- Excellent atmosphere
- Impressive use of physics if you have the hardware to support it
- Short and mostly linear
- Action side is cumbersome; RPG side lacks depth
* Originally authored by Zero *
As you may have assumed from the title, Space Siege is the latest action RPG developed by Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games. These are the same guys behind Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege, so Space Siege has a decent pedigree. While the game’s title suggests that it’s a spiritual successor to the Dungeon Siege games, it is most definitely not Dungeon Siege in space – while there are plentiful ‘space dungeons’ and passing similarities, the gameplay is significantly different and in most cases, drastically simplified. But let’s not dwell on how it differs from Dungeon Siege; in fact let’s pretend it’s not related at all. If you can remove all of your pre-conceived expectations before you fire up the game, you may have an easier time accepting it for what it is.
Space Siege lets you walk in the boots of Seth Walker, an engineer aboard the Armstrong, a colony ship fleeing Earth in the midst of a catastrophic alien attack. Breaking through the ‘Kerak’ blockade relatively unharmed, the Armstrong makes off into open space with the daunting task of rebuilding humanity. Things aren’t so simple of course, as a Kerak boarding vessel has attached itself to the ship with the intention of destroying the last remnants of the human race. It’s a typical ‘man explores space and stirs up a beehive of genocidal aliens’ story that unravels fairly straightforwardly, apart from a few very predictable twists and turns.
Seth is controlled by an isometric point’n’click interface reminiscent of less action-oriented RPGs. You left click to move Seth and right click to attack, with an MMO-style hotbar controlling assigned special abilities. Since Space Siege leans uncontrollably more toward action than RPG, not being able to move and shoot at the same time makes the combat a clunky repetition of dodge, shoot, dodge, shoot. The lack of simultaneous moving and shooting would be fine if there were more in-depth RPG or strategic elements to the game, but unfortunately it features an uninspired array of special abilities (most of which are different types of grenades or sentries), no ‘party’ or loot to speak of and lacklustre character development. I can’t help but think how much better the game could have been with either a fleshed-out RPG system behind it or a more action-friendly control method similar to that found in, for example, Shadowgrounds.
One of the most hyped up aspects of Space Siege is the cybernetic implant system. Like new weapons, cybernetic upgrades are found at pre-determined points during the game and include various robotic substitutes for arms, legs, eyes or even your brain. These can be irreversibly installed for various combat bonuses (such as the ability to wield some of the game’s more potent weapons) at the expense of your humanity, which is measured as a percentile statistic that really only affects skill tree options - it has very minor effects on the plot.
While you only really control one character, Space Siege does make a ‘pet’ available for you to use as a major game mechanic. Being an engineer, Seth winds up with a mechanical side-kick known as HR-V (pronounced ‘Harvey’) who basically just follows you around and shoots things without any hint of personality. This ‘party of two’ formula is how you will play the majority of the game, as HR-V can be rebuilt at manufactory stations littered around the Armstrong if he is destroyed. While you can indirectly control HR-V to move, attack and use his own acquired abilities, he is essentially a walking gun-turret that is seemingly oblivious to mines and other dangers.
Loot and experience have been done away with in Space Siege, further alienating it from any RPG sensibilities. Instead, you gather generic ‘upgrade materials’ from slaughtered enemies and crates. These can be used at specific workbenches to purchase items, weapon and character upgrades (such as improved attack speed, health and resistances) and various upgrades for HR-V. In effect these upgrade materials take on the role of both experience and currency, which is nicely streamlined but doesn’t add as much excitement or incentive as a more typical RPG loot and levelling system would.
Graphically, Space Siege is bland but impressive. The visual assets are fairly repetitive after 5 or so hours, but the game makes excellent use of lighting and shadows to create a dark ‘abandoned spaceship’ atmosphere that actually works quite well. Hopefully I won’t ruin the storyline too much by saying this but, in the later parts of the game, I got hints of a vibe much akin to System Shock 2. Those with PhysX support are treated with an excellent physics system that sends crates, bodies and gas canisters flying around with realism. You can tell GPG want to show it off as well – the Armstrong is littered (almost to the point of absurdity) with explosive barrels and gas canisters. I admit that it sucked me in though, as I couldn’t resist blowing up every single one I came across just to see the physics engine do its thing, even though it usually resulted in the death of either myself or HR-V.
To its credit, the game features a multiplayer co-op mode. The industry is crying out for co-op games of late and it’s good to see Space Siege has included one. While it’s fairly light on story, it’s a decent way to spend a few hours with some friends. Unfortunately the single player campaign isn’t available to play through, but GPG have included a handful of individual missions that can be launched from a central multiplayer lobby. However, all cybernetic upgrades and weapons are available to you right from the start, so your interest may wane after you’ve completed the missions and maxed out your stats.
Overall, despite its flaws, Space Siege was a reasonably enjoyable (if generic) experience. There are three slightly different endings, but apart from those the game doesn’t really offer you much more on multiple play-throughs. Because the game is fairly linear and can be finished in around 10 hours, I’d wait until it drops to a bargain bin price to check it out.
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