previews\ Aug 24, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna - PC - Preview

Dungeon Siege hit the shelves a while back to critical and popular acclaim as a hybrid action/RPG that really hit the mark in both genres.  Previously, titles that claimed to be action/RPG tended to lean to one side more than the other, but Dungeon Siege adeptly combined the hack and slash action of games such as Diablo with the strategic level progression and party forming of the Baldur’s Gate series.  Those thirsty for Dungeon Siege II (to be released sometime in 2004) can wet their palette this November with the expansion pack Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna.  Microsoft and Gas Powered Games invited down to a busy Italian restaurant in San Francisco for a sneak peek of the game, some glasses of vino, and a few meatballs.


Technically, Legends of Aranna can be called Dungeon Siege 1.5 as it adds more than just new areas to explore, monsters to slaughter, and new treasure to pilfer.  Legends of Aranna brings all those, but also includes some new interfaces, dynamics, and user-friendly controls making it an almost entirely new experience for those of you who know the land of Ehb like the back of your hand. 


Legends of Aranna takes place shortly after the end of Dungeon Siege on an entirely new island of the Utraen Empire, an advanced civilization with a shady past.  Within the Empire, a really ticked-off baddy known as the Shadowjumper has finally been released from his thousand years of imprisonment and has a chance to stretch his legs, breathe some fresh air, and wreak havoc on everyone and their mother. 


The strength of the story in the expansion is important enough to keep the game playing linearly, but Legends of Aranna has been loosened up a little bit from the original.  Chris Taylor, President/Top Dog/Big Boss Man at Gas Powered Games, gave control of the expansion over to his friend Ian Lane Davis of Mad Doc Software for a fresh perspective and some new ideas.  From the number of improvements Davis showed me that night, it seems as though Taylor knew exactly what he was doing. 


There are many new features in Legends of Aranna that fall into the “Why didn’t I think of that?” category.  Chief among them is the new inventory system.  No longer is a character’s inventory a jigsaw puzzle first made popular in Diablo.  Just drag large items such as swords into the character’s inventory and watch it push smaller items such as potions out of the way, saving gamers both time and grief.  Every RPG’er knows that a fighter with mana potions is like a gamer with regular exercise.  It just doesn’t needs to happen and Davis knows this very well (although he did look like he was in decent shape).  With the simple click of a button, potions are redistributed where they need to be.  Spellcasters divide the mana potions up evenly between them, and the bulk of the health potions go to the melee juggernauts.  It is simple additions like these that make Legends of Aranna incredibly easy to use and takes stress off of weary adventurers.


Other additions to the game are a sign of things to come in the future editions of Dungeon Siege. The new pack animal is more than a walking backpack; it can fight and defend itself.  There is a traditional backpack in the game that increases inventory 54%.  New spells include orb spells that revolve around the caster and magical land mines that explode when touched by enemies, greatly increasing the power and strategy of spellcasters.  In addition to the new lands to explore, Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna also has more than one hundred new weapons and monsters, more than seventy new spells, and never before seen non-player characters. 


Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna will be bundled with the original Dungeon Siege and will retail for $35.00.   Look for it in November. 


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