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Space Siege

I’ve always been fascinated by space. The idea that I’m looking at something that other humans have looked and wondered about for millennia, me wondering the same things that they wondered, it fills me with an incredible since of awe. We as a species are unique because we can imagine life beyond our horizon, our planet, even beyond our own galaxy. The possibilities are limitless, which has led to the creation of an almost infinite number of fantastic works of science fiction. The potential is as limitless as the human imagination.

It’s unfortunate that the developers of Space Siege didn’t capitalize on this.

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Space Siege is the latest game from Dungeon Siege developers Gas Powered Games. The two games share the same Siege name because they’re almost the same game, despite the change of scenery. This isn’t necessarily a complaint. While the gameplay is essentially the same in this action role-playing game, there are a lot of positive improvements to the core gameplay.

The biggest improvement is that the storyline (and the gameplay) only follows one player. This allows you to really sink your teeth into the main character, Seth Walker. Seth is a combat engineer aboard the Armstrong, an Earth decolonization vessel. Earth is invaded by a seemingly unstoppable alien race known as the Kerak. Unfortunately for most Earthlings, the decolonization vessels are nearly completely destroyed and only the Armstrong remains. Despite defensive measures, the Kerak take control of the ship and wipe out a majority of the inhabitants.

Except, of course, Seth Walker.

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A separate strategy game could probably be made just handling the evacuation of the entire Earth, but when you have ships capable of traveling the galaxy, things probably a little easier. Walker eventually meets up with a few more survivors and they carry on some basic and unenthusiastic conversations about their plans to retake the ship; plans which mostly involve Seth fetching other survivors and killing enemies. One of these characters, a cybernetics doctor, will help Seth find cybernetic implants that he can augment himself with, up to and including a brain. These implants make the game a lot easier since they turn Seth into a super badass robot, but they come at the price of decreasing your humanity and limiting your access to some abilities on the tech tree. Taking the harder route leads to big rewards, but it certainly comes at a price.

I liked that I was able to spend a majority of the game focusing on Seth. It gave the game an action game feel more than traditional RPGs deliver, but more depth than most pure action games. It’s a very healthy balance of the two that should please fans of both genres. Additionally, the emphasis on one hero allows you to really appreciate each of Seth’s abilities and to customize him as you see fit. I found working your the technology tree and choosing what cybernetic parts to install surprisingly compelling despite what could be perceived as a small list of options. I will admit that the options for customizing your robot companion and your weapons are sparse.

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You earn skill points and spare parts (which act as currency essentially) by killing enemies, and this is where the game starts to fall apart. The game’s control scheme means that it is meant to be played more like a third-person action game, which gives you the ability to dive around in the environment. Armed with assault rifles, SMGs and similar weapons, this control improves the gameplay over traditional games in this genre. Unfortunately, the enemy models are boring and the environments your travel through are very repetitive, making the improved combat much less exciting. Enemies are typical cybernetically augmented alien bugs. Occasionally you’ll attack cybernetic humans-gone-bad or out of control security robots. I thought the developers could have come up with some more original, creative alien designs and abandoned the stereotypical haywire security bots.

The environments are very bland from the get-go. I wanted to see unique, exciting places, but the game was mostly industrial. It seems that the fictional designers of the Armstrong, on which the whole game takes place, didn’t really care if the ship looked like a futuristic factory. Maybe buildings in the future will be made entirely of endless cold steel rooms. Even if that is our final destination, I think we can dream a little further than that now. By the end of the game, I was crying out for something beyond the metal color palette. Despite the simplicity of the environment, the combat does look quite good. There’s always a lot of action on the screen during battles and the engine never slowed down.

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The gameplay in Space Siege is an improvement over many of the other action RPGs that I’ve played, but the plot and the design leave a lot to be desired. I would have really appreciated if the developers tried to imagine beyond the traditional stereotypes of the space genre to create something truly unique. Unfortunately, they instead chose clich├ęs, which sadly bring down the gameplay experience. While Space Siege is by no means bad, it is a very typical and uninspired video game.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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