STAFF REVIEW of Dungeon Siege 3 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Dungeon Siege 3 Box art Growing up, I think I was the only one I knew that wasnt into the Diablo and Baldurs Gate style of combat RPG for whatever reason, I just never saw the enjoyment of mashing the left mouse button a billion times. Then along came Dungeon Siege and for some reason ever since that point on, Ive really enjoyed the genre. Dungeon Siege was Gas Powered Games first offering and it was simple enough for someone like me to enjoy but also had some mechanics that made their game stand out against all the others. Oh, and I loved my Pack Mule (you will be missed Muley).

Gone are Gas Powered Games and in to replace them are Obsidian who youll know for bring us Kotor 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas and more. I wanted to believe that that know what they are doing, and with the single player they do prove it, but as you start the multiplayer it seems all that credit and good faith is gonebut more on that later.

The Kingdom of Ehb is still the backdrop for Dungeon Siege IIIs story which takes place a century and a half after the events of the first games. The 10th Legion has nearly been eradicated thirty years before the game takes place at the hands of Jeyne Kassynder because of her blame for her fathers death (and also the king) placed on the Legion. Legion member Odo is one of the few survivors who knows of other remaining Legion members and calls for them to regroup at a Legion safe house that was previously attacked and wiped out by some of Kassynders army. As you progress, youll come across other Legion survivors and sympathizers to your cause (once you do errands for them of course).

Surprisingly the story is quite decent once you learn all the names and plot lines, but it does take quite some time to become more interesting than finding the next piece of loot. The whole youre our last savior plot may be worn thin by now, but its interesting enough to keep you wanting to move forward in the story over the 15 hour play through and all the choices you make during your course will reveal the outcomes once you defeat Jeyne.

In Dungeon Siege III you are given the choice of picking one of four characters but unfortunately there is no customization of their appearance in any way. Lucas Montbarron is your typical warrior style of fighter (and my choice for my first play through) that fights with both a shield and sword or with a large two handed claymore. If you know your Dungeon Siege lore you might recognize his surname, as he is a descendent of The Farmer from the first Dungeon Siege. Katarina uses ranged weapons for her attacks with a long ranged rifle for more powerful but slower attacks, or her pistol and shotgun for a more potent but up close affair. Anjali is a powerful archon who is able to fight in her human form with a spear up close or shift into a fire elemental to blast foes from afar. Lastly is Reinhart Manx who is your other magic user that more relies of debuffs up close or from afar. As you can see, every character has a heavy/long range stance or a shorter and quicker stance for when you become surrounded (which will be quite often).

Regardless of who you choose to play as, youll eventually gain the others in your party as the story progresses. Your player choice will also slightly alter some dialogue choices and in-game events that will coincide with their own lore and history relating to the people and surroundings. New to the series though is that youre only able to have one companion with you at a time during your quest as opposed to all four characters helping you (unless youre playing online). Regardless of whom you choose to be at your side during fights, they will be controls by the AI but one thing they did get right is the ability to have someone locally to grab a second controller and jump in with you seamlessly. Youre able to swap out your partner at any time for any of the characters as long as youre out of combat. You can also set your game to be open to friends or anyone across Xbox Live as well, but more on the multiplayer later.

A staple to the genre is using health and mana pots when needed, but Obsidian has done away with this mechanic and made their own which I found actually works quite well. You now have defensive abilities that will use your power orbs (that refill with combat and youll gain more after integral storyline sections) which are used to heal yourself, refill focus or other abilities you may have. Using your heal defensive ability will slowly regain your health plus give you more healing the more damage you do in combat while the buff is applied. The only issue with this system is that you dont get that huge boost to health instantly like you do regular health pots give in other games, so if you delay too long before healing it may be too late (especially if youre trying to stay out of combat as you regen). Youll need to learn to block and quite often if you wish to survive and not constantly having to heal yourself.

You have two separate combat stances (one hand sword and shield or two handed sword for Lucas for example) and in each stance youll eventually learn 3 separate abilities per stance; totaling for 9 skills including defensive / heal stance. While it may not sound like a lot, which it isnt, it feels adequate for your combat needs and nothing becomes cumbersome as each ability is always only a button press away. To use your skills youll drain some of your focus which is the equivalent to mana in every other game. Use an ability enough times and youll eventually gain access to use the empowered version of that skill which will do more damage or other effects; the catch being is that itll use one of your power orbs to balance its power.

