Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I’m going to be mean: Dungeon Siege was the end of an era.
It’s a solid ‘crawler with what were at the time some very neat ideas in terms of automatic party management, levelling up and even the simulacrum of a seamless world in an age when the technology wasn’t quite up to it. It’s also the point that action-RPG’s mindlessly looty values tipped over into what were once known as ‘cRPGs’, and perhaps even in turn into other genres. Sure, we got Morrowind and Bloodlines and even Neverwinter Nights, but so much of what we once know and loved, from Black Isle and Origin, fell away. The age of WoW and the age Oblivion were not far away.
Certainly, Dungeon Siege is not solely or even the most meaningfully responsible for the Skinner box’s takeover of mainstream videogames – look to World of Warcraft, look to Call of Duty 4 multiplayer – but I do feel that it marked a quiet sea-change. An RPG with a character, a mule, specifically dedicated to hauling around excess loot. A party game in which the party performs only combat roles. Everything solved by violence. But enough BioShock Infinite, amirite?
I don’t know, perhaps I’m being cruel. It’s just that, tracing in my mind the pattern of games before and after Dungeon Siege, it seems like a herald of something different, something far more about gold and murder and inventories.