Space Wheeze

By Alec Meer on August 22nd, 2008 at 9:56 am.

I can't even remember this dude's name, despite playing as him for 12 hours

Over at Eurogamer today is my review of Gas Powered Games’ new action-RPG Space Siege. The demo really got folks’ backs up, but does the full game better realise Diablo in space? Or in space, can no-one hear you snore? (trad).

It’s like a hobo convincing himself he’s a businessman purely because he found a knackered briefcase in a skip and stole a suit from a charity shop.

Wuh-oh.

I wonder if we’ll see Chris Taylor et al rabidly defending this game, or if they realise it’s a colossal cock-up and will keep quiet. Perhaps they should be outspoken – Dennis Dyack has probably managed to flog a fair few extra copies of his own lacklustre (though significantly more entertaining than this) sci-fi action-RPG, Too Human, by being/pretending to be absolutely batshit crazy on the internet. But ack, what a shame. Please get Demigod right, GPG. (The tinfoil hat part of me, incidentally, wonders if perhaps this was a concious rush-job to raise quick cash for GPG’s move into self-publishing. A intensely paranoid theory, but it would make me feel better about Space Siege).

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45 Comments »

  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i saw you tear this appart good job meer! very entertaining and now i don’t even have to play the demo, still looking forward to demigod a tonne though

  2. Steve says:

    I actually played through the demo and was considering getting this out of simple desperation for something to do whilst i was bored…

    Now according the the evil influence of this site I am compelled to forgo that option and replay Dreamfall instead.

  3. davidalpha says:

    for the love of rts get demigod right..

    Even though Starcraft 2 and Red Alert 3 are in the pipeline, I still need my collosal buildings beating eachother up in DOTA style fix!

  4. ImperialCreed says:

    It’s like a hobo convincing himself he’s a businessman purely because he found a knackered briefcase in a skip and stole a suit from a charity shop.

    That simile gave me my first laugh of the day. Thanks for brightening up my morning. Enjoyed the review too, I was actually looking forward to Space Siege…

  5. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    I’m loathe to stumble into the old ‘what is an RPG?’ quicksand here, but Space Siege is very much part of a recent trend wherein RPGs try very hard to pretend they’re not RPGs. Like Mass Effect, Too Human and Fallout 3, a lot of the mechanics and statistics are deprioritised in favour of real-time combat. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but, as with Mass Effect’s combat system, this struggles to find a comfortable middle-ground between RPG and action game, and I find myself wishing it had stuck to just one or the other.

    Thank you. I would have your babies if I was in posession of a vagina. Seriously. Your review brings about two points I’ve struggled for so much in the past and went by unrecognized, the other being the excessive streamlining of RPG titles. It’s good to see someone that has more credit than me get the point across.

    I think I’m gonna start signing my posts with the RPS writers’ names everywhere I go. Apparently, “Diogo Ribeiro” doesn’t strike fear into man’s hearts and beards. But “Alec Meer”… That’s almost Highlanderish.

  6. onkellou says:

    “But “Alec Meer”… That’s almost Highlanderish.”

    Heh. It really is a great name. “Meer” means “sea” in German (as I am sure Alec will know), yet I’ve never heard of a any German who has that name. Always sounds like a protagonist of a 19th/early 20th century to me. Joseph Conrad, Thomas Mann, something like that. ;-)

  7. Okami says:

    The problem with Chris Taylor is, that he’s far too clever for his own good. He looks at games from a genre, realizes what the core gameplay mechanic is and then begins to boil everything down to that single mechanic, stripping away everything he sees as unnecassery.

    The resulting product almost inevatbly becomes a purely mechanical exercise, lacking any soul whatsoever. But while Dungeon Siege and it’s sequel at least had a few “unnecassery” gameplay mechanics (collecting loot, hiring henchmen, swapping equipment) left, they managed to strip Space Siege of all the little diversions that make it a game.

    There’s much to be said for “pure” games. Some of the best games are those, that focus on just one mechanic and that alone. This usually works best for arcade and action titles. It can also work for strategy games, though games from companies like Blizzard or Relic show us, that even RTS games benefit from a backstory, memorable characters and uniquele scripted missions.

