Space Siege: Impressions, Cautious Defence

By Alec Meer on July 30th, 2008 at 12:29 am.

Not actually possible yourself. Sigh

Figured I’d lob up some thoughts now I’ve actually played the Space Siege demo. It’s going to be a divisive title, though currently the nays seem to have it.

I’m convinced it’s actually quite an ambitious game, more so than it’s being given credit for. The trouble – and the possible cause of negative reactions to the demo – is that this ambition may have come at the expense of character.

It’s not as similar to Dungeon Siege as some are saying. There’s a lot of crossover for sure – always was going to be, given the name, but it has just as much in common with Alien Breed or Shadowrun. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem bold enough to admit this, perhaps because it wants to be called an RPG and not a shooter – hence those horrible controls. It sticks doggedly and unnecessarily to Diabloesque click-to-move, but inexplicably assigns the camera rotation to WASD. Which means your left hand falls naturally into the FPS Claw, but all those years of strafing muscle memory are absolutely useless because you’re actually performing an entirely different process. It seems like an insane call on GPG’s part, though I’m quite sure they have their reasons.

So, WASD movement needs to be, at the very least, an option in the full game as far as I’m concerned. I do try not to be too much of a fuss-pot about this kind of thing, but I honestly did find the current control set so aggravating that I’m very unlikely to play Space Siege for pleasure (as opposed to for work) until it’s patched in.

More positively – no inventory, and all the bunkum that traditionally goes with that system. Or rather there is, but it’s impressively streamlined into a simple currency/upgrade system that means your mind is on the game, not the OCD loot collection/comparison. This is a Diablolike (of sorts) that doesn’t want to be defined by what’s probably the most ludicrous stereotype of the genre. I can’t do anything but admire that – it’s incredibly brave to ditch the foremost reason so many people play this type of game. Of course, this demo is barely more than a tutorial, so it’s not out of the question that inventory Tetris will show up later. I do hope not.

The question is whether what you’re doing instead of item-juggling – the killing of space-beasts – is rewarding enough to receive so magnified a focus. If it remains as it does in the demo, then I’m not entirely convinced it’ll stay fresh. The Doom 3-like décor is humdrum, the beasts unmemorable and the combat, while fast and admirably close to actual-shooty (unlike Mass Effect or Tabula Rasa’s uncomfortable faux-shooty), is horribly hampered by those bizarre controls.

I think, however, there’s a lot in there that isn’t entirely obvious, and a lot we haven’t seen – most notably the robot companion, and the long-term effects of your choice between powerful cybernetic upgrades or hanging onto your humanity. Amusingly, you can swap out your legs for some lovely piston affairs in the demo (and there’s a brilliantly silly screaming noise when you do so), but such self-mutilation has very little palpable effect, as presumably it’s still beginner kit. I’m banking on the choice feeling more meaningful later in the game.

Oh – I also like the way the larger enemies’ armour fragments under your fire, eventually leaving vulnerably topless scaley space-beasts. Again – there’s a lot of nice little tics to it, and it’s a shame that the fairly staid art style makes these tricky to spot.

So, I quite like it. I don’t love it, as I had hoped to, but I most certainly don’t feel like spitting acid at it. I suspect Demigod will prove to be GPG’s real post-Supcom triumph, but I’m convinced Space Siege is doing just enough to experiment with its chosen form that it’s worth sticking with yet.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

40 Comments »

  1. RichPowers says:

    Based on the demo, Space Siege is playable, if at times frustrating, but it’s simply not worth $49.99. Once it hits the bargain bin, I’ll likely buy it and have little reason to complain. After all, $4.99 seems like a fair price for a completely average game (it’ll also be thoroughly patched by then, too).

  2. Jesucristo says:

    You could have a more comprehensive impressions in this way:
    “clic-clic-clic-clic-clic-kill-clic-clic-clic-clic-kill”. That’s all. space Siege does not offer nothing more that all the fucking Action RPG out there.

  3. ReturnToNull says:

    It’s a solid game. I’ll say that much. Nothing in the demo was really grabbing though. Although the cyborg vs. human choices would be interesting.