While nine abilities may not seem like much, the real customization comes in the proficiency points youre given when you level to make the skills the way you want. You can usually choose an offensive buff for the skill which usually does more damage or slows enemies or a defensive choice that will give more hitpoints or heal your characters. Each ability can get five points spent into it in any mixture of offensive and defensive that you decide. Additionally there are also ten separate passive skills you can put points into which can improve your attack power, critical hits, healing abilities and more. So dont get too stuck on the only nine abilities downer, as there is a lot of customization elsewhere.

Instead of a health bar above every enemies head they instead have targeting circles below their feet (so you know which one youre attacking) that will change color relating to their current health (green for full health and red when theyre about to die). Finding your path to your current quest objective while slicing through enemies is never an issue as youre able to tap up on the D-pad to show you a glowing bread-crumb trail to where you need to go. Most of the time it works perfectly but there is the odd time that itll show you where youre supposed to go before hitting a specific switch.

There are many side quests for you to undertake should you wish but unfortunately none of them felt like they had much weight or gave many rewards worthwhile; which brings me to a big downfall to Dungeon Siege III. Youll constantly be gaining new loot from almost every enemy you kill which is a big reason people enjoy these types of games, the problem though comes from the quality of loot. You can go for hours before getting a upgrade or two that is worthwhile. Its definitely a quantity over quality until you get near the very end of the campaign to get those major upgrades and epic loot which was quite a downer. A couple other issues I ran into was that there was so few real big boss fights but plenty of smaller mini bosses that have no real impact once killed other than a decent piece of loot.

Now for the biggest downfall of the game that really brought down the whole experience for me; the online. A game like this and almost every in the genre can have near infinite replayability if the multiplayer aspect is done properly; unfortunately it gets none of those components right. Dungeon Siege III could have had an amazing offering if its online component was actually thought out and done properly.

For starters, you and up to three other people will share a single camera that is set slightly lower than the camera you come accustomed to in single player. This is a horrible decision for multiple reasons. When someone steps away from the controller, no one can move forward and progress. You are also unable to tell when someone is in the menus or not. Also, I enjoyed playing as Lucas, so when I join someones game and theyre also playing as him, I need to choose someone else. This means no overlapping characters, which makes sense on paper, but for someone like me that became accustomed to a specific character and abilities, it made playing as someone else very difficult. Also an odd decision; players in your game can sell all your items or buy anything they want wasting all your hard earned coin.

Now, the worst thing about the debacle of online play though is that only the host progresses their character. This means that when you join my game, youre simply playing one of the characters as a henchman of sorts making my playthrough easier. You dont progress your character even if its the same character, only the hosts game and character progresses. This makes it absolutely pointless to join someone elses game aside from helping a friend or going for specific achievements.

What has been done very correctly though is the consolization of the series. The game plays like it was meant for a controller and the controls work well once you dont have to think about specific buttons and accidently hit the weapon swap button instead of interact. Equipping items is easy and telling which loot new is hassle-free, that is unless you want to equip people that arent in your current party makeup. To equip items on someone not in your current party you first need to make sure youre out of combat, go to the menu and swap to the character you want and then swap back to your normal companion after doing so. It makes for a cumbersome experience when all that was needed was a button to swap to any teammate.

Dungeon Siege III is all about instant gratification giving you so much loot youll constantly be sorting through it all. Once you realize that theres very little for big upgrades though until the end, youll eventually even stop caring about getting treasure chests since its most likely not an upgrade unless it comes from a boss anyways.

Because of the absurd and worthless online multiplayer theres sadly much reason to continue playing once youve completely the decent storyline, but with no New Game+ mode, youll have little reason to keep playing after you do a single play through or two. If the online actually worked and wasnt completely useless I know I would have enjoyed Dungeon Siege III much more and for a much longer period of time like I did the original two games, sadly now I have a game I finished in a few days and is already on the shelf to collect dust.

Please don't release a multiplayer component that has no use unless you're the host.

Overall: 6.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10



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