In this expansion pack to 2002's Dungeon Siege, players venture out from the familiar Kingdom of Ehb into the savage realm of Aranna. The result is a new campaign spanning nine areas, ranging from lush jungles to arctic wastelands, as players prepare to do battle with more than 100 different creatures. Enhancements to the original include 50 additional spells to wield, such as Diminution, Animal Rage, Zorkon's Bonecrusher, and the Orb of Fire, and the ability to play as a new character: the half-giant, who uses brute force to wear down his foes. As the battles become more dangerous and the characters more skilled in the finer points of hack-and-slash combat, the rewards will grow more enticing.
An assortment of rare and enchanted weapons, equipment, and items are available for the taking, provided the player lives long enough to enjoy the spoils of victory. To help ensure that fate, characters can own a pack animal that will loyally defend its master's horde or die trying. Players who missed the original Dungeon Siege during its initial run will find the complete version bundled with Legends of Aranna, with the option to play with the new features and enhancements introduced in the expansion. Multiplayer support is also included for both Dungeon Siege and its add-on, along with the new ability to save quest progress.
When Dungeon Siege first arrived in 2002, it was both loved and reviled. Fans adored the relentless action, smooth game-world, and beautiful graphics, but others hated the lack of role-playing and the dumb AI. Legends of Aranna, the new expansion pack developed by Mad Doc Software, isn't going to make fans out of the latter, but anyone who enjoyed adored the original owes it to themselves to pick this title up.
The original Dungeon Siege is included with Legends of Aranna, so players new to the world are in for a real bargain. Fans of the original will still find more than enough inside the box to suit them, however. The new campaign has at least thirty hours of gameplay, most of which takes place on another land, the Island of the Utraeans.
Legends of Aranna's story is a little better than the story in the original Dungeon Siege (which, to be honest, isn't saying much). A magic item has been stolen, for reasons that slowly become clear if you read the various tomes and scrolls scattered throughout the land, and it's your job to return it. Sure, it's as thin as onion paper, but it's tightly focused, and you're not as likely to forget it as the original game's story.
The expansion also includes dozens of new spells, including transformation spells that let you polymorph into the game's creatures, and orb spells that revolve around your character and automatically attack nearby enemies, leaving your hands free for other attack options. Add in the original Dungeon Siege spells, and you'll probably be overwhelmed with the sheer number available. A minor quibble with spells is that some will activate automatically, and some have to be done manually. Since combat can be very hectic, you might not realize for some time that one of your spellcasters is standing around doing nothing because the spell he has selected is not an automatic one. It would've been nice to have an option to choose automatic or manual spellcasting with those spells.
A new and very nice feature in Legends of Aranna is a single button that allows you to redistribute potions among all your party members. It doesn't work in multiplayer, but to get an even number of potions among all your single-player party members, including giving your spellcasters mana potions, it's absolutely marvelous. Some of the other interface improvements are a "sell all" button when you're selling to merchants, auto-arrangement in your inventory when your characters pick up new items, a world map, and an improvement in your control groups. Instead of only being able to set up the active slots for different characters, you can also select different spells or weapons in those slots and switch between them at the press of a key. The tragg is the newest pack animal. It doesn't carry quite as much as your mule, but it jumps right into combat. A tragg and seven party members with backpacks means you're dragging around a lot of loot between trips to the store.
New treasure items include backpacks, imbued items, and treasure sets. Each character can have one backpack, which increases his storage capacity quite a bit. When selling to merchants, items in your backpack don't show up, so you have to move them out into your main inventory area first. It's a minor annoyance, but it is one nonetheless. Imbued items increase your abilities in combat. Most aren't significantly different than other magic items, but they often lack ability score prerequisites. Treasure sets are composed of three or more pieces of weapons, armor, and equipment. As you collect more of the pieces, their special features quickly ramp up in power. Legends of Aranna still has such an overwhelming number of different treasure items that some of them seem to serve no other purpose than to sell to merchants. Why would anyone select a magic cap that needs an abnormally high strength score but offers far less armor rating than a non-magical cap?
Multiplayer is available through direct Internet connection, and LAN play. The game even lets you save the journal state whenever you exit multiplayer. You still can't save while you're playing, but then again, it's not really necessary with the one-minute respawning and resurrection shrines available, though anyone with an unstable connection might think otherwise. You also still can't pick up NPCs to go along, so combats that were a breeze with your eight character NPC party are a real challenge with only one or two players.
Although Dungeon Siege II is still a ways away, Legends of Aranna is almost a full-fledged sequel in its own right. Not only do you get the full original game, but you also get a new campaign with a more than respectable amount of game time, new spells, treasures, monsters, and improved interface options. It may be "only" an expansion pack, but it's also one of the best bargains of the year.
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