Dungeon Siege III Review

Dungeon Siege III was another game I wasn’t considering to purchase. I was never interested in the original series so what was going to make Dungeon Siege III any different? The difference is that the game is developed by Obsidian Entertainment which should raise some eyebrows since they’ve never forayed into hack ‘n’ slash RPGs before. Would Obsidian Entertainment add anything different to the genre or will their reputation for bug-ridden games mean that the third Dungeon Siege will be even worse than its predecessors? Curiosity got the better of me, and that’s how I ended up buying a copy to review.

Sound (4/5)
Occasionally you get some poorly delivered lines but overall the voice acting and sound effects are good quality.

Music (4/5)
No truly memorable themes here but Jason Graves and Timothy Michael Wynn do a great job in bringing the right atmosphere to the game through their music.

Graphics (4/5)
The game has probably the best graphics of a hack ‘n’ slash RPG yet. There’s lots of lighting effects going on here and the world is quite detailed. In fact, when you talk to people the in-game engine is used. Also when you use skills in the game they tend to have some stunning, over-the-top animations, almost in an anime fashion (maybe the Square Enix influence?) but it makes the game exciting to play (Guild Wars for example did not take note of this when designing the animations for their game – it’s one of the reasons Diablo was great).

Best of all, I didn’t experience any serious glitches or framerate issues. The only problem I had was that there were some occasional issues using the in-game engine in cutscenes as your character sometimes ended up facing the wrong direction (i.e. away from the person he’s talking to). Your character’s mouth doesn’t actually move when talking since the game assumes that your character would be facing the person instead of the camera.

Plot (3/5)
The game is set in the Dungeon Siege universe, in the Kingdom of Ehb, a few centuries after the events of the first game. A follower of the Azunite Church, known as Jeyne Kassynder, claimed the Legion was responsible for killing the king and managed to raise an uprising against the 10th Legion. Many were slaughtered, leaving only a few survivors left (including you). When the game starts, most of the nation belongs to Jeyne Kassynder’s army and some to the Queen (the murdered king’s daughter). An old Legion scout known as Odo is trying to convene all the surviving Legionnaires to discuss their future, but something goes terribly wrong.

The plot is typical fantasy fare and the Kingdom of Ehb isn’t sensational source material for Obsidian Entertainment to start with, but I must say they do a good job with. Background information about the world and its characters is gained by reading books lying around which is fantastic, but not entirely revolutionary as even Diablo did this to a small degree.

Gameplay (3/5)
Dungeon Siege III is a hack ‘n’ slash RPG, but with a difference. The basic hack ‘n’ slash RPG elements are there: wander around a fantasy world killing monsters, scavenging loot and equipment, and receiving experience points which you can use to level up and spend on your skills. What Obsidian Entertainment has done differently though is to add more story and choice to the game.

When talking to NPCs, for example, it isn’t just some monologue you can listen to ad nauseam, you’re actually able to participate in the conversations through a conversation tree similar to Mass Effect. Depending on which companions you have at the time and what conversation options you pick, you can sometimes gain influence with your companions, which is similar to other OE and Bioware RPGs. Unfortunately, unlike these other RPGs, gaining influence doesn’t unlock extra conversations you can have with your companion or any extra quests. All it does is grant a boost to stats, which is a pity.

The game also has quests that you would never find in an action RPG but would find in a traditional CRPG including a plethora of side quests, which is definitely a welcome change. So the game has a lot going for it in terms of actual role-playing, but unfortunately it is lacking when compared to other action RPGs in terms of the actual action.

One of the biggest gripes that earlier players had with DS3 (and even after a patch is still somewhat cumbersome) is the control system. The game is an obvious console port when it comes to this area as you’ll find it quite hard to maneuver and target enemies. In Diablo, attacking an enemy is as simple as clicking on the target you wish to attack and your character will follow it and attack it until it’s dead. In DS3 you can’t lock on targets and you’ll just keep attacking thin air if you don’t turn your character in the right direction with the keyboard and then attack with the mouse.

Level design is also not inspired. Most of the levels consist of narrow valleys and corridors, giving the game a claustrophobic feel, and sometimes you can be walking for ages as there is no waypoint system.

Finally, battles in the game can sometimes be ridiculously hard, especially if you have a melee character. For example, one boss does significant fire damage to those that stay within a certain radius of him, and since a melee character has to be right next to him to do any damage, you end up relying on a ranged AI companion to do the work. Unfortunately, the AI companions aren’t the brightest and they’ll end up continually using a skill that the target is immune to, or running right next to him to be killed by the aforementioned fire damage.

Replayability (4/5)
Unlike many action RPGs, you actually get a slightly different story depending on which character you play. This is because each of the characters have different backgrounds and you’re able to pick one of three other companions who all offer different opinions on events and conversations. Also, depending on which moral choices you make during conversation, this will have an impact on the game’s ending! An action RPG with multiple endings? That’s pretty novel to me!

The game also has four player co-op, which unfortunately doesn’t allow you to play as your own character but instead has you pick one of the host’s companions to play with (which can be interesting in itself). The game also has a novel way of handling the dreaded conversation trees in multiplayer games. The host is the one that controls the conversations but other players can also read the conversation choices and vote for which one they think the host should pick next (there’s even achievements related to agreeing or disagreeing with the party’s conversation choices!).

The only thing that holds the game back for being an uber-replayable action RPG is that there are no randomly generated levels like Diablo.

Polish (3/5)
Obsidian Entertainment is improving in terms of their quality assurance it seems, and this is the least buggiest of their games yet. However, it probably helps the mechanics of the game are simple and the plot fairly linear.

The only real criticism I have is that the interface is not very intuitive. For example, I had to Google to find out how to turn of the in-game VOIP because it is on all the time by default. This becomes an issue for those already using VOIP programs like Teamspeak or Ventrilo.

I also managed to have a multiplayer save game become corrupted but this only happened once so hopefully it’s a rare occurrence.

Score - 7/10

Obsidian puts the RPG in Action RPG, however navigating your way through the world of Ehb in this iteration is a tad cumbersome.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.