Space Siege

Review

posted 11/15/2008 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
Saying that Space Siege is Dungeon Siege in space would be like saying Gears of War is just a third person version of Unreal Tournament III. The games share technology, a similar control scheme, and similar perspective but that's about it.

In the future the Earth reaches out to the stars. Unfortunately for us we run into the Kerak while colonizing a planet. The Kerak realize that humanity isn't mostly harmless and decides to eradicate humanity not only from the planet but from the universe itself. They track humanity back to Earth and destroy the planet. Fortunately humanity sees it coming and manages to get a few large colony ships off before the planet is cleared out for a new interstellar highway. You play Seth Walker, a military soldier on the Armstrong, one of the ships who must help keep the ship and the last remnants of humanity safe so they can find another home (kind of a reverse Battlestar Galactica if you think about it)

Unfortunately for the crew of the Armstrong, the Kerak manage to attach a boarding pod to the Armstrong before it makes the jump to hyperspace. This is bad because the Kerak tear through the crew like a five year old at Christmas. It's now up to you to stop the Kerak and help preserve the safety of the last of the human race. There's a bit more depth to the story in the game but I don't want to spoil a fairly solid plot line. It's not or Bioshock or Half Life but the the plot of the game is interesting enough to keep you engaged as you play through the seven to ten hours of gameplay.


If you've played one of the Dungeon Siege games or any other third person action game you'll feel right at home with the controls of Space Siege. Left click to move and right click to interact with items. You can feel the lineage of the Dungeon Siege games in Space Siege but the game is much more focused and streamlined experience. Unlike the Dungeon Siege games, Space Siege is very linear as you will only have one mission at a time to focus on. There are secondary missions in the game but most of them are within short proximity of the primary objectives that they don't really feel like secondary missions

Gameplay is mostly walking from one part of the ship to another and killing things along the way. Once the objective is complete you return to the central hub to get another task which will require another trip out to the ship. While this may sound dull the action can be fairly intense at times as the game constantly throws different assortments of of enemies at you. Along the way you'll collect parts which allow you to upgrade yourself and your weapons. There's not a huge assortment of weapons but it was enough to keep me engaged in the game.
Another change from the other Siege games is that you ride solo in Space Siege. It’s just you and your robotic helper HRV (pronounced Harvey). During the game I alternated between calling him DAWG and HLPER depending on if he did something smart or stupid. As you progress through the game you can upgrade HRV with new weapons and abilities. When HRV dies (and he dies a lot) you can go to a unit located around the ship and get a new unit to replace him. This eliminated any real attachment I had to the unit which consequently led me to using him to clear out minefields (to save ammo) and to act as a bullet shield in larger firefights.

As you progress through the game you are offered the chance you upgrade your self with cybernetic enhancements which are scattered around the ship. Each upgrade will cost you a part of your humanity which leads into the core question of the game “What makes you human” The short answer is that cyborgs get the cool guns full humans get the chicks. I played through the game as a “pure” human and while challenging in sections the game wasn’t overly really that difficult. I then went back and played the game with all the upgrades and the game was noticeably easier as you get a chaingun that tears through about everything you come across. There is some philosophical discussion in the game but you can skip the talky talky stuff to get back to blowing stuff up if you are so inclined.

Level design is a mixed bag as Gas Powered Games has perfectly replicated a giant space ship. The problem with this is that there’s a lot of repetitive design intermixed with some moments of design genius which makes sense as giant space ships are going to be a lot of the same design over and over again (I'm sure the Enterprise has one layout that was cloned over and over again). There are lots of corridors and hangers to walk through in a ship of that size and the game has replicated that experience to the T. That said there is some excellent level design in the game with the bridge and shuttle pod levels standing out as truly beautiful masterpieces of design.

One of the cool things about the game is that it supports multi-core CPU which is rare among modern games (it’s cool to see all four CPU’s in my new quad core computer getting some action at the same time). The game looks good (which isn’t a surprise given the game’s lineage) and while the level design is a bit drab the artists in the game stretch their legs where they can. I did notice a few graphical hiccups in the game but it turned out they were only there because I somehow turned the vertical sync on when I was futzing around with the options in the game.



One of the big additions to the engine is the Havok physics engine which allows you to do some cool things with the in game objects. You can trigger some cool chain reactions which can inflict damage on everything in the game. This allows you to setup traps and use the environment to take out enemies which is helpful when you're running low on ammo or want to be a little creative with how you kill things. Like other physics based games (I'm looking at you Bad Company) the designers felt the need to show the physics of the game off by cramming every nook and cranny with stuff that explodes which makes the Armstrong feel like its job was transporting humanity along with a large selection of exploding barrels, crates, and air tanks.

I had more than a few late nights with Space Siege which is a good thing. While I didn't bite completely into the "What makes a person human" part of the game I did enjoy the nice diversion of running around and blowing stuff up in new and interesting ways. The game does force you to make some decisions on this and it adds to the replay value a bit as you can play through the game and have a different experience based on how much cybernetic equipment you use. If you're looking for a solid PC RPG to play, Space Siege is worth your time and money.




B-
It's not perfect but Space Siege is a lot of fun once you get into the game. While linear the single player campaign is interesting and well written and there's a multiplayer component for those who want to extend the life of the title.