  4. Commando says:

    I just think they have the wrong end of the stick with the upgrade system instead of loot. Loot drip feeds you new shinies on random chances with quality linked to your progress. Upgrades could replace that if they provided some variety but pressing a button to add 2% faster fire rate excites nobody.

    Couldn’t it have been more like bolt on extra armor plates you scavenged from the heavily armored enemies and then apply a radioactive protection coating that randomly dropped? At the moment it feels more like a spreadsheet.

  5. Charlie says:

    Well I think it would be unfair to dismiss it on the demo alone. I mean it was about 10 mins long and I think I took my time with it. In fact it took longer to change the graphics settings than it did to play it through! I think it could be fun though, if they put in WASD controls like you say, a Shadowgrounds with a bit of depth maybe?

  6. Svenska says:

    I really have my doubts that the choice between staying human or going all robot will really change anything.

  7. MetalCircus says:

    Deffo agree with the WASD comments – I kept going for movement rather than camera controls with those buttons. They fix that, and i’m in.

    :edit: before tonight, i’d honestly never heard of Space Seige. Has it been hyped to buggery or something? Because I’ve never really heard anything about it…

  8. friday says:

    I enjoyed the demo quite a bit. I really like the upgrade system and auto looting. I think making the controls more action like would defiantly help the game, but it didn’t bother me too much.

  9. Robyrt says:

    I love Chris Taylor, but this demo felt like Too Human with better graphics and worse controls. (Hold down right click to attack? Ouch.) Maybe if they teamed up on a single space dungeon crawler with a cybernetic/human duality, it would be the best game ever?

    The system requirements were also too steep for my computer – it was barely a slideshow at 1280×800, even worse than Supreme Commander.

    The last time I played a co-op PC game was Dungeon Siege, and it was lots of fun. Hopefully this will recapture the magic.

  10. EvilH says:

    This is a re-invention of Dungeon Siege, right? The WASD controls and right-click to attack are straight from there, which in turn is from Diablo 2 (with added 3d-ness) I haven’t tried the demo, but I imagine it’s a port of the controls from DS, where they worked fairly well, but now they don’t fit in?

  11. JayeRandom says:

    What happened to the zoomable map that Dungeon Siege had? Instead I get some simple floor plan looking like it was drawn in 1995.

  12. UncleLou says:

    “This is a Diablolike (of sorts) that doesn’t want to be defined by what’s probably the most ludicrous stereotype of the genre. I can’t do anything but admire that”

    My more cynical idea was that they just took a short-cut to save time. Implememting a rewarding and balanced loot system is probably one of the more time-consuming things in such a game, and the game (or demo) feels like it was cobbled together by a handful of people as a quick side-project.

  13. Roman says:

    Ah yes “the game made for amputees” as Vince D. Weller so eloquently puts it.

  14. Muzman says:

    That sort of control scheme is unconscionable, has been for ten years. Trouble is, if my mercifully small experience with games that use it is anything to go by, they probably can’t change it easily. If the player can actually move the enemy placement and level design as well as the combat AI would suddenly need to be improved dramatically.

  15. Taxman says:

    I enjoyed the brief demo but it was way too short to get a comprehensive view of it.

    It’s a dungeon crawler for people with collect em’up tendencies which is always only going to appeal to a select crowd.

  16. Brian Newton says:

    Didn’t anyone notice that you can control the camera entirely with the mouse? Mouse wheel to zoom and clicking in the wheel to rotate. Or just bump the sides of the screen. That leaves your left hand for powers with the number keys as it should be. Am I the only one that noticed this simply because the demo tells you to use wasd? Also, no need for multiple clicks, just click and hold. Plus you can click and hold to move. I think wasd movement would make it harder to use powers. Does that handle most complaints about the demo except for the blandness?

  17. Urre says:

    Brian: sounds like you’re not very accustomed to FPS games or the like. Few FPS players have problems shifting their hand a bit to press number keys or other keys relatively close to where your hand rests, it comes natural after a while, so I doubt that would be a problem.

