed to change buffs for dealing with certain bosses or monster types, and that’s when it’s really nice to have options.
Dungeon Siege is notorious for “railroad” adventures, where the whole game is fairly described as one’s party stomping down a very long path destroy all who impede, and this expansion is no exception, with several dungeons being little more than corridors with, at best, exaggerated alcoves. There is some truly detailed dungeon dressing included, but as much of the game is played zoomed out, it’s easy to miss the artistry (and the occasional secret panel!).
This leads to my greatest issue with the expansion: there’s very little added in the way of quests and dungeons, and not that much effort was put into making them distinctive. The general story has you tracking down a bad guy who survived the cataclysm; follow the tracks out of town and in about 6 hours of hacking, you’ll find him and that’s it. There are some tough battles, at least, but a handful of battles that take more than a minute to play out doesn’t a real expansion make; just be sure to hit the space bar often to pause during fights, and by all means zoom in to get a look at the truly awesome graphics. If you find yourself strapped for gaming dollars, it’s probably best just to skip this until you can find a good price.
" If you find yourself strapped for gaming dollars, it’s probably best just to skip this until you can find a good price."
Pros/Cons+ New classes.