Dungeon Siege II - Interface
The interface of Dungeon Siege has been mentioned - and praised - many times. It managed to contain all functionality one can ask for, and also, at the same time, to be small, tidy, and never in the way. While making some changes and updates to the interface in Dungeon Siege II, Gas Powered Games seems to have kept the minimalistic approach.
Character Stats & Weapon Panel
You will recognize this panel from Dungeon Siege 1. One per character in your party - including your pets - are placed above one another along the left side of the screen. While the look and functionality of it is kept mostly the same, there are some new features. Performance improving spells, or "buffs" and chants are indicated here by a small icon by their portraits. A small shield icon can be found in the characters top right bottom if he is being protected by other party members.
Apart from the cosmetic changes of relocating the health and mana bars to below the portrait, we have gotten a separation between weapon and spell slots. In Dungeon Siege 1 we had four slots. One melee, one ranged, and two spell slots. That is no longer the case.
Instead, we got one weapon slot, and four spell slots. This seems like a smart change, since after all, how many people switch between multiple weapons? I'm sure there are a few, but compared to all the people frequently switching between multiple spells? A note about the picture here: the character in question is a mage, and has no weapon equipped. The "empty" slot here would normally contain a staff or maybe a cestus when playing mages.
As well as the five above mentioned slots, we also got four slots for the various powers we might develop during our adventures. After using a power, you won't be able to use another for some time. The time left is indicated by a meter on the portrait, just as the time after using a spell until you can use that spell again is indicated on the spell slot in question.
The inventory screen has also received a face lift. This inventory is larger than the one in Dungeon Siege 1 - 5x13 instead of 4x13 to be exact. Will a 25% increase be enough to store all cool loot you will run into? Hardly, but what you can't keep, you can just feed to those pets of yours or quickly take (or summon) a teleporter to sell all this extra equipment.
Focusing instead on the equipment part of the screen, we see some changes to fit with the new character panel. Now that we only have one weapon slot, we don't need a separate slot for ranged weapons here. The two weapon slots still here can be used for either two weapons (dual wielding) or a weapon and a shield. Since archers and mages need both hands to attack, the second slot can be ignored if you're playing them.
Apart from that change we still have everything there. Helm, amulet and armor slots in the middle, four slots for rings - two on each hand - and slots for gauntlets and boots at the bottom left and right respectively.
The Top and Bottom Panels
The status bar and icons along the bottom of the screen are still there, and have now also got a mini map in the lower right corner (with zoom capabilities, albeit somewhat limited ones). The map shows a top-down perspective and indicates enemies with red dots, loot and levers with blue dots and NPC's as green dots, so this is a great way to quickly check what's happening as well as to check a room for hidden levers. Also present on the mini-map is a big yellow arrow. Being hard to miss, this points to your next location for the main quests. If you're ever lost and not sure where to go, just check the mini-map, and head on out.
The rest of the bottom of the screen also had a small make-over. Bottom left is now your character inventory, hot-keyed at I, this opens up your inventory where you can look at your statistics, change armor, weapons and spells. Next to that are the potions, health and mana. You wouldn't stay alive very long without these two. Move right some more and you will find your Journal where a lot of information is kept. We'll handle the journal more in-depth later. Next to the Journal is the "pick up all" icon, similar to DS, click this and your party members will pick up anything they can get their hands on. Next to that are the 'item labels on/off", fairly self-explanatory, click once for off, twice for on again. In the center of the screen are the power icons, click or use number keys to activate and just sit back and be dazzled.
Moving to the right part of the screen, the "regroup party" button will group your party members back together if one of them ran off chasing an enemy. Next to that is the Mirror/Rampage button. Click this to toggle your party's fighting style. When mirrored, they will attack whatever you're attacking. When on rampage mode, they each think for their own and go after enemies by themselves. And lastly, using the social window you can chat with your friends, even if they are not in the same game, as long as you are connected to the Internet.
When attacking an enemy, and holding the mouse pointer on top of one, a bar at the top of the screen indicates the name of the monster as well as how much hit points it has left. Cleverly color coded, you can tell at a glance whether you should be able to take these guys head-on, or if it might perhaps be better to pick them off one by one. The more embellished the bar is, the tougher an enemy you are facing.
Briefly mentioned earlier, your journal is one of the most useful things in the game. It contains both your primary and secondary quest log, where you can check the objectives and status of your quests. Next to that the map tab shows the world map of the entire continent, similar to LoA's world map, you can see where you've been and where you still need to go.
The lore section is devised into four parts. Quest items makes sure you don't accidentally sell that vial of blood to a merchant, and don't drop a letter you're supposed to be delivering in a swamp. These items can not be removed, and every item has a small description in case you forgot what they were for. The second Lore tab is Books. Obviously, books are stored here, for those players in DS who could never bear to throw story items away and had their mages carry backpacks full of books through the entire game can now rejoice. Only storybooks are stored here though, spell books are still in the inventory.
Third is maps, a compromise between the big world map, the map summoned by TAB, and the compass, you can find maps of some of the major places here. Innkeepers, pet salesmen, enchanters and other useful NPC's are indicated by their respective icons here. Last but not least on the lore tab are chants. Now chants are new to DS2, and they're temporary buffs activated by reciting a certain phrase at a chant shrine. Useful for those who don't have access to a mage for their party and would like an edge for those tough battles.
Next to the Lore tab is the bestiary. The bestiary takes a listing of every single enemy you've encountered in your journeys, and provides you with it's statistics, background info, it's strengths and weaknesses, and how many of it you killed in total. And lastly, taking up the final place in the journal is the handbook. If you need a refresher course in enchantments, skills or animal diets, this is your place to turn to.
A new feature in Dungeon Siege II is branching dialog trees. By choosing different answers you can now bring your conversations in various directions instead of being locked to one path. Choosing fine diplomacy or big blades in the enemies face can be decided on the outcome of these interactions.
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