Mad Doc software, with the help of Gas Powered Games, have been busy working away on an expansion for the action RPG Dungeon Siege entitled: Legends of Aranna bringing more of the fast paced adventuring we saw in the first title. The original Dungeon Siege came in for some stick for its lack of story, which I have to say was a little harsh, this is an action RPG after all. Anyway, let’s get on with it and take a look at what’s new.Legends of Aranna features an all new story which sees your character finding out more about his/her history and parents while he/she chases down the Shadowjumper who has stolen a powerful staff that must be returned at all costs. The game is also set in an all-new area, the land of the ancient Utrean civilisation, and as you progress through the game you’ll find out more about its eventual downfall while trying to avoid some of the nasty creatures that are found roaming the land. The story is better than the original game but as I mentioned above, it’s not the be all and end all of the game. Another feature of this game that gets our thumbs up is its size, the game world is vast and there’s hour and hours of gameplay here which makes a pleasant change after some of the recently released titles to hit the shelves.Gas Powered Games and Microsoft have not been stupid when it comes to this expansion, they came up with a good way to shift copies of the game, by including the original with the expansion absolutely free. Hats off to MS here, you get the all-new adventure and the complete original game in one nice package. Now if only other publishers would do the same the gaming world would be a happier place. It’s worth noting though that you can’t bring over any characters you may have created in the original game, this is an all-new adventure.Other than the new game world what else is new? Well there’s a few enhancements to the actual gameplay which makes the game more enjoyable and less fiddly. There’s now a new redistribute potions button at the bottom of the screen, and when clicked, will split the potions evenly amongst your party. That’s not all though, the game works out who should receive the mana and who should receive the health based on how their character has developed, mana to magic users and health to ranged/melee characters. One of the greatest improvements is the ability to hotkey spell groups. This enables you to switch all your party members’ spells with the press of a button. You can also set these groups to whichever combination you want and it has a very positive impact on the gameplay.Gamers who like to dabble in the magic arts will find a batch of new spells to unleash on the enemy. Visually impressive, you can now use Orb spells that rotate around your character dishing out damage and leaving your spell casters hands-free to carry out further attacks. There’s a transformation spell which can turn you into the game’s monsters giving the magic users a melee attack. The additional new spells coupled with the spells from the original game give you a lot to think about.New spells are not the only additional features, there’s now new items to hunt down on your travels. There’s new items with special imbued effects so there’s plenty to experiment with as you progress. Taking a leaf out of Diablo II’s book there are now set items, or Treasure Sets as they’re called here, which will give you a special boost should you manage to collect the whole set which will include between there and five separate items. There can be a drawback with the Treasure Sets because each individual item may be fairly average so wearing it while you’re looking for the others will probably not be of much benefit when there are better regular or magical imbued items to be had. To carry all your new loot there’s now a backpack which can be added to your inventory slots, which when opened, increases your pack size by 50%. Just as well as it’s not long until things start filling up.A cool feature of the original game was the pack mule, your trusty donkey who carried your items through the quests. The mule is still here but there’s also a new beast of burden, called the Tragg, These little dinosaur-looking creatures do the same job as the mule but have the added bonus of an attack ability to protect itself which means less worrying about your mule getting sliced to pieces.The AI is pretty decent in the expansion, the monsters will pursue you once you’re spotted and it’s sometimes hard to shake them off, they’re persistent little buggers at times. Aranna, like the original, still occasionally suffers from what I call ‘cigarette smoking AI’ where the creatures just stand stationary until they spot you which makes the game feel a little static in places. Overall through the game is challenging and it’s not just down to the sheer number of monsters that throw themselves at you which we’ve seen in other games.The outstanding feature of the original was the graphics and even though it’s been some time since the original was released, the graphics still look outstanding. The new jungle environments are fantastic and the spell effects on Orbs and special items are impressive. The big plus is of course the lack of any loading screens so it just flows making it a hard game to put down. A criticism of the game has to be the way in which the story progresses and the lack of cutscenes. A few in-game cutscenes pop up here and there but the story really unfolds through dialogue with the NPC characters. This is a weakness with the game, it’s hard to get pumped about the story through dialogue and some cinematics would have been a nice inclusion in this game, and the original, to make the story feel epic.The game’s musical score is very atmospheric and we can’t fault the music department on their endeavours. Where the sound does fall down is the dialogue which is sporadic to say the least. Not every character you talk to actually has spoken dialogue and an irritance is the character responses when you ask them to move. There’s only a few lines for each character you control so it gets repetitive rather quickly.Multiplayer is naturally included and it’s easy to hook up over a LAN, direct IP connect or through Microsoft’s Zone Match service where there’s a list of available games to join. Characters from the single player can’t be carried over to the multiplayer which means starting a new character from scratch as you’d expect. The multiplayer is fun and it’s great to play the game without having to rely on recruiting other characters to your party like you do in the single player.As far as expansion go Mad Doc have done a decent job with Legends of Aranna, despite the few niggles. The game is addictive and will have you hooked for hours on end, it’s fast moving and a good length for once. The fact that the original game is also included is a huge bonus, especially for gamers who have never ventured into the Kingdom of Ehb before. If you loved the original this is a must have expansion and if you’re new to Dungeon Seige then this is an excellent time to start, there’s hours of gameplay making Legends of Aranna great value for money.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.