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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Jun 29, 2011

Review – Dungeon Siege III (PS3)

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Product Information

MSRP: $59.99
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 ESRB: T for Teen
Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawler

The Dungeon Siege series from Square Enix has been quite a popular one, and the third entry is no exception. A lot of fans were looking forward to picking up Dungeon Siege III as soon as it hit, and it has made a great impression on the gaming community thus far. After playing the game for myself, I finally feel revitalized with having played something that’s not some generic FPS title, though it left me feeling a bit empty in the end. Dungeon Siege III takes players back to the days of old, putting us in such realms of gameplay like those of the Champions of Norrath titles, which were extremely fun. Let’s get geared up and take a look at Obsidian Entertainment’s new dungeon crawler.

Graphics and Story

In Dungeon Siege III players have a choice from four different heroes, each with their own story. Players can take the roll of Lucas Montbarron – the sword-and-shield wielding fighter who serves as one of the last remaining members of the 10th Legion, Anjali – known as an archon, which is a being who wields magic and can shapeshift, Reinhart Manx – a descendant of the Legion who is vastly knowledgeable in the ways of magic, and Katarina – a gun-wielding witch who is yet another child from the Montbarron line.

The game takes place 150 years after the events of the first Dungeon Siege title. The Kingdom of Ehb is lying in ruin after Jane Kassynder reigned terror across the land, searching for and destroying all members of the 10th Legion that she could. Jane blamed the Legion for the death of her father, and would stop at nothing to see them completely wiped out. The game starts out (according to Lucas’ storyline) in the Montbarron estate, as it is being burned to the ground. From this point on, it is up to the player to seek out justice for the Montbarron family, and the citizens of Ehb who have fallen victim to the Lescanzi Mercenary occupation. Lead by the Venerable Odo, each playable character is a descendant of the Legion and has been kept safe from harm. The characters come together and join forces to annihilate the corrupt power wielded by Kassynder, and to bring peace back to their homeland.

At first glance, Dungeon Siege III plays out like your run-of-the-mill dungeon crawler. While it is nice to see this type of game make a comeback to the forefront of the industry, I was a bit disappointed at the game’s overall graphic presentation. While there exists a sense of depth, the game’s display lacks a presentation that shows it’s one of the next-gen games that we’re used to.

Now while comparing the game to something like what we’ve seen with Battlefield 3 isn’t doing any justice, I do think that the graphics could have been a bit more polished. When you sit down to play Dungeon Siege III, you see a mediocre title that just plain looks like it needs more behind it.

One major issue I found with the game came when your character interacts with others in the world. All of the NPCs in the game’s towns, dungeons, and other areas simply lack any sense of emotion when speaking with the player’s character. They even have a hard time keeping eye contact with the player. While they maintain a good sense of inflection and pitch in their voice acting, they show no emotion in their face or body language while interacting. This made the game take a severe hit, because it eventually made gameplay boring and dull the further along I got through the storyline. I really think that in a title such as this, with its RPG roots, there should be a well-established NPC base. After all, most of the game and storyline will be explored through player-NPC interaction. With NPCs that perform like lifeless zombies, it’s hard to immerse yourself in the game’s fantasy world.

Gameplay

Dungeon Siege III hits the nail on the head when it comes to gameplay. It performs exactly as it should, with fluid combat, a unique leveling system, and a party system that’s easy to manage. Like I mentioned earlier, it is really nice to see a game like this come to the front of the major releases as it’s a genre that has been lost for a bit.

For those who aren’t familiar with dungeon crawlers, the gameplay is very straightforward. Your character has basic attacks that can be performed by smashing a certain button, and they can use special attacks which are mapped to other buttons, that are gained from leveling up. Let me provide you with an example.

Lucas is, in essence, a fighter. He has two stances – a defensive stance used to taking down single foes, equipped with a sword and shield, and a second that is focused more on dispatching numerous enemies at once, which utilizes two-handed swords to deal heavy amounts of damage. As he levels up, he gains different abilities which can be used in battle. He starts off with a shield bash attack, which stuns enemies and can only be used while in his defensive stance. However, at the push of a button he switches his stances and the ability mapped to the same button changes to a dashing slash that tears through multiple enemies at once. This makes for gameplay that can be tuned to a player’s style, which makes the game appeal to many different types of players out there.

As you plow through enemies, you will earn experience points that go toward achieving new levels. Once a new level is attained, players will be able to pick up new abilities, and add skill points to existing ones that add new features for the character. For example, once Lucas levels up he has a choice between three abilities. Players can choose from a new ability for each stance, or a third ability that will go towards the overall progress of the character. At this specific level I chose to go with a repose ability, which allowed me to regain a certain amount of health per second while in Lucas’ defensive stance.