    But I’m still wondering where the point lies if they remove the highly exciting deal of gathering items. I’m all for accessibility, but removing that doesn’t necessarily make it more accessible. See, the game isn’t good enough as an action game to warrant it only acting as one, it’d need more action-like controls and the opposition to boot, with better AI and variety. As it is now, it’s kind of like a base for a diablolike, just the items/inventory system hasn’t been added yet, or kind of like some “advanced” web-browser flash game…

  18. araczynski says:

    i enjoyed the demo and am looking forward to the game, but i agree that WASD needs to be put in, badly. i don’t know if its too late for that at this point however.

    i will be waiting for a discount price, or a patch to throw the WASD in there, otherwise, controls are aggravating, i kept wanting to WASD to dodge enemy fire, but just kept swinging the camera around like a tard.

  19. rez says:

    I know it’s just a demo, but it left a taste of “$9.99 PopCap action game” in my mouth. Something about it just doesn’t feel right, be it the controls, the “shooter-as-RPG” formula, the lack of significant lootage, or just the generic spaceship motif. At any rate, unless there are many significant improvements to the final cut, I won’t be spending my time or money on this.

  20. Dave says:

    I’m not convinced that “no inventory” is a good thing. Maybe a bold departure, maybe just laziness, but there’s a whole reward system gone that it’s difficult to compensate for. It flies in the face of “A Theory of Fun” and everything we know about gambling.

    You could replace that with a really compelling story, and non-loot content that continually amazes and delights, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening.

    Then again, City of Heroes was practically a lootless system. Hrm.

  21. Shawny D says:

    Great write up. I have to agree, as much as I wanted to love Space Siege, (and I do like it) the controls are a bit wonky. As a lefty, I couldn’t rebind a lot of the keys(demo locked I suppose), so it was even worse, going between the left and right side of the KB. I resulted to just using the mouse’s wheel button to spin the camera around, and holding down the second mouse button to turn my character around(awkward as all hell). What they need to do is allow for direct control, either automatically switching between it using the mouse for the characters headlook, or allowing us to use a mouse button to hold down for looking and WASD to the move around with the middle mouse to spin the camera, maybe similar to Hellgate(which I love the control scheme for).

    I really hope GPG can throw in some control options, and that it’s not too late to do so with the design of the game. I’m still gonna play it, but I’m wondering what their reason is for current control….

    Oh, and it would be nice to use the “vacuum” to suck up the loot while moving, having to stop every time was a minor annoyance. Again, maybe i’m just used to Hellgate…

  22. GeorgeR says:

    Wasd camera? That’s uhm… odd. I may or may not grab this. Dungeon siege never hooked me for some reason, and I really tried, my friends were all into it but it just did nothing for me

  23. Ryan says:

    I hope we can at least all agree that the way gas canisters zoom around when shot is hella bitchin’ awesome.

  24. Rocktart says:

    One hand for movement, one for attacking – it isn’t designed for a gamepad is it?

  25. Shawny D says:

    You know what Rocktart, I think you’re right thinking about that. I can see this game actually working with a gamepad better, by using two thumbsticks

  26. rektide says:

    Gets a resounding “meh” from my camp. Me and a friend signed off of Armada Online, installed, booted up, and chatted over TS as we ran around.

    I was the only one who’d played Shadowgrounds and Alien Swarm, and I was left not really sure what Space Siege brought to the table beyond that. The upgrade system is very sweet, possibly the only real consolation I got out of the rather mediocre experience, and straight out of WipeOut 3 and Armored Core 2′s excellent upgrade systems that I loved. Performance was so/so at best on my 7950GT with low shadow quality and crappy 720p resolution: highly highly disappointing/totally unacceptable. In all, we spent probably 23 minutes running around before shrugging and going back to slaying hordes of Armada and seeding more Vorgan bases.

    The worst experience was by far the 3d environment. There were a number of times where I was on stairs or an elevator trying to shoot up or down at an enemy and my character would simply not shoot even remotely where I wanted. Past that, the fake WASD controls were an irk. Shadowgrounds knew what type of game it was and did a good job of giving a good interface: the interface here feels like 2D diablo hacked into a 3d world.

