There’s no doubt in my mind that Gas Powered Games can make quality games. The Dungeon Siege series wasn’t as good as Blizzard’s Diablo, but then again, what game was, and Supreme Commander came packed with numerous innovative features for the RTS genre. Then there’s Total Annihilation, which I’m sure will ring a few bells for those of you who still remember it.
With such a pedigree, there was no reason to suspect “foul play” with their newest creation, Space Siege, even though the trailers floating all over the Internet showed what looked like a marketing experiment instead of a “real” game.
Unfortunately, in its final form, Space Siege is exactly that: a failed marketing experiment, an over simplified game in an already “simple” market position, created for some sort of niche of players probably alive and breathing in a corner, somewhere. Space Siege is just some sort of “Dungeon Siege in space”, but where you don’t have: a loot system, an inventory screen, some sort of semi-advanced character development system, level-up, decent story… nothing. It’s just a glorified Alien Shooter: Vengeance, and nothing more.
After a very nice intro, the player is presented with a bit of background story: he’s a “space marine” (for the milionth time), in an alien infested space ship; you have the mouse cursor, and you need to press right click a lot. That’s it. That’s all Space Siege does in terms of gameplay: point the mouse at the critter, right-click, watch it die, repeat. On occasion, the need arises to press one of the 1 through 9 keys for some special “combo”, and the monster will die faster. Once that happens, you realize that neither the lowliest mob, nor the ugliest boss will drop anything but upgrade parts. These are the game’s currency, and can be used to upgrade your stats and those of your robotic companion, who’ll join you at some point during the game. This system is anything but complex, although it uses “specialized” terms like “increases your attack power by 2%”; don’t be fooled though, the assumed complexity given by the presence of percentages just isn’t there.
Because there are no armors in Space Siege, the color of the default armor changes when you add points to your stats, in a rather poor attempt to add a bit of variety to your in-game looks. There’s also the possibility to enhance yourself using cybernetic parts, like legs and arms, which give you some nice stats and modify the look of the main character, from human to “kick ass robot from the future”. The problem is that this form of customization brings penalties from a story point of view: depending on how many cybernetic implants you have, your humanity level will decrease, and if you install more than 2 you’ll unlock the “bad” ending instead of the “good” ending.
Loosely translated, this feature can be interpreted like this: if I choose to customize my character with the only form of… well, customization available in the game, because I’m bored out of my skull, I’m being punished for it and the reason for that is some sort of vague “moral” reason, which doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. It’s really not very nice to be smacked in the head for trying to add a bit of flavor to my insipid space marine.
Continuing in the same simplistic manner, you occasionally receive points to customize the anemic skill trees, consisting of “I’m kicking your ass” and “My robot will kick your ass”. The robot is nice, by the way, and it’s probably one of the few nice features of the game.
The advancement system in Space Siege isn’t exactly interesting or satisfying. It just feels like something added up just to keep the players silent on the forums, or something similar, although there are plenty of other reasons to bitch and whine about, like the embarrassing number of available weapons, unlocked at specific points during the story.