Get ready for some more frantic mouse-clicking - Dungeon Siege is back, and it's just as full-on as last time. While not without its flaws, Dungeon Siege II still manages to provide a heaped serving of entertainment.
The game begins with the creation of your main character. You can customise their race, gender, and appearance, before being placed as a mercenary in the army of Valdis, supreme bad guy. After he turns on you and kills your best friend, you wake up in a prison cell of the Dryads. From here, you must perform tasks to gain their trust, before being freed so you can pursue the most common goal in RPGs: revenge. The story is cliched and hackneyed, but is infinitely better than the plot (or lack thereof) found in the original game.
If you have played the first Dungeon Siege, then you'll feel right at home here. Character advancement works the same way. You have four main skill types - melee, ranged, nature magic, and combat magic - that are improved depending on how much you use them. New to the sequel, though, is a skill tree system that lets you further customise your character within each skill type. This is a welcome addition that helps to make your character your own. You can also enchant treasure, which essentially allows you to upgrade certain items.
As in the first game, you will soon be controlling multiple characters. For the most part, your team behaves itself, attacking enemies and staying out of trouble. However, the problem of chaotic battles is still a sore point here - when the screen is filled up with enemies and spells flying all over the place, you often lose track of where your characters are until you hear one of them die. Still, the repeated waves of bad guys, and the ensuing slaughter, remains strangely addictive - which is lucky, because Dungeon Siege II contains little else in the way of gameplay.
In addition to party members, you can also pick up various pets. The pack mule remains my favourite, and enemies had better watch out for its hooves - now it can actually hold its own in combat. You can also level up your pets by feeding your unwanted items to them, which is a welcome (although strange) addition.
Graphically, I expected Dungeon Siege II to be a big leap forward from its predecessor, so I was disappointed when I saw that the visuals were on much the same level as the original. However, the engine has held up well, so it's still pleasant to look at just don't expect cutting edge graphical excellence. The music and sounds are of good quality, but the same cannot be said about the voiceovers. To put it simply: they're terrible. You'd think the developers would have had a budget large enough to afford some decent voice actors, but obviously not.
In the end, Dungeon Siege II is a fun, albeit typical, action RPG. If you enjoy getting swarmed repeatedly by waves of monsters and then scooping up the loot, then this is probably the game for you. Fans of the original should be pleased with this one - it manages to improve on the first game in most areas, although perhaps not as much as I would have liked. Still, for good mindless fun, you can certainly do a lot worse than Dungeon Siege II.