Continuing my desperate quest for decent western RPGs left from the silver age, I've recently plowed through Dungeon Siege 2.
Dungeon Siege 2, if you're not aware, is a combat focused rpg. It feels more of a Diablo-heavy than a Baldur's Gate-lite. It's a classic of the trouser-hunting genre, with enemies dropping a huge array of loot that means you're constantly on the prowl for new armour and weapons to find. The game also contains a fairly neat character creation system, where every character in your party of 6 (actually four, more on this later) has access to four skill trees (melee, ranged, combat magic, nature magic), with a number of branching paths to add points to. It's rewarding, because there are about 11 sub-class paths to choose from, and multi-classing is generally less effective than focusing - though you will need some extra points from extra paths.
Dungeon Siege 2 romps along enjoyably for the first couple of hours. The item finding is a pleasure, made all the better by finding rare item "sets", which can be more powerful than the sum of their parts. Balancing your inventory is worthy of thought in itself, which is cool. Equally, the levelling gives you enough to think about that there is always a sense of both what you want, and what you can't afford to miss. The characters and story are, while nowhere near the top of any genre, functional enough, and the world and atmosphere sits by happily enough.
Yet even in the early stages of play, Dungeon Siege 2 shows problems. Firstly, for all the control over your party's development, in combat your grip on events is decidely loose. Despite being able to pause and select attacks, your party will either use mirror mode "everyone attacks what the selected character is attacking" or rampage "everyone attacks anything". The game uses a threat/hate system, but doesn't really implement effective tanking. Most of the combat sits as a pure grind-fest, where difficulty is defined purely and simply by the level you are at.
Another issue is the party interactions. In DS2, your party members will occasionally hit triggered areas and start talking to you or each other. Dungeon Siege uses this a lot, and it could be to really good effect. However the game does not pause in these dialogues, you can't move or fight, and any party member taking damage will cause the dialogue to end. Since most of the dialogue triggers are when you reach certain places, with monsters, for the first time, 90% of them never get past the first 5 words before the dialogue is ripped away from you.
Then comes the longevity. Although the game can hide it for some time, the combat is very samey, and has nowhere left to run by the third act. Five screens of mob then a mini-boss is almost the entire game, and though the few boss fights offer a little more, there are only around 5 of note in game. The story is, ultimately, uninvolving and standard fantasy fare, and has no variations. Yet despite this, the game contains three difficulty settings, the upper two of which can only be unlocked when the difficulty below them has been completed. The only difference in difficulties, is that the monsters (and gear) are higher levels and you get an extra party slot (4 on easy, 5 on medium, 6 on hard). With your patience thoroughly tested on the first play-through, and with no surprises on higher tiers, there seems absolutely no incentive to do this. You even carry your previous party over, so there is no need to rebuild.
I completed DS2 on easy, and despite plans of trying to unlock the other two character slots, by the end I was far too bored to care, Meh.