Space Siege
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Bad guys rather sportingly announce their remaining health.

OK, here’s the short version – Space Siege is an alright game.

Now, I know that, as reviews go, this is the shortest and weakest one ever penned by the hand of man. But I don’t mean ‘it’s alright’ in the sulky, shrugging teenager way. It really is just about passable in almost all areas, with precious little to actually set it apart from the pack. In fact, when people talk about games that stand out from the pack, it’s games like Space Siege that they’re referring to as ‘the pack’.

None of which is to say that it’s a bad game. In fact, in terms of playability, it’s… fine. Adequate. Acceptable. Barely scraping by, as my school report card consistently said. The same can be said of the graphics, sound, plot and lifespan.

As the name will have suggested to the savvy and sharp-eyed among you, Space Siege is a futuristic version of the now-aging Diabolo-clone Dungeon Siege. You point-and-click your way around humanity’s last starship, fighting hordes of aliens, androids and cyborgs. There are skill points to be allocated, new weapons to be found and upgrades to be built. Notice a pattern? That’s right – there’s nothing here that you’ve not done a million, billion times already in other games. Plot-wise, there’s a healthy dose of System Shock 2 (albeit dealt with in a far more signposted way), and as previously mentioned, if you’ve yawned your way through Dungeon Siege, you’ll find more of the stultifying same here.

Which, as I have to keep reminding myself, isn’t actually bad. It’s just not good. It’s average. Almost noteworthy in its averageness, like a family who hit all of the national demographical means so completely they win a million pound prize. Or something. Not that there’s a prize here, of course.

So come on, surely I can say something nice for it. Well, occasionally the graphics capture the feel of a dark, fairly spooky space dreadnaught filled with malevolent beasts quite well, although they’re derivative of every sci-fi game since the movie Aliens first came out. In fact, if you’ll permit me an old-school reference here, it’s similar to the 16-bit classic Alien Breed. Although nowhere near as cutting edge for its time. And not as tense. But similar in that despite the variety of weapons, and enemies to use them on, it still boils down to a toe-to-toe slugfest.

The game is well balanced in its difficulty. In fact it’s too well balanced. Skill points and new weapons are dished out at set points in the game, and there’s no ‘wrong’ way to upgrade your character. This means that you will be able to beat any challenge that the game throws at you with more-or-less the same degree of difficulty no matter what. Ooh, I’ve just thought of a good description. It’s a GRIND. That’s exactly the right word. You’re just pounding your way through faceless hordes of whatevers in order to see what comes next, which is – surprise surprise – another horde of mooks.

So you can see where Diabolo comparisons can come from. But Space Siege is devoid of any of the colourful special baddies, or endless weapon and armour customisation and upgradification. It would be extremely grumpy of me to not at least mention the little aggro robot chum you can build for yourself in Space Siege though – I don’t remember one of those in Diabolo. Too bad he doesn’t really do much to ease the monotony.

I like a spot of RPG in my games. Who doesn’t? It helps you to form some kind of a bond with your character, like a loveable puppy, if you get to mould him. The RPG elements in Space Siege are welcome, of course, but they do very little to really dramatically alter the feel of the game, or even the way it’s played. Which is a shame, because a detailed skill system or interesting and imaginative equipment and upgrades for weapons would have been enough to tip the fulcrum and make this an enjoyable game.

There are plenty of different types of gamers out there, though, and if you couldn’t believe what a wonderful game Dungeon Siege was, and loved the story of System Shock 2 so much that you’d love to sit through even a dumbed-down version, or if your machine can’t deal with the enormous system requirements of modern games and you need something gentle on the 3D card and inoffensively middle-of-the-road to play, this is as good as anything else. Not better or worse, just okay. And if you play it and love it, please feel free to post a comment along the lines of “OMG SQUEE YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT VIDEOGAEMS THIS IS THE AWESOMEST GAME EVARRRRRR!!1!”. 

I can think of no situation where comically oversized guns are inappropriate.