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In Space, No One Can Hear You Click

Brad Shoemaker takes a first look Space Siege.

It's like a dungeon, but in space!
It's like a dungeon, but in space!
Going into a demo for Space Siege–the upcoming PC-only action RPG from Chris Taylor’s studio Gas Powered Games–I didn’t want to pigeonhole the game as merely “Dungeon Siege in space.” But according to a rep for publisher Sega, that’s a fairly accurate label, and furthermore, if you were a fan of that fantasy-themed romp, the two games purportedly share enough in common that you’ll probably be into this sci-fi one, too.

You have to appreciate any role-playing game whose story can be encapsulated in about 15 seconds. Humanity got into an unfortunate interstellar tiff with a newly contacted (and apparently hostile) alien species called the Kerak. They came and blew our planet up. Now you’re in the role of a hard-as-nails space soldier aboard the sole colony ship to escape Earth and hence ferry the last remnant of humanity to safety. But what’s this? The aliens stole aboard the ship and are going to wipe out the last of us before we can resettle elsewhere? Time to suit up and kick some alien ass, soldier.

Western PC RPGs always seem a little daunting to me, but Space Siege knows exactly what kind of streamlined gameplay it’s going for, and doesn’t apologize for it. This is a top-down Diablo-style clickfest for people who like to kill aliens, and then turn the dividends of those alien deaths into better equipment to enable the more efficient killing of future aliens. There’s story here, sure; you’ll be interacting via comm chatter with some key personnel among the scattered human survivors. But your primary occupation will be clicking on and thus obliterating the hordes of Kerak overrunning the ship.

How much of your humanity will you sacrifice to save the human race?
How much of your humanity will you sacrifice to save the human race?
Games of this type are all about buffing up your dude to make him more, uh, buff, and Space Siege operates on one simple kind of currency, spare parts, that you can turn into upgrades, new weapons, and the like. Naturally, dead aliens drop these spare parts. In the grand tradition of robotic operating buddies like HK-47 and, well, R.O.B., you’ll have a droid sidekick called HR-V (read it “Harvey”) who follows you around and kills aliens with you (autonomously, that is–you can’t control him). You can use parts to bolt increasingly dangerous doohickeys and whirligigs onto Harvey, too.

The most interesting aspect of Space Siege is a cybernetic augmentation system that again relies on your store of parts. You can swap your organic hand for a cyborg one and get, say, a bonus to aiming. More invasive robotic replacements confer bigger advantages; a set of cyborg legs ramps up your movement speed, for instance. All this tops out at a robot brain, the advantages of which you can imagine. The weirdly grotesque part of all this is, the game keeps track of how human you still are, literally tracking your humanity rating with a big fat number and bar graph. With robo-hand alone, you’re still 95 percent human, but if you go all the way to the brain, well, how much of a man do you remain? Sega said your choice to use these cyborg parts or not will factor into the storyline in some unspecified way.

Frankly, it warms my heart that relatively simple role-playing games like Space Siege are still being made. Not every RPG has to be a 100-hour sprawling epic like Oblivion or the next MMO to flail vainly at Fortress WOW. Sometimes you just want to suit up, grab a laser gun, and click a bunch of ugly aliens out of existence. I really hope Space Siege delivers.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+