Okay, story time. Back in 2002, I was 14 years old and in my second year of grammar school. My brother and I used to play a lot of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction
together, always racing to see who could get the best unique items and the most powerful rune words. We actually had a binder at home containing printed lists of all the item sets and all the unique items in the game, and used to keep track of which items we had collected.
Anyway, over the summer it was my birthday, and this amazing-looking game called Dungeon Siege
had come out just a few months earlier. This was before I had access to the internet, so I knew little about the game other than that it looked like a fully realised 3D hack-'n-slash RPG and that it was made by Chris Taylor
, of Total Annihilation
fame. I only knew who he was because I loved TA
. and I knew that I wanted this game. I asked my parents for it as a birthday present, and they agreed.
And so I started playing. It did not take me long to realise that this game wasn't quite like Diablo
at all. Sure, it had character classes and randomised equipment, but the single-player campaign played more like a real-time tactics version of a Diablo-like. I didn't hate it, but it was not really the game I signed up for, either.
At one point, feeling a little bummed about my choice of birthday gift, I randomly clicked the multiplayer button in the game's menu. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I figured out that the game's multiplayer portion was limited to one character per player and offered another map that you could play on: The Utraean Peninsula
. This map wasn't a straight shot from A to B, like the campaign. It played more like an open world.
I looked over at my brother and saw a twinkle in his eye. We put our allowances together, grabbed our coats and bee-lined to the nearest electronics store to pick up a second copy of the game.
Back home, we jumped straight into what would be the
digital adventure of our young lives. He played the hulking fighter, I was the cunning archer. We started our journey in Elddim, a small town at the heart of the peninsula. We talked to the guard captain about a nearby quest and then we just.. started walking.
The peninsula was vast. Some locations, like the Great Northern Forest, were so incredibly large that you could get lost in them for hours. There was no map, so you had to rely on landmarks like mountains, towers and rivers to navigate. Sometimes we would stumble into an area far too difficult for us to tackle. Sometimes we would find a secret passage hidden in an underground crypt, revealing an entire new area that wasn't on any map.
Our imaginations ran wild. It felt like the possibilities of this enormous land mass were endless. We didn't have internet, see. No wikis, no GameFAQs, no guides or maps or anything. At one point we walked into what we assumed was another cool dungeon. It was the Pit of Despair, designed to make you hopelessly lost. Oh, we were lost alright. It took us hours to find our way out.
And then there was the fast travel system. You didn't have town portal scrolls or some spell you could use. You had to use the Helios Utrae Basilicus (HUB, har har). The Basicilus was like this floating platform in the sky, connected to different towns and locations of interest by way of 'displacers'. You would stand on a platform and twist a statue to make it move. You had to both be on it or the other player would simply be left behind.
The real magic of all this was that there weren't any loading screens. There were no instances. Everything was streaming in real time. It was incredible tech for the time and it helped sell me on the game's fantasy completely.
Look, I could wax poetic about this all day. Point is that I've never had such an amazing experience playing through a game together with someone as I did that summer, when me and my brother trekked across the Utraean Peninsula for the first time. I will bet you any money the experience still holds up today, if you can get past the game's visuals. If you've never played Dungeon Siege
before, give the multiplayer map a go. The world design is second to none.
I will leave you guys with a retro review on the game I found on YouTube, just to give you an idea of what it looks like. The atmosphere of the game is still so good! No action RPG has forests as dense as this game does.