DUNGEON SIEGE (PC, Microsoft, Teen, $49.95) Grizzled hack-and-slash vets will be thrilled with the game’s sophisticated production, but Siege is also a terrific intro to role playing for folks who’ve never wielded an ax or cast a spell. As a simple farmer called to heroic deeds, you must recruit cohorts to your party (up to eight at a time); ratchet up your skills, armor and weapons; explore new realms; and, along the way, beat up hordes of baddies. Rather than heap on layers of complexity, the designers streamlined the gameplay and polished every element till it gleamed. Siege features crisp graphics, atmospheric sound, and easy-to-master controls, so you can concentrate on fun instead of mind-numbing micromanagement. THE ASSIST Well-rounded characters die quickly; instead, develop specialists and let each bring his or her expertise to the fray. THE LAST SHOT This isn’t groundbreaking, but it covers all bases with style and top-notch execution, delivering hours of entertainment. THE GRADE A- — Steve Morgenstern

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