I removed my brain because I was bored. I replaced my entire head with lump of glowing metal because there was nothing else to do. My legs are now pistons because it was the only decision I felt I had to make. My chest is a mass of steel and circuitry because surgically removing my torso seemed like more fun than walking down another corridor.
Much has been made of the moral dilemma at the heart of Space Siege, a sorta-sequel to the Dungeon Siege action-RPGs. It's a similar concept to BioShock's ethical quandary, but instead of murdering little girls in order to gain more instant power, here you're swapping parts of your body for cybernetic upgrades, and losing your humanity whenever you do so.
Or not: you can refuse the upgrades and thus stay in touch with your sensitive side. Trouble is that, as an extension of Gas Powered Game's ongoing philosophy of streamlining RPG memes, there are almost no other decisions to make in the game. Levelling up happens at pre-ordained plot points, new powers and weapons are similarly handed out at prescribed locations and all loot is composited into generic 'upgrade components'. You do get to distribute skill points across an array of stat boosts, but it's rare that you'll notice any significant variance from doing so.
So, when you're presented with a new cybernetic upgrade, of course you're going to install it, as it's the only thing that'll change your character's appearance, the only thing that feels like you're actually deciding something for yourself. My humanity be damned: big robot legs are the only thing still holding my interest. As it is, the effects of my cyber-decisions are relatively minimal, its meaningful effects topping out at denying me access to two skills and altering the voice-over in the ending cinematic. Oh, the sleep I'll lose wondering what the other voice-over is (clue - none). The one really significant choice in the game is unrelated to whether or not I've stuck a computer into my head, and is hilariously presented as a giant YES/NO box. 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?
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.
It's toppish-down, Alien Breed-like shooting (with a spot of melee), but forgoes the conventional WASD-and-mouse controls in favour of click-to-move. WASD instead rotates the camera, and it takes a long time to adapt to this. It's an infuriating, counter-intuitive system - combat that feels made for strafing and running, but instead you end up stood stock still during most fights, because using the mouse to both move and shoot at the same time is cumbersome and fiddly. If Space Siege gave up its pretence of being an RPG and fully embraced action controls, it'd likely be a fun old time along the lines of Shadowgrounds (an excellent, Aliens-inspired indie top-down shooter). Instead, its central activity - the shooting of aliens, robots and cyborgs in droves - is a chore. Thank god it's easy, and thank another god it's short.
Will you support Eurogamer?