    My understanding is that cyberpsychosis (cyberpunk2020 represent) only prevents you from accessing some late game sweetness. To me, it reeks of the same promises we heard from Molyneux’s Fable: embrace the light & dark! Become your nature! Annndd… get a kick ass item at the end for doing so. Boil away the hype-marketing and how much condensate is really left?

    Your conjecture that there is no inventory system is, I think, flawed. You may not have an inventory, but there are different weapons, and thats enough to make the whole thing moot in my book.

    CT, was Total Annihilation just a fluke? Innovate man, innovate! I’ll pick this schwag up when its in the $25 bin.

  27. rektide says:

    @Ryan: no, the way the gas cans blew up was hella-fucking-scripted. That was seriously fucking sad shit, a huge disappointment. 1994 is calling, they want their game design back.

  28. Brian Newton says:

    No Rektide, I’m almost sure those gas canisters weren’t scripted. They directly flew in the opposite direction of my fire, to the point that I could shoot them directly at enemies that were coming down a particular elevator.

    @Urre: I most definitely have played FPS games before. This is not an FPS game and bears no similarities aside from you having a gun. This is a Diablo clone, or more accurately, a Dungeon Siege clone. It’s controlled with the mouse and your keyboard is used for activating abilities.

    Why does everyone want this to be an FPS all of a sudden? Is it because there are guns and things blow up? From what I can tell, this is an effort to clone Dungeon Siege, change the setting and streamline the inventory and party management. I think Wasd would be very akward in this scenario. I don’t remember anyone asking for wasd in Diablo or Dungeon Siege.

  29. Requiem says:

    I played DS II most of this morning, while I only lasted an hour or so before switching on the Dungeon Siege 1 style attack options I felt the control scheme worked suited DS II better than Space Siege.

    Why? Maybe because DS II is more slower paced, making it the point and click more managable or maybe it’s because Space Siege is so reminiscient of games like Shadowgrounds that it feels like it should be played the same way? What ever the reason the hold down the right mouse button to attack just feels unnatural.

  30. NuZZ says:

    NO WASD. NO GAME.

    This game is just going to fail so hard and all because of the control scheme. :(. I wanted a game to play! People seems to think that WASD will not get into the game because the interface/engine is so messed up. GUI also sucks… It is… Flash?

  31. Flint says:

    This topic makes me feel alone in my use of the arrow buttons instead of WASD.

  32. Shawn says:

    Flint, i’m a lefty, so i’m guilty of arrows too as it’s easier for my right hand, so just pretend it’s WASD.. :P

  33. Flint says:

    I’m a lefty myself actually but I use the mouse with my right hand and keyboard with the left so I guess I’m just a weirdo, haha :D.

    As for the actual topic, I’m vaguely interested in trying the demo (especially seeing as demos are such a rare thing these days) but I don’t know if I can be arsed with a 1gig file for a very small amount of gameplay. Although I guess I have to be glad that it’s only 1gig instead of the ridiculousamountsbytes most demos these days are.

  34. Chris says:

    Once you remove the inventory management bits of Dungeon Siege/Diablo/etc, then this is what’s left. Bugger all.

    Amply displayed by the Space Siege demo.

  35. geldonyetich says:

    My brother hated the demo – mostly for the movement related reasons you mentioned – but personally I thought it was very impressive. The feel of mowing down lots of aliens is excellent, with only awkwardness of having to sit immobile as you do it.

    The “dodge” key is bound to E. Once you get used to it, dodging shots isn’t hard. It does, however, require you take the crosshair off the enemy for a moment and maybe this is unforgivable to some.

    It seems that the interface most people want for this game will be like Crimsonland or the PC-equivilent of Smash TV – WASD movement with mouse firing. That would be really intuitive, sure, but it lacks of a certain realistic feel that comes with having to sit still while firing a big weapon.

