Dungeon Siege 3 Review
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Obsidian Entertainment
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 21, 11 (released)
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Dungeon Siege was originally crafted by a very talented development team, led by one Chris Taylor; at the time, best known for classics such as the real-time strategy Total Annihilation. In its day, Dungeon Siege seized an audience of its own, albeit many have regarded it as a Diablo rip-off (a lot of games were in those days, so who cares). It also introduced a few unique facets to the genre, in addition to hurling popular hack'n'slash style gameplay into a streamlined 3D environment, which was the one thing Diablo lacked. The first game hit the market in 2002, with the sequel following in 2005. Dungeon Siege 2 didn't quite live up to the pre-release hype, but it still turned out to be a thrilling action RPG. It also garnered enough attention to warrant a movie release, even though the project was snatched by Uwe Boll, thus transforming into mountain of crap. So, here we are many years later and Dungeon Siege 3 is upon us, except the project had found itself in the hands of Obsidian Entertainment (KoTOR 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, etc.). Also, unlike before, Microsoft Game Studios no longer handles publishing rights on this one, but rather Square Enix. Okay, now you know practically all there is to know on the subject.
Naturally, when we first heard Obsidian was behind Dungeon Siege 3, we weren't too happy about it, considering the developer's lousy reputation of throwing technically incomplete projects out the door. On the other hand, a glimmer of hope remained, because the last time Gas Powered Games tackled the genre, we were left with the disastrous Space Siege. In other words, handing the franchise over to Obsidian may not have seemed like the best solution. However, the one saving grace was that these guys couldn't possibly do any worse than GPG has Space Siege.
Just enjoying the lovely view. Damn, I wish I could drop this sword just once.
The devilish boss will soon meet his end.
Dungeon Siege 3 starts with a pretty little story introduction that takes players through some of the events that have occurred in the Kingdom of Ehb. For many years, the so-called 10th Legion managed to maintain a peaceful, prosperous, strong and independent kingdom. Eventually, the rule had been left to an independent monarchy and while the Legion grew powerful, they also were seen as rivals by the monarchy. History wrote a few nasty pages from here on in, leading to a series of events one of which was the tragic death of Ehb's king. He was murdered and blame was almost instantly cast upon the Legion. The Legion then had a massive rebellion to deal with. The people, motivated by the charismatic and influential Jeyne Kassynder, rebelled and eliminated every last stronghold of the Legion. Scattered and outnumbered, the remaining members were either hunted down by Jeyne Kassynder or killed by angry mobs and pillagers who wanted to ransack and loot the once proud estates and chapterhouses of the Legion. And yet, a small group of legionnaires endured, along with the Venerable Odo who was believed to be the sole survivor of the Legion. Even with almost everyone against the Legion, Odo protected and preserved its bloodline, keeping it safe from Jeyne Kassynder. The journey commences when our hero (or heroine) arrives to remote Rukkenvahl, where Odo has called upon Legion descendants to assemble.
Four playable characters are available, including Lucas, Anjali, Reinhart and Katarina. Each character commands unique skills and powers and a lot will depend on your choice at the beginning. Lucas is a skillful young warrior and your best bet for melee-based combat. Anjali is a mythical creature, an Archon, wielding a range of spells, some of which include summoning beasts to her aid. She also takes human form and can wield a spear. Reinhart is a powerful mage and a talented spell caster, adept at fighting off foes from a distance and at close range. Katarina uses rifles and pistols to keep enemies at bay - shotguns are her favorite weapon for when matters get up close and personal.
Our first playthrough was carried out in single-player, with the warrior Lucas being the most obvious and practical choice. The game doesn't exactly rely on the combat mechanics of its predecessor (Dungeon Siege 2). Instead, it takes things in a new direction by ditching potions and offering an alternate skill system. Fighting involves a mouse/keyboard combo, requiring you to use the 'WASD' direction keys and the mouse at the same time in order to execute moves. You also utilize '1' '2' '3' keys to activate particular abilities. Pressing the 'SHIFT' key grants the use of additional skills. It all needs to be done in real-time and, from our experience, it takes a while to get into practice. The first problem comes when combating multiple foes. In the chaos of real-time combat, pressing 'SHIFT' and the mentioned keys isn't the most intuitive solution, because you need time to find the appropriate spell or ability. A lot depends on tactics, but again, it's all in real-time, so there zilch room for error. Each skill and ability drains Focus and without Focus, you're left to tackle enemies using basic attacks that usually do not deal enough damage (at least not until you've leveled up considerably).
Orbs left behind by fallen enemies provide a substitute for potion consumption, which admittedly isn't the most effective way of regenerating HP or Focus during battles. The issue stems from the fact that the game drops these orbs randomly, so you can't really depend on it. Three types of orbs are usually found on the battlefield - green (health regen), blue (Focus regen) and purple (charges the character's special attacks). Healing may prove difficult if you're a warrior, especially at the beginning. Healing is either done by collecting orbs or by leveling up and investing into a healing spell or certain skills that increase health regeneration through combat. This seems like a cool substitution for stereotypical potion usage, although in practice it doesn't feel right. The amount of damage points dealt by most enemies is high above the amount of HP that are regenerated through the main character's spells or skills. This often causes frustration during combat, something that could've easily been avoided by including potions in the game.
To bring the matter into perspective, for a game that forces real-time combat, the orb scheme and skill-based health regeneration frequently fails in battle, causing the death of your character more often than it should. This is often the case when you come up against more powerful opponents, most especially large boss creatures that cause critical damage with almost every attack. If it's down to just you and a large boss, who often deals out area damage as well, the battle becomes very difficult because there just aren't any orbs to help you heal and if you want to recover through basic strikes and attacks that won't be easy, because one attack from the enemy can kill you instantly. So, at this time, you revert to, what we like to call, a "dodge-and-poke" tactics, which denote a lot of dodging, blocking and running the hell away from whatever your foe tosses at you. Dodging isn't too difficult, but you may also get confused between dodging and blocking, because you use the 'Space bar' to block and dodging is carried out by pressing the 'Space bar' and direction key. To put it another way, if you want to block an incoming spell with a shield, you'll probably end up dodging instead of blocking (it's only possible to block while standing still). It sounds absurd, but that's how it works, believe me.
Your party can only consist of two members at a time, so you won't be able to charge into battle with four tough adventurers like in the previous two games. Reviving a fallen character is possible, which is cool. Mind you, the friendly AI doesn't behave the way you'd want and may not revive you on time. It sometimes takes too long to respond when your character is down.
Obsidian finally proves it's capable of polishing a game at launch, cool story and characters, it takes some perseverance but the combat is genuinely enjoyable and challenging, as is the rest of the game, lovely soundtrack, solid voice-acting, all-in-all a pretty straightforward and well-executed hack'n'slash RPG;
A slight step-back for party-based single-player gameplay, combat's not the best thing we've seen, healing is difficult sometimes, AI won't always revive your character in time, camera chooses to focus and zoom on its own randomly throughout the game and that's annoying in solo and coop play;