    But RPGs are the one genre, that actually profits from tacking on things to the core gameplay. Sure, you could boil down Baldur’s Gate to a succession of tactical combats, removing any character interaction or pretense at story. Indeed it has be done and the result was called Icewind Dale.

    But if you take Icewind Dale and remove all party members except one, remove all the loot and let the character level automatically without the player noticing it or beeing able to see that stats, what you get is no “pure rpg”. It’s a mess of a game, that’s just not fun.

    I don’t think, that Chris Taylor has realized that.

  8. Meat Circus says:

    Is this going to be “Press a key to win” 0-player game like Dungeon Siege?

  9. SwiftRanger says:

    I hope that next to Demigod (they teamed up with Stardock for that, faith level is rising…) they’re still doing another SupCom addon. Action RPG’s clearly aren’t GPG’s greatest expertise if you consider Space Siege was made mostly by the Dungeon Siege series team.

  10. Okami says:

    @Meat Circus: Judging by the demo, there’s even less involvment than in Dungeon Siege. It’s more of an “Install the game to win” situation this time round.

  11. Alec Meer says:

    “Meer” has only ever been good as a harsh, single-syllable name for annoyed teachers to bark at me. And for fellow pupils to rhyme with… other words. Eucch, school.

    ‘Diogo Ribeiro’, meanwhile, sounds straight out Princess Bride. I am most jealous.

  12. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I was going for an A Team vibe, duly noted, although I was tempted to post ‘hear hear! Meer!’

  13. Okami says:

    Without spoiling the ahahahah plot, the question is essentially “are you evil, yes/no?” As easy to change the nature of a man as that, huh?

    Mr. Meer, you are a very cruel man. Casually quoting Planescape: Torment in a review of Space Siege is definetly not nice.

  14. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Alec:

    :bows: :)

  15. Jubaal says:

    I still cannot believe in this day and age they introduced such an unfitting control system. I would rather gnaw off my fingers to bloodied stumps than allow them to grace my keyboard to play this game. And I’m a bloody vegetarian!

  16. espy says:

    Oh, interesting: as a German, I always read “Alec Meer” with a German pronunciation (something like “mare”), not like “queer”, or whatever childish verbal abuse you were referring to. :D Sounds much more dramatic, maybe you could switch :D Or move to Germany, we’d all call you Mr. Sea then.

    /completely offtopic

  17. monkeymonster says:

    Tis clear that you must fear Meer for he is near to your dear beer.
    Its Friday and while I may have proper things to do…

  18. Jubaal says:

    “My name is Alec Meer. You killed my father prepare to die.”

    Hmmm no it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  19. Tom Camfield says:

    Alec, you mentioned Shadowgrounds Survivour in your review as a better alternative – but how better than Space Wheeze is it? Thanks.

  20. Alec Meer says:

    It is two duck eggs and one shoelace better.
    In seriousness – a bit one-note but a huge amount of fun, especially if you can get a mate around for shared-screen co-op (no online, sadly). Only a tenner on Steam, too.

  21. phil says:

    Excellent slanting, though it’s interesting you had a pop at Dan Whitehead’s Too Human review, there’s far too little of this sort of thing.

  22. Gap Gen says:

    I dunno. Chris Taylor turned the RTS into space invaders (try playing Sup Com: Forged Alliance in the single player campaign and see it as anything but). I expected this to be at least very polished, even if the story was extremely bad.

  23. NuZZ says:

    I played and finished the game as well.
    I believe it totally sucked. Plain and simple it was very boring and it felt like I was slowly being melted.

    A WASD movement system would of made this game a HELL of a lot less clunky and slow.

    Let us hope Diablo 3 does it better! Limit all action to the mouse? For Diablo’s sake, that is soooooo 2001.

  24. Alec Meer says:

    I actually agree with much of Dan Whitehead’s review, but I personally feel he undersold TH’s scope to be a lot of fun despite itself. Specifically, Gillen and I played a fair bit of the co-op together, and we had a good time (despite hating each other, obv).

