Review: Dungeon Siege 3

Review: Dungeon Siege 3

Dungeon crawlers are a rare breed. Often times storyline takes a back seat to action and loot hoarding. The Dungeon Siege series has always held true to this tradition, but the latest entry in the series is looking to break the mold. Obsidian entertainment is no stranger to creating engaging dungeon crawlers and tense action games. The team behind Neverwinter Nights and Fallout: New Vegas is attempting to inject an engaging story into a genre that can typically do without while providing players with an action packed, loot-filled dungeon crawling experience with Dungeon Siege III.

Dungeon Siege 3

Dungeon Siege III marks the first appearance of the Dungeon Siege series on a console. Previously a PC only series, Dungeon Siege has been drastically modified to accommodate the lack of keyboard and mouse support. Despite the shift in focus, Dungeon Siege is back in full force, bringing with it a whole new set of advancements as well as a few stumbling points.

A Deeper Plot

Seeing as how so many dungeon crawlers have been successful in the past without a very solid storyline, it’s a wonder that Obsidian Entertainment has placed such a large focus on engaging the player in a deep, intricate story that does a decent job of holding your attention until the end.

You take control of one of the last remaining legionnaires since the fall of Ehb. The villainous Jeyne Kassynder is dividing the kingdom through political conflict and seeking to destroy the remaining legionnaires. As one of the sole surviving members of the decimated 10th Legion, you must ensure that Jeyne Kassynder is defeated by restoring the Legion to its previous grandeur.

Often times political plots tend to get convoluted and confusing, subsequently causing the player to lose interest. However, Dungeon Siege III does a decent enough job of keeping the plot line comprehensible, yet engaging enough to keep you guessing. Considering that dungeon crawlers are typical packed with loose stories and shallow plot, the down falls in Dungeon Siege III’s story are easily forgivable. It’s just nice to see that this genre is beginning to receive a bit more attention in various aspects.

You can experience Ehb through four different characters, a soldier, fire demon, mage, and martial artist type girl with guns. Each character does have a specific history within the Legion and each character is tied together at some point in the plot. You would think that choosing a different character would provide an entirely different game with varying storylines and outlooks. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Choosing one character over the other simply warrants a few changes aside from the obvious play style differences. You will witness a new opening cut scene and your interactions with the other characters will come at different times. That is about it. It would have been nice to see each character have a different starting point within the story as well as varied interactions with each other. Although, see as how this isn’t an MMORPG or something of that nature, it’s easy to see why they didn’t do that.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Dungeon Siege 3

Where Dungeon Siege III sets itself apart from other Dungeon Crawlers is in the player’s ability to make game changing choices. You experience the story through an intricate dialogue tree where you actually get to choose your response. The concept and execution are very similar to that of the Dragon Age series. Your choices will have an impact on various plot points and even the fate of certain characters. Where this is most notable is within the towns.

As you progress through the game, NPCs will offer you quests that you can complete in order to obtain information. Once you complete a quest you have the option of accepting a reward or turning it down and doing it out of the goodness of your heart. If you decided to take the latter route, word of your kind deeds will spread quickly throughout the other NPCs and alter the way they react to you.

Without giving away too much of the plot, you decisions aren’t going to drastically alter the outcome of the game, but it’s enough of a breath of fresh air to make an impact. You won’t find yourself as emotionally attached to the characters as you may have in other similar games, but then again, these inclusions are relatively new to a genre such as this. After all, you are probably revisiting the Kingdom of Ehb for one reason and one reason alone; combat.

Multiple Ways to Play With the Same Character

Dungeon Siege is quite a powerhouse in the dungeon crawling world and therefore provides gamers with an incredibly enjoyable loot-hoarding, crypt-pillaging experience. Each of the four characters provides drastically different styles of play and alone warrants multiple play-throughs of the game. Lucas, the solider, is your basic barbarian who enjoys getting up close and personal while stabbing is sword through throngs of skeletons and spiders. Katarina, the rifle-wielding heroine, is for those who prefer a bit of distance. Anjali, the fire archon, mixes magic with close quarters combat and a bit of shape shifting. Finally, Reinhart lends his skill as a typical magic user.

Each player has two battle stances, effectively providing you with two different play styles within one character. One battle stance may be a single-handed while the other is double-handed or in the case of Anjali, human form and archon form. The two battle stances help add an element of strategy to the battles and you will find yourself switching between the two quite often.

Dungeon Siege 3

Throughout the course of the game you will earn six different offensive abilities, three for each stance. Along with these power-ups, you can also pump your points into multiple defensive and passive upgrades as well. These typically don’t see a visible effect in battle, but are entirely necessary and equally beneficial.

The combat itself is rather smooth and becomes quite enjoyable very quickly. This is not your typical button mashing dungeon crawler, though. You rely heavily on a myriad of attacks to defeat your opponents. The basic melee attack is complimented by the different attacks you can upgrade for both battle stances. Using each attack in conjunction with one another becomes an intricate ballet of well timed melee attacks, blocks, diving tumbles, battle stance changes, and long distance attacks.

The battle system is about as smooth as it can get on a console. Dungeon Crawlers on the PC benefit from the direct point and click methodology, where as consoles must make do with a joystick and some buttons. Your character has an auto targeting system that automatically locks on to the enemy in front of you, which really comes in handy for those long distance attacks. You won’t have to worry too much about honing your aiming skills to pin point perfection.

