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With every siege-able dungeon on Earth now thoroughly sieged, Gas Powered Games’ Space Siege goes not-so-boldly where few action RPGs have gone before - to a cavernous starship in the inky blackness of space. The premise is boilerplate sci-fi: the human colony ship ISCS Armstrong is breached and invaded by the Kerak, a space-faring but dumb warrior race of crustacean-like aliens, and you, playing as robotics specialist/Rambo Seth Walker, must kill ’em all and let their crustacean god sort ’em out. Cue the furious mouse-clicking and isometrically viewed third-person bloodletting!
The twist is that you’re given the choice to replace Seth’s soft fleshy parts with cybernetic upgrades. A “humanity meter” keeps track of how many appendages and other bits - legs, arms, eyes, spine, and even your brain - you’ve traded away to “improve” yourself, with the benefits being increased speed, health, endurance, and access to cyber-specific skills and weapons. The implication of the meter, and the pleading “Do it!/Don’t do it!” arguments from the bland supporting cast, is that your choice of whether or not to use these cybernetic augmentations is some sort of moral dilemma that will profoundly alter your character and the story line.
In practice, however, the moralizing is merely lip service. Whether he’s fully human or a walking toaster, Seth retains his square-jawed enthusiasm, delivering every line of the voice-acted dialogue with chipper all-American bravado. (It’s unintentionally hilarious to watch your chrome-faced cyborg character emote like a quarterback who’s about to throw the winning touchdown.) Except for your appearance and some modest changes to your skill set, the choice to augment or not to augment carries no real ramifications for gameplay or the story.
It’d be unfair to hold Space Siege to the epic storytelling standards of Mass Effect, but it’s advantageous to have that dangling “carrot” to entice us to hack and slash (or, in this case, shooting and slashing) ever forward. That carrot may come in the form of cool and unique loot drops, massively configurable characters and armor sets, increasingly flamboyant attacks delivered by a party-full of disparate characters, and a new and interesting environment around every corner. Space Siege skimps on carrots: loot consists of boring health kits and scrap parts that can be traded for stat improvements in your abilities and weapons; your sole companion is HR-V, an upgradeable robot buddy; and the ship is one long, drab maze of metallic gray hallways and metallic gray catwalks. Worst of all, your cybernetic implants can’t be upgraded like your weapons and armor, or replaced with better ones. Even though the ship is infested by “cybers” - cyber-enhanced humans under Kerak control - only one of each body part implant is available.
In addition, some of the game’s design decisions left me befuddled. For example, to activate one of the special combat or engineering skills displayed at the bottom of the screen, you have to press its associated hotkey on the keyboard - simply clicking its icon does nothing. The underdeveloped boss characters are essentially well-armored turrets, and audio diary entries discovered on datapads scattered around levels contribute little to the story.
Space Siege isn’t a bad game; it’s just a very ordinary one with an inordinately large amount of squandered potential. Even the game’s co-op mode, which allows for up to four people to play through a series of ho-hum challenges over LAN or through the Internet via GPGnet, isn’t enough to recommend it. Maybe it’s because the price of gas is at an all-time high, but Gas Powered Games ran out of it while making this game.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 58% (merely okay)
Aug 12, 2008
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