Dungeon Siege III Review
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Obsidian Entertainment / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence] / Played on: Xbox 360
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Obsidian Entertainment has a reputation as capable caretakers of other peoples’ properties (you down with O.P.P.?). The company has developed sequels for BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights, as well as Bethesda’s Fallout 3. In each case, the company didn’t stray too far from the source material, offering serviceable sequels that were fun, but not quite as good as the originals. Dungeon Siege III is a different matter altogether. Obsidian has taken Gas Powered Games’ popular PC game franchise and drastically changed it. The result is an action-RPG that’s rooted in classic console gameplay and that has more storytelling than the first two games. Ardent fans of hacking, slashing, and looting will enjoy it, but numerous flaws will turn off some gamers.
Instead of a PC RPG that blends pause-and-play and point-and-click gameplay, Dungeon Siege III is a by-the-numbers console action-RPG. If you’re into games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance then there’s a great chance that you’ll enjoy this one. The tasks of the day are beating up minions, collecting treasure, upgrading weapons and abilities, slaying bosses, and solving the mysteries of cold fusion (one of these to-do items is not true).
You choose from one of four characters in Dungeon Siege III, each bringing their own unique powers and abilities. Additionally, each character has two stances for different combat situations. For example, Katarina’s rifle is awesome for long range attacks, but when the baddies get close she has to switch to her shotgun-and-pistol combo in order to be effective. Obsidian did a great job of making each character feel unique.
As the game progresses, you’ll eventually recruit all four characters to your party. You only control the one you selected from the start, but you can swap out companions as you see fit. Character abilities can be stacked for some incredibly powerful attacks. For optimum effectiveness, you can swap out characters depending on the level or boss you’re tackling. Or you can stick with the character that consistently provides your favorite banter.
The biggest challenge in the game isn’t a particular boss battle or a horde of minions. It’s fighting the camera. You have limited control over what you see. In some cases, the game puts you at angles that limit your view of the action, resulting in you taking damage you could have avoided with a more intuitive system. It’s not so much a problem when facing minions, but during big boss fights it can lead to cheap and annoying deaths.
One curious omission is a “new game +” mode. Most action-RPGs allow you to play through the game again with all the powers, weapons, armor, and accessories acquired in the first play through available from the outset. This game does not, which is a major bummer. It would have been fun to totally annihilate the villains of Ehb with fully developed powers and sweet, sweet gear.
For the most part, Dungeon Siege III is a solid single-player action-RPG on the back of tried-and-true conventions that gamers have enjoyed for years. Millions of people love smashing and looting (I’m looking at you Vancouver Canucks fans!). That said, it doesn’t offer anything new or take the genre to a new level. Gamers that are only casual action-RPG fans might feel that Dungeon Siege III is a bit dated.
Dungeon Siege III incorporates a lot more storytelling than the first two games. You play the role of one of the last Legionnaires. Once the proud defenders of the kingdom of Ehb, a civil war between the royal family and the church has reduced the Legion to just a handful of members. It’s your job to bring peace to the land and rebuild the Legion.
You don’t have to worry about previous plot elements if you’re new to the franchise as the story in Dungeon Siege III stands on its own. That said, there is some fan service for gamers that played the originals. Old characters and prior events are mentioned in the game’s texts, while some of the weapons you find belonged to the heroes in the original game.
The story is enjoyable, but hardly original. Conflicts between royals and churches are found in numerous fantasy books, movies, and games. The odd part is that the NPCs do a much better job at advancing the story than the main characters since the NPCs said and did more to further the plot. In many ways it felt like the main character was being told, “Attack those guys! Here’s why!” by the good NPCs and, “Fight me! Here’s why!” by the villains. Granted the four selectable characters had to be somewhat transparent in order to make the plot work for all of them, but I felt that the protagonists were underdeveloped. It’s a shame since the characters are distinct and so different from each other. It would have been great if each of them were fleshed out.
Dungeon Siege III has a few story branches that determine different events and the ending you receive. You don’t really have the choice of being good or evil; in Dungeons & Dragons terms, it’s more like the choice of being lawful good or chaotic good. Some of you will enjoy playing through the game multiple times just to see how different choices pan out. The fate of several characters and the dialogue at the end of the game depends on the decisions you make.
Dungeon Siege III can be played cooperatively by up to four players, and on a single console, two players can adventure together. Online play can be enjoyed between two consoles, with up to two players on each console. The one positive aspect of Dungeon Siege III’s multiplayer component is that you can drop in and drop out at anytime. Aside from that, multiplayer is a wreck in this game.
You see, Dungeon Siege III only uses the host player’s save file in multiplayer. That’s just severely limiting. Say I’m hosting a multiplayer session with my friends R-Truth and Little Jimmy. They can’t import their characters into my game, nor can they save any progress they made in our multiplayer session to their consoles. This multiplayer scheme is fine for an arcade game like Gauntlet, but it’s unacceptable for an advanced, modern-day action-RPG like this game.
While I enjoyed the game’s art style and direction, Dungeon Siege III’s graphics are unimpressive on a technical level. The character models lack detail and the textures are simple. The visuals aren’t offensive by any means, but they look more 2006 than 2011. On a gameplay level, there are several instances when the frame rate drops or the game slows down. The game can chug when there are several minions on screen or too many spell effects are shown at the same time.
On the plus side, the artists created diverse environments. Each location looks distinct and you have to adventure through all sorts of lands to finish the game. Naturally, you have your customary dark dungeons and lush forests. You also have icy tundras, crystal caverns, nasty swamps, a steampunk city, and a demonic plane in which to find your fame and fortune. Technical concerns aside, I did appreciate the varied level design.
The music in Dungeon Siege III is serviceable, even if it’s not too memorable. The soundtrack is appropriate for a fantasy game, but none of the tunes really stand out. Millions of gamers remember fantasy-RPG music by Inon Zur, Jeremy Soule, Masashi Hamazu, Takeharu Ishimoto, Nobuo Uematsu, and others. I sincerely doubt that you’ll remember tracks from this game.
As for voice acting, the performances are uneven. Some of the acting is great and adds to the game’s atmosphere. Some of the performances sound like they were recorded by a band of dinner theatre actors. The main characters were fine, but it was distracting when they spoke with a poorly voiced merchant or a Lescanzi with a laughable eastern European accent.
As a single-player game, Dungeon Siege III succeeds as a fun action-RPG. It doesn’t offer anything particularly new, but gamers that enjoy hacking and looting by themselves should have fun. As a multiplayer game, Dungeon Siege III is disappointing. Its inability to import and export characters limits the amount of fun, and the likely level of enthusiasm anyone will want to commit to the mode. Obsidian Entertainment did an acceptable job at advancing the Dungeon Siege franchise, but like the company’s other sequels, it did not take the franchise to new heights.
7.0 / 10