The More the Merrier

Dungeon Siege 3

One of the most enjoyable parts of battle is the fact that most of the time you will have another combatant alongside you. More often than not this will be another one of the characters you can choose to play and their assistance is actually quite necessary much of the time. Some of the larger boss battles can become pretty frantic and these NPC fighters actually do a remarkable job at aiding in the battle. If you fall, they will immediately rush to your side to resurrect you and get you back in the fight. I found myself being resurrected for more often than doing the resurrecting, but either way, this is a welcome addition to the game.

In case you find yourself wanting to experience the game with another real, breathing person, you can have a friend jump in and take control of the second combatant. Unfortunately, this feature is strictly limited to a drop in, drop out format and the alternate character retains no experience or loot. Sadly, you cannot load up your character, jump online, assist in the fight and return to your game richer and loaded with more loot.

One of the best changes to the series is the removal of potions. For years I was plagued by the desire to stockpile as many potions as humanly possible so as not to be caught off guard in the midst of battle and have nothing to drink. Rather than require you to waste precious cargo space with hundreds of health and mana potions, you will find that you have a defensive spell that gradually regenerates your health as well as finding plenty of green health orbs dropped from defeated enemies. As for mana, this will regenerate rapidly with every successful blow landed on an enemy. Not having to worry about constantly watching your health potions and make frequent trips back to the store to buy more makes battle much more enjoyable.

Hoarding at its Best

Picking up loot, by far the most enjoyable part of the game, is about as basic as it gets. Some games have tried the whole “walk over the item to pick it up” approach, but Dungeon Siege III is sticking to tried and true button press for acquiring loads of booty. As you approach an item, you simply press the R1 button to pick up whatever is at your feet. I found myself constantly clicking on chests, drawers, bookshelves, and such in hopes of something shiny popping out. Often times the battlefield becomes heavily laden with weapons and gold which tend to disappear long before you can get around to picking it all up. Thankfully, your comrades have the ability to run around and pick up gold for you.

There are loads of weapons and armor to acquire throughout the game and each piece has various effects on your character’s loud out. However, it can get rather frustrating discerning which character the item is for. The item will have a small silhouette in the background of the character it is for, but unless it is specifically for the character you are playing as, it remains close to impossible to tell who it is for.

A Shiny New Coat of Paint

Dungeon Siege 3

Although a dungeon crawler is never really considered to be a graphically stunning game, Dungeon Siege III is quite a visual treat. The various landscapes and environments are beautifully rendered and filled with props and visual effects that lend a certain degree of credibility to the location. A dusty mansion is filled with beams of light bursting through the windows and casting shadows on the wall. A damp crypt is made to feel even more ominous by small swirls of green light floating around and the towns are populated with decent enough looking citizens. You will notice a certain lack of polish during the close up dialogue scenes with certain characters, where the facial features seem dull, flat, and all but forgotten. There is nothing here that is going to make you want to take a picture or stop and glare at for more than a fleeting second, but the game does have some rather polished visuals that certainly do not hurt the experience.

As for audio, the game is filled with an epic score of music that does a decent enough job of creating an immersive experience. The voice acting is top-notch and each character’s voice seems to fit their personality quite well. Battle is filled with the sounds of clashing metal, crackling fireballs, and moans of agony swirling all around you. But the audio is where my list of complaints with Dungeon Siege III begins.

The Fall of the Kingdom of Ehb

When I first played the demo, I was very taken by the opening cut scene and the deep, throaty narrative that accompanied it. However, upon loading the retail version of the game I instantly noticed that the opening narrative was glaringly absent. I reloaded the game several times, only to be met with the same thing. I often found places where the audio would clip out or the voice acting would kick in a bit late. This is nothing major, but it was a bit of an annoyance.

The game’s camera is another point of frustration. The top down view is essential for the success of the dungeon crawler, but the way the player experiences the camera system within Dungeon Siege III is fairly clunky. Instead of being able to control the level of zoom with the camera, you are stuck with super far out or super close up. The close up view does absolutely nothing for you in terms of helping in the battle, so will spend most of your time watching things unfold from a bird’s eye view.

Dungeon Siege III does a lot of things right, but the game is hindered a bit by several glaring omissions and oversights. If you don’t like the control scheme, too bad; you are stuck with what is there. The lack of alternate storylines for each character is a bit of a letdown and several control hiccups can be found throughout. For some reason, if I held the joystick forward through a cut scene my character wouldn’t move once control was returned. Little things like that can be found throughout that ultimately add up to some minor annoyances.

The dungeon crawler genre rarely gets a console entry and the Baldur’s Gate series really set the standard high. Dungeon Siege’s first entry into the world of console gaming is far from a bad one. However, you may find yourself frustrated at some presentation and control issues as well as an incredibly shallow multiplayer experience. Those issues really are just a drop in the bucket because after all, a dungeon crawler is about collecting oodles of loot and killing loads and loads of baddies.

Pro

  • Decision Based Storyline
  • Intuitive Combat
  • Multiple Battle Stances
  • No More Potions
  • Visuals Are a Treat

Con

  • Characters Don’t Offer Different Storylines
  • Camera Issues
  • Audio Occasionally Clips Out
  • Controller Bugs and Glitches
  • Co-Op Limitations

Score: 7.5/10

 

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