When done right expansions can add tremendously to a game. Most expansions merely build a bit upon what’s already there, but a few truly stand out of the crowd. Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction was one of those, but Dungeon Siege. Legends of Aranna isn’t. It took Gas Powered Games a very long time to ship Dungeon Siege, a game in many ways comparable with Diablo 2, but this time Mad Doc Software did the development. The storyline revolves around the race called the Utreans, magical artifacts, and a world threatened by evil villains. I don’t think the storyline can get much more generic than this, and I honestly don’t think it’s told and directed very well. Even so, the game places you in Aranna, but before you start you have to create a new character. The storyline in Legends of Aranna isn’t an extension of the old one, but rather a new one, so you can’t import whatever old characters you may have had - everyone starts from scratch.
Your adventure starts off on the mainland, but after a good couple of hours you continue onto the main island, where you’ll be spending most of the roughly 15 hours it takes to finish the game. As expected you’re quite weak and powerless at first, but as you smash more and more monsters you gain power, new items, and new friends. When playing you can choose between melee combat, ranged, combat magic, and nature magic. You can swap between these four at any time, but you earn experience only in the one you’re using, so it’s best to focus on just one. Unlike in Diablo 2 you can get a rather big party by the time you’re done with the game. I chose to have three melee fighters, two ranged, one combat magician, one nature magician for healing, and one mule for additional storage.
Dungeon Siege used to be a little more RPG than Diablo 2, but in this expansion it seems as if there are fewer differences between the two games. I played more Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction than I thought was humanly possible for the sole sake of loot. D2: LOD’s items and system of randomly dropping items was addictive to say the least, because statistically you could get any item if you just played long enough, and that’s what a lot of people did. In Diablo 2 you had normal, magical, rare, set, and unique items. In DS: Legends of Aranna the idea of set items has been added, meaning you can collect for instance four items in a set, and get progressively better bonuses as you equip more and more. The item dropping isn’t random, so it’s far from as addictive as the older counterpart. Secondly, when adventuring you’ll sometimes see glowing chests, and set items always seem to pop out. I guess this is convenient, but in my opinion it takes away much of the fun. However, set items aren’t the only items you’ll need, so you will have to smash a humongous number of crates, boxes, and so on – just in case something useful drops. It’s been a while since I played the original Dungeon Siege, but it seems to me as if this gameworld is practically littered with breakable boxes and such. Actually, I dare say a good portion of the time spent playing the game is put to breaking things, looking for useful items, managing items in the party, and selling whatever you don’t need. This can be good to some extent, but it definitely gets old.
Fortunately the developers have added a nice feature that makes maintaining a good supply of health and mana potions easier. By pressing a button to the bottom left you evenly distribute health and mana potions to whoever needs them the most, so that melee users get many health potions and no mana potions, and magic users get many mana potions and a few health potions. This certainly saves you time, which you’ll probably just spend smashing more crates, boxes, and maybe an occasional monster.
And speaking of items, a fair amount of new weapons and armor have been added. The artwork is fairly good and original, but when you finish the game you won’t really have found anything mind-bendingly awesome. What’s great about the weapons this time around is that the description tells the average damage / 10 seconds. This is useful because it can be hard to tell if a fast medium damage weapon is better than a slow high damage weapon.
Those looking for high-end items will need to do the same thing as they may have already done – finish the main story, and continue with multiplayer. Of course, after a while you’ll gain strength, dexterity and so on extremely slowly, but at least you know what you’re getting into. In multiplayer you can only choose one character from your party, but that’s to be expected if you played the original Dungeon Siege.
Since this is a brand new story and everything, the action takes place in fairly different looking locations. Admittedly, you will go through snowy mountains, moist and damp swamps, and thick forests, but you’ll also be on what looks like a pacific island area, and later in the midst of lava and fire. A lot of the monsters are new, but only a few are actually interesting. Also, a few special effects have been added – some of them on the weapons and armor, but others in the new magic spells. It’s nice that you can clearly see what kind of armor a character is wearing, and what weapon he or she is wielding. However, to me Neverwinter Night looks prettier, or cooler if you will – maybe because it’s shinier. Just imagine Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction with Neverwinter Nights’ graphics (only with higher polygon characters) and Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna's new item mechanics...
In terms of audio you’ll find a host of new voice-overs in this expansion, but I’m reasonably sure I also heard some new music. The in-game sound effects are very much identical to the earlier ones, but that’s to be expected.
So, it took me almost fifteen hours to finish this game. Was it memorable? Not really. However, I still think Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna is a nice introduction to not so serious RPGs, because you won’t spend any time managing character stats, or pondering over the right dialogue choice in a conversation. In terms of difficulty I’d say it’s somewhere between easy and medium. There are a few fairly hard areas where good loot is stashed, but for the most part you won’t have to reload much.
I don’t look at this as a very interesting game, because it feels too streamlined and without anything that makes it stand out. Even though it’s nice that the game lasts for a while it’s a shame that the game is like a well-cooked but plain soup; without spice and flavor – but I’m sure someone likes that too.