    I do not believe that there will be “inventory tetris.” Looking at the weapon upgrade interface (you’ll find this at save points) what happens instead is all weapons found are permanently available like a first person shooter. You find parts which are used to directly upgrade the weapons you find or to upgrade your character directly (including your armor).

    It’s actually a very well-thought-out, streamlined approach that works well. Lets face it, Diablo inventory Tetris sucks – it’s a constant struggle keeping things straight. You might enjoy Diablo, but it wasn’t because your inventory created a challenge.

    Apparently the arm and leg upgrades allow you to use certain weapons you otherwise can’t. Other cybernetic upgrades directly boost your power in certain ways. I didn’t find a leg upgrade in the demo, but I did find an arm upgrade and a chaingun I couldn’t use due to not having the neccessary leg upgrade.

    Oddly enough, after I finished the demo once I couldn’t start it again. It seems to be corrupted now. That bodes poorly.

  36. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    I ended up installing and playing both the Space Siege and Supreme Commander demos on Wednesday. (Must have been on a Gas Powered Games kick or something…) While people screaming at me to do something in Supreme Commander mostly felt like they were trying to help me, for some reason in Space Siege, it just felt like nagging.

    I was reminded of the commentary in Half-Life 2: Episode One, I think it was, where they mentioned that the more that Alyx nagged the player, the more irritated their playtesters became and the more they disliked her. I’m trying to blow up aliens, dude, quit bitching at me that I need to install cybernetic legs.

    Also, is replacing your legs really a choice you make just out of the blue one day? “Hey I guess I’ll lop my arm off and replace it. No worries.”)

    Neither demo really puts its best face forward, plus the BUY NOW screens at the end don’t help their cause.

  37. Neuro says:

    In a comparison to DS2 I was sorely dissapointed with this as a followup. My main reason being that the control system is woefully flawed. Not impossible to fathom, just clumsy. No sign of a possibilty to redefine any keys, and as has been mentioned, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

    I Loved DS2 and I still play Titan Quest IT, and just about every aspect of it still shines better than this. The graphics, physics, inventory abillities, skilltree…..everything. At best I can call this game a step back in the genre. It feels like it was a half-assed clone of shadowgrounds that has been dumbed down for kiddies.

    But hey, it kills time. We all have that until we die. (or at least until Diablo 3 comes out)

  38. Meh says:

    What a worthless game. I understand your gripes about controls sucking etc etc. Who cares, the game is so bad, that even if the controls were great, it would still be crap. This isnt an RPG, its basically an adventure game where choices mean nothing, story doesnt matter, characters dont make sense, and…your only joy in life is collecting alien parts that you can somehow craft into so-so items? Give me a break. Your only joy will be in never playing this game again. And seriously…bargain bin? Anything $4 bucks and takes more than 6 hours to beat aint worth your time with games like this. This is a time waster, you’re better off playing a board game with some friends.

  39. Geldonyetich says:

    “This isnt an RPG, its basically an adventure game where choices mean nothing, story doesnt matter, characters dont make sense, and…your only joy in life is collecting alien parts that you can somehow craft into so-so items? Give me a break.”

    I feel that way about nearly all computer RPGs. Replace the “collecting alien parts” with another flavor of grind, and try to name 5 CRPGs released in the last 5 years that haven’t done this.

  40. Adjudicator says:

    “Or rather there is, but it’s impressively streamlined into a simple currency/upgrade system that means your mind is on the game, not the OCD loot collection/comparison.”

    I’m beginning to think that you, like Chris Taylor, don’t really understand what makes certain games fun. The “OCD” loot collection is not some incidental side project that gets in the way of some imagined gameplay purity- its an integral part of it, and a huge part of what makes games like this fun. Focus on the “real” game? Focus on what? Right clicking on utterly generic enemies repeatedly for 10 hours? Is that somehow more pure and meaningful? Thats not to say its impossible to make an action RPG without copying Diablos loot system- but this certainly isn’t it. They ditched the loot system more out of laziness than anything, because they certainly didn’t put any effort into replacing it with something else that would be compelling.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>