Chris Taylor is something of an oddity in the games industry and I don’t just mean because he can lick his own elbow or has a passion for cow-tipping. No, what sets Chris Taylor slightly apart from the unwashed, unashamed and unanimous masses is that he is recognisable as a name.
If we were in Hollywood and this were the movie business then that wouldn’t be anything of nothing; most anyone on the street could name at least a handful of famous movie directors. This isn’t Hollywood though, this is southern England and we’re in the tech trade, not showbiz.
Game developers as a whole aren’t known for becoming household names and out of the well known ones there’s John Romero, Ken Levine, Shigeru Miyamoto and then the list dribbles away. And yet, you say Chris Taylor to the average geek and most of them will know of him vaguely, if only for Supreme Commander and Dungeon Siege.
Naturally though, even at this early point there’s bound to be a good proportion of you running for the comments section, loudly proclaiming your ignorance with a self-defeating pride. Even if you don’t know Chris Taylor now though then you probably will soon – his name is plastered all over box for Space Siege, and it’s for that that we feel sorry for him because Space Siege really isn’t anything to shout about unfortunately.
Those of you who do know Chris for his previous work, or with an attention span that lasts more than just a couple of paragraphs, will have noted that this is the second Chris Taylor game to bear the naming format of ‘Something Siege’ and that’s with good reason. Though Space Siege isn’t a true sequel to Dungeon Siege in any way, shape or form, it is kind of a follow-up. A spiritual successor, if you will.
The differences are many. Dungeon Siege was a colourful medieval romp with a hit and miss approach to gameplay. Space Siege is a generic hallway grindfest with a sci-fi theme plopped on top like a glaze of week-old ketchup – which is to say, no matter how much you like ketchup, you’ll probably find this mostly bland and tiresome.
Still, the ingredient of this particular ketchup are; the Earth has been mostly destroyed by an alien race and you are an engineer on the last ship left, which also happens to get a small infestation of the aliens stowing-away on board. Oh, and tomato puree.
Actually, the plot does thicken beyond that point as time goes on, much like the crust of dried tomato ketchup around the lid of an opened bottle. Though the game starts off with you fighting the alien Kerrak – and we’ll talk more about how awfully that’s handled on the next page – the game doesn’t stay that way for long.
Instead, so the aliens can be gassed by the ships AI pilot (something which gives Space Siege another curiously similar element to the Halo games) the crew retreats into suspended animation. You’re supposed to be woken up shortly afterwards, but instead seven weeks pass and when you come out of the doze you find it’s very much a System Shock 2 situation. Robots, cyborgs, everywhere.
From that point on, a whole new journey begins which attempts to tell a tale of the triumphs of the human spirit, or the furious and non-stopping invasion of technology into our day to day lives. It’s a tale of the bond between humans and robotics and how that bond can be both benign and corrupting.
Or, at least it would be if the gameplay itself didn’t constantly get in the way – an early indication of some of the flaws beneath the surface of Space Siege and which prevent it from ever really approaching greatness.