  25. Iain says:

    My big book of English Surnames (yes, there is such a thing) tells me that Meer derives from the 13th century surname “atte Mere“, which means “Dweller by the pool”. I bet you always wanted to know that.

    Back on topic – I had been looking forward to Space Siege, even though my expectations were never really that high, but it would appear that my review copy has disappeared into the aether. I sense someone up there is trying to tell me something…

  26. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    http://img2.gelbooru.com//images/242/d5501203213553d2e9ef1e58847bf2e2b1db6647.jpg

    Also, Meer.

    If I were a game developer, and if I made a crappy game, you would be the one I would want reviewing it. A not-crappy game, on the other hand, would be a whole ‘nother beast.

  27. mandrill says:

    Space siege is seriously lacking in any of the things which I thought it would bring from Dungeon Siege. I’ve played it a bit and I’m certainly glad I didn’t pay for it. Don’t waste your cash.

  28. Nero says:

    Oh well. I played the demo and just as many other the controls were just crap. I read people talking about them and though that it sounds all right, but it was just a chore to play. I bought Shadowgrounds Survivor about a week ago and it was much more fun to play. Highly recommend that game. Demigod, I still have hope in you!

  29. Tom Camfield says:

    Thanks Alec!

  30. DSX says:

    I’m curious why people slam dungeon siege now, back in the day it was very popular. I certainly enjoyed the heck out of it. Sure it had it’s flaws, but it was a very fun game. Pretty much any title can be branded a screen saver or a click to win if you’re bored with it.

  31. Okami says:

    @DSX: I thought that Dungeon Siege sucked, when it was still popular.. Though I rather enjoyed Dungeon Siege 2. That game was real fun and it even had something like a story. At least for the first few hours.

    Actually Dungeon Siege 2 is all kinds of awesome in at least one respect: The beginning. You start of as a mercenary fighting in the army of the bad guy. That has to be one of the coolest beginnings to a video game ever.

  32. Weylund says:

    Thanks for pointing me to Shadowgrounds. Can’t see how I missed it.

    Shame I’ll have to finally give in and sign up for Steam to get it. I have little enough spare cash as it is, now I’ll be presented with dozens of great reasons to easily empty my wallet.

    Edit: Or I could just download it from D2D ($24 for both the original and Survivor). Why does their website claim it’s only available via Steam? Meh.

  33. Badly Named says:

    “My name is Alec Meer. You killed my father prepare to die.”

    Hmmm no it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    Well, not quite the same ring to it, but it does seem like a line that could feasibly be given to Alan Rickman.

  34. caesarbear says:

    Chris Taylor turned the RTS into space invaders

    I never get this argument. Clearly Dungeon Siege was a waste of time and could have benefited from better characters and story, but I fail to see how SupCom needs that. I never understand the criticism that allowing a strategic overview is somehow a strike against an RTS. God forbid someone tries to add some strategy into the genre.

    I don’t like story cutscenes interrupting my gameplay as is. Most RTS games that try to tell a story fail miserably, because the format is not right for story telling. You have to concoct completely unbelievable reasons for why you’re always rebuilding that barracks or rediscovering that tech. The alternative is to sacrifice gameplay and freedom for story, and that’s hardly a positive imo.

  35. Duoae says:

    I’ve not got enough time to read through the rest of the comments (Or more accurately i’m not going to make the time ;)) but my thoughts on this game were always, “It looks crap”.

    Seriously, Dungeon siege 2 was rubbish compared with the original and Space Siege always looked like an empty shell of a game devoid of something that you could learn to love. Even Demigod looks pretty lacklustre and i have no intent of even renting that game when it comes out. I just feel that since Total Annhilation and Dungeon Siege all of their other games designs just aren’t working. I didn’t like Supreme Commander though i bought that because i loved TA so much.

    I don’t know what’s happened to the studio but has there been a big change in staff within the period following DS 1?

  36. Optimaximal says:

    I’ve NEVER liked Chris Taylor’s games… Yes, they may be a bit more cerebral than their contemporaries and do sometimes push the boundaries of the hardware they’re played on, but they’re often boring, dull, generic and lacking in anything that makes me want to play them.

