In the realm of action-oriented video games, few are as zen as dungeon crawlers. Even at their most complex, demolishing and looting enemies in the likes of Diablo or Torchlight is as hypnotic as it is satisfying; their gameplay loops providing a perfect mixture of habitual repetition, and utter excitement. And to a small, yet passionate subset of PC gamers during the early 2000s, few games offered a better blend of these elements than Dungeon Siege.
Created by Gas Powered Games – a Redmond-based development studio led by the legendary Chris Taylor – Dungeon Siege received significant praise upon its release in 2002 for its unique, party-based gameplay and its seamless, loadingscreen-free world, resulting in a dedicated player base quickly rallying around its design.
Yet even amongst its most ardent fans, it also received significant criticism for its barebones story, as well as its tendency to play itself. As a result, its creators worked hard to ensure its sequel featured a more impressive narrative, and a deeper, more involving combat system upon its release in 2005. The end result of their efforts wouldn’t upend its genre – but it would still prove a hit among fans, and continue to inch the series closer to role-playing stardom.
Unfortunately, after the release of a decent, albeit gimped spinoff on the PlayStation Portable the following year, the series would proceed to go dormant for half a decade, in addition to being adapted into one of the worst video game movies to ever reach theatres. When it would finally re-emerge, it would do so under the guidance of a different studio – and end up being utterly unlike what had come before it.
This is the rise and fall of Dungeon Siege.