Reviewed: July 19, 2011
Released: June 21, 2011
When the original Dungeon Siege released in 2002 it definitely enhanced the RPG genre far beyond what we were getting from other games of the time such as Diablo II and Icewind Dale. Since then we had an expansion to the first in 2003 and a full sequel in 2005 and then all was quiet within the dungeon. Obsidian stepped in to replace Gas Powered Games and six years later we get our third installment in the Dungeon Siege franchise, but is this a true sequel or merely a detached action-RPG riding the coattails of an established franchise?|
After several weeks of playing this game as each of the characters and completing it with one, I can say that Dungeon Siege III is being grossly misrepresented here. This is not the “Dungeon Siege” I remember, nor is it in any way a sequel to the first two. That’s not to take away from any good points the game might have, but for diehard fans of the originals (like me) prepare for major disappointment.
Rather than creating your characters, you instead get to pick from four prefab characters, each representing a unique class having their own inherent abilities and significant piece of the over-arching storyline. You will then modifying those characters slowly as you explore the story-driven adventure, smashing all sorts of containers, opening chests, and killing bad guys to collect tons of loot. Each character has nine abilities divided between two offensive stances and defensive actions, creating a surprisingly deep and rewarding combat system, for what is ultimately a button mashing fighter.
The game is complex, which means you’ll spend almost as much time in the menus as the game screen. Pages upon pages of menus and stats allow you to organize your inventory, equip items, boost your stats, and check your mission progress. When you are playing the game it’s pretty fast, almost arcade in nature, with you laying down spells, ranged fire, or dealing brutal melee damage depending on your character and playing style. When the battles are over you’ll loot the battlefield then sort through you booty, figuring out what your character can use and what can't. Many items are character-specific and unusable by your chosen class. These can be sold at a vendor or converted to gold instantly for a bit of a loss.
Major quests are assigned through the narrative while dozens of side-quests are added to your log whenever you talk to key people around the villages or towns. There is always something to do and your mission log will hopefully keep it all sorted out. A lot of work went into creating some clever missions as well as an underlying main story that is uniquely split so it works with whatever character you happen to choose. Even when you go back and play as someone else there are some interesting and subtle changes to the narrative.
Dungeon Siege III makes a half-hearted attempt at multiplayer and epically fails. The online and local co-op mode doesn’t allow you to bring your single-player character into an online game, so any character development is lost. You simply host or join another person’s game, and the joiner is forced to choose from whatever class the host isn’t playing. Once you go offline you no longer have access to that character. It gets even worse when you try the four-player co-op, which introduces framerate and camera problems that make the game virtually unplayable.
I originally played Dungeon Siege III on the 360 and it was okay, but having played the first two I was sure this was a game meant for the PC. While the game certainly looks better on a good PC gaming system, I was surprised and disappointed to find that the mouse and keyboard pretty much sucked. It seems that Obsidian chose to “dumb down” the controls and interface for console users to such a degree that even on the PC I ended up playing with a 360 controller for the best experience.
Most of the control issues stem from the problematic camera that requires near-constant tweaking. You only have two zoom modes; suck and suckier. One is high and over-the-head so you can’t see what’s coming off camera, or you can zoom down to a lower angle to see a bit further out, but this view is too claustrophobic to be functional in combat. It does give you a good view of the nice texture detail on the gorgeous backgrounds and slick character designs and animation. The special effects for magic and spells are quite the lightshow as well.
Dungeon Siege III has some very nice music, both in the game and in the menus, and some fantastic sound effects that really enhance the combat. The voice acting ranges from good to bad to indifferent. Some of the characters (I won’t mention any names…Anjali) are really bad, lacking any emotion or character. She sounds like a robot reading a script.
A single trip through the game will take 10-12 hours, and then you can do it all again with the other characters if you wish. I would have preferred a much longer single-player game, as replaying as a new character doesn't offer any substantial gameplay changes. I spent about two hours with each character before repetition set in then I settled on my favorite (least boring) and finished the game with her. There is no New Game + mode so you have no incentive to replay as the same character, and the multiplayer is so broken, both online and local, that you won’t even want to mess with it.
If you are looking for something to keep you going until Diablo III or Skyrim arrives then Dungeon Siege III might be the RPG filler you are looking for this summer. Personally, I found it an insult to the Dungeon Siege name, lacking any semblance to the previous games in the franchise. Perhaps if they had changed the name they could have avoided comparisons and disappointment, but alas, this is what we got and if you’re like me, you probably won’t like it.