  37. Gap Gen says:

    I never get this argument. Clearly Dungeon Siege was a waste of time and could have benefited from better characters and story, but I fail to see how SupCom needs that. I never understand the criticism that allowing a strategic overview is somehow a strike against an RTS. God forbid someone tries to add some strategy into the genre.
    What my comment in parenthesis meant was: Regardless as to whether Chris Taylor can write (he can’t), the single player AI does nothing more than stream scripted waves of units at you until you pop their factories. The campaign is hard simply because of the number of forces the enemy can throw at you with their given scripting, rather than giving you the feeling of accomplishment at having destroyed a worthy adversary.

    No doubt the multiplayer is different, but the AI at least isn’t very convincing.

  38. Gap Gen says:

    God forbid someone tries to add some strategy into the genre.
    Yeah, that’d be good. Someone on another forum said of TA/Sup Com that rather than making one factory and producing ten tanks, you make ten factories and produce 500 tanks. There’s no real tactical difference. TA did have some interesting tactics, but much of it was spectacle. It’s a shame Sup Com loses that a bit simply because when zoomed out, a Colossus exploding looks much like a peewee exploding when zoomed in.

  39. exGasser says:

    Dear god I love this review, and comments.. It almost helps deal with the giant scar in my life from working for Taylor for years and years.. Thank you all.

    And yeah Duoae, a lot of us left after DS, althought more left after DS2 than DS1. Taylor talks big, but in the end he really is just full of gas.

  40. caesarbear says:

    The SupCom campaign doesn’t really have any AI, it’s just scripted as you say Gap Gen. The singleplayer skirmish has AI. In Forged Alliance it’s actually pretty damn good without cheating, and of course, it’s best when played in multiplayer.

    The reason why SupCom adds strategy is because it expands the play area and how you interact with it. Much the same way Total War is more than just two lines of units in any other RTS. I think there’s quite a lot to SupCom that you’re missing Gap Gen. The spectacle is not point.

    Hopefully the same team will be working on Demigod.

  41. maxmcg says:

    Decide to check out Shadowgrounds and bought it off Steam. Played it *all* weekend. Great little game!

  42. LionsPhil says:

    The annoying thing with SupCom:FA is that they dropped a spanner in the AI.

    Fighting the SupCom hardest skirmish AI: tense. You’d get odd, probing attacks, and then an experimental would show up and say hi. You actually needed to do a bit of intel, which sounds dangerously like strategy.

    Fighting the FA hardest (non-cheating) skirmish AI: yawn. It sets up a bunch of factories and repeat-builds a trickle of tier one units into the gaping maw of your defensive line, and will be lucky to get that up to T2 before you can steamroll it with a Monkeylord. It can be a little exhausting if it starts to overwhelm your engineering resources, but it’s never really challenging.

    And, as always, neither can build sensible bases, save for some prescripted defence outposts.

    The singleplayer campaign is a joke, with the usual SupCom dichotomy of being bitched about the need for haste which, as the PC GAMER review observed, is a great way to make the following objective nigh-impossible. The whole unite-against-red-team’s-AI-gone-bad thing is such a direct rip from CABAL that it’s cringeworthy. I ended up playing Firestorm after this and, frankly, it did it better. TibSun, the unloved runt of the C&C series, outdoing the direct descendent of Total Annihilation. What the fnord.

  43. Hmm-hmm. says:

    For some reason I feel the name ‘Alec Meer’ would be quite fitting for a main character in a novel by H.P. Lovecraft.

  44. Adjudicator says:

    Well since we all know the problems with Space Siege I think SupCom is a more interesting topic.

    SupCom vanilla was an OK game, not great, mostly because of multiplayer. The single player always sucked, and the multiplayer had potential, but had serious problems with the way it was structured. As a competitive RTS player, I didn’t really care about the SP but the MP had to work.

    SupCom Forged Alliance is a much better game (multiplayer wise). The SP probably still sucks, I didn’t even bother playing it. The AI is horrible in skirmish mode- it doesnt really bother me, but it will bother some. Multiplayer though, is good. Not Starcraft good or Company of Heroes good, but good enough.

  45. Martin says:

    I liked Dungeon Siege.