Once an ability is selected, players can then choose a subset of skills to add points into. Once I chose the repose ability, I was able to add points into skills that made the shield bash stun for longer, the blade dash ability to cause more damage, and for my repose to gain more health per second. Finally, once those skills were chosen I was taken to a final screen that allowed for the input of skill points into general abilities that help the character such as increasing overall damage, improving the amount of a certain stat, or changing the amount of a certain stat into a damage bonus. Simply put, the game offers a wide-open leveling system that makes for a unique way to progress through each character’s storyline. This alone made the game interesting from the start, though it takes a lot of careful consideration in building your character as the consequences could be dire. What I mean by this is when leveling, players will need to choose their skills and abilities wisely, as another player could have a totally different version of Lucas than you, and one could be much more powerful than the other. This also applies to your A.I. partner in the game, as players have full control over the abilities and skillsets that they develop through leveling.

I also need to mention that disposing of enemies isn’t the only way to gain experience in the game. There also exists an extensive set of quests to follow, with some side quests lying off the beaten path. Players will find themselves exacting justice on a mercenary, reclaiming stolen property, making the lands around a town safe, and much more through completing NPC quests along the way.

While the NPCs in the game offer little to no depth, the gameplay surrounding the player’s dialogue choices is quite interesting. Obsidian worked to provide a sort of Mass Effect feel to the game’s dialogue, allowing players to choose from a “spinner” of responses, that actually affect how the game pans out. It’s a nice touch to an old RPG feel.

Add to all of this an extensive inventory system, though it is lacking in the ways of aesthetic appeal. There isn’t much variety in the look of equipment, though players will be free to fully customize the equipment of their main and support characters. There is plenty of loot to be found in the game, though most of it becomes forgettable and meaningless after a while.

On top of this, there are no potions in the game, which serves as both a good thing and bad. While on one hand it is nice to know that abilities don’t seem wasted due to the lack of healing potions, it’s also quite worrisome when out in the field and in need of healing. Though your A.I partner can revive you when needed, if you don’t pay close attention to your abilities and learn to use them well, you could be left to die in a moment’s notice.

One last thing I want to add while we’re talking about gameplay is the aggravating camera style used in the game. Players can use the right analog stick to control the camera, though only two different viewpoints can be shown. One is close to the character, while the other is further back, though neither show what’s lying in front of the player. I was never able to see out in front of Lucas, and I was always left with having to wait for what would appear on screen. I wasn’t fond at all of the camera system in the game. Such a problematic system to me led to movement issues on the battlefield, as well as ambushes that stopped me many times along the way. I know that most dungeon crawlers run off of the same camera style, but the way that Dungeon Siege III’s combat system was presented, I would really enjoy being able to see ahead of my party.

Multiplayer

Dungeon Siege III does offer multiplayer, and it comes in two different types. The first is local drop-in, drop-out co-op, and the other is online co-op. I wanted to talk about each of these separately, as they each have their own pros and cons.

First of all, the entire game can be played out through two-player cooperative mode in which a partner aiding you in battle is controlled by a friend. Anyone can drop in and lend a hand for a bit, then drop out allowing you to continue in your journey without any problems. Like previously mentioned, players have full control over the equipment and ability layouts over the selected partner, though when switching to online play none of this matters.

Dungeon Siege III’s online multiplayer functionality is severely limited with its online suite. When players go to join others in online play, they do not import their main characters at all. They are forced to join an already-existing game, playing as any class that isn’t already in play. On top of this, players are at the mercy of whoever is controlling the game, as whatever skills and abilities they have set with that class are stuck. While disconnected, players have no control over the development of that class. This may be alright when playing with close friends, but it makes playing online with random players near useless.

The rules during online play can’t be changed per interaction, which can spell trouble for any player. This means that some random player having a bad day can join your game, run to a vendor, and sell all of your inventory then jump offline in a moment’s notice. Obsidian really dropped the ball on this as it is a severe flaw to the game.

Though four-player online co-op is supported, playing it suggests it isn’t. The camera shakes involuntarily as it tries to follow the action, the game’s colored effects blur together, making it hard to see what’s actually happening on screen, and all of the areas for combat are really cramped when playing with more than two players at once.

The Verdict

While I am extremely happy to see a title like Dungeon Siege III show up in a sea of generic, played-out genres, it pains me to play the game and stumble over all the things Obsidian missed. With average graphics, emotionless NPCs, shoddy online play, troublesome camera controls, and the lack of variance in loot, Dungeon Siege III just falls short of the title that it could have been. It is still a fun game to pick up and play, however, if you’re one of those gamers who enjoys just sitting down and playing for yourself. I just feel, though, that the game could use more polish and attention, which makes it hard to justify paying full price for it. If you’re a hardcore fan of the series, I think you’ll enjoy the game. However, if you are looking for a new gaming experience, I would definitely wait for Dungeon Siege III to drop in price before you pick it up.

The Good

  • Great storyline
  • Unique leveling system leads to characters for different play styles
  • Gameplay can be fun and interesting

The Bad

  • Graphics aren’t up-to-date
  • Camera controls are shoddy and difficult
  • Multiplayer is shot with insecurity, troublesome mechanics, and feels like it wasn’t meant to support more than two players
  • NPCs are shallow and without emotion, making the game become dull quickly
  • Loot and equipment suffers from a lack of variety

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