It’s a bit odd to be playing Dungeon Siege III on the PS3. After all, the previous two entries were PC exclusives and that’s what I’m used to experiencing them on. I did try the PSP side story, Throne of Agony, earlier this year, but to say that I was less than impressed is a bit of an understatement. The story was lacking and it was way too repetitive for my tastes. Supervillian Studios, like Mad Doc Software’s Legends of Arrana, just didn’t hold up to the quality of the original studios titles. However, Dungeon Siege III piqued my interest for several reasons, all of them based on morbid curiosity.
First, Obsidian Games was developing the title instead of Gas Powered Games. This was an odd change to me, especially since Obsidian has developed a reputation for buggy titles. However, I do have a strange sense of loyalty to them since they used to be half of Black Isle Studios, the greatest dev team ever, and Obsidian did give me Fallout: Las Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2 so I that made me want to take the plunge. The second curiosity was that Square-Enix purchased the series from Take Two, who in turn originally picked up the rights from Microsoft. This passing around of the Dungeon Siege franchise, like an old MLB player long past his prime, seemed to be the sign of a potential train wreck to me. The third curiosity was if the franchise had any name value left after the Uwe Boll film. The fourth was how the game would play on a console and if console gamers would even care about the third entry in a previously PC only franchise. The fifth and final was how much of Chris Taylor’s influence would be felt in the final product. Chris Taylor, the original creator of the Dungeon Siege series was an advisor on DS3. All these things combined to make me at least download and fiddle with the demo. So if Dungeon Siege III a game I’m going to review when our copy arrives in a fortnight, or is it something I’m going to pass off onto another staffer? Let’s find out.
1. Right away I’m not a fan of the default control setup. I’m so used to the attack button and the “investigate/interact/talk” button being the same thing on nearly every RPG that it feels really awkward to use a shoulder button (R1 to be exact) for that. I’m sure as I progress through the game it will feel more natural but between that being there and a block button (L2) for this series, you can tell right away that Dungeon Siege III plays drastically different from other games in the franchise, including the PSP offshoot.
2. The story is pretty inviting and welcoming to people that haven’t played a Dungeon Siege game before. I was very happy to see it. Basically the kingdom of Ehb had a massive revolt against a group of knights known as the Legion. A mage named Jeyne Kassynder turned the citizens against the Legion and then slaughtered them all (while burning down a forest to boot). Now you play as a descendent of one of the remaining Legion families as the forces of Kessener continue to wage war on the West. This is a fairly black and white simple story hook, but I’m sure it will go deeper as the game progresses.
3. In the demo, you are able to choose between two characters. The first is Lucas Montbarron who is the typical warrior class character. The second is Anjali (not to be confused with the British born Indian porn star who comes up when I googled for character images…). Anjali is called an Archon in the game, but she’s basically a Pyromancer that can take on the form of a fire elemental. Also, she has the “amnesia” background trait that drives me nuts. You also get to choose between three difficulty settings in the demo. That’s a lot of play options for this snippet. Very nice.
4. I won’t lie – the bulk of the game feels exactly like a lot of action RPGs out there. Thankfully the ones it plays like are Dark Alliance, Baldur’s Gate and the like so the game is a solid, well made one that is sure to please those of you that just want a basic hack and slash game to pass the time.
5. Dungeon Siege III offers a little bit of customization, but not in the actual stats. Those are determined only by leveling up and equipping items. That was a bit of a letdown compared to the more Dungeons and Dragons oriented action RPGs, but Dungeon Siege III DOES give you three levels of power based customization. You have Abilities, which are specific powers locked in to three buttons on the controller, but what those buttons do depending on which stance you are in and if you are in offensive or defensive mode. For example, as Anjali I chose the ability that let me summon living fire jackal thingies. As Lucas, I chose the ability to buff my armor score by 20% for thirty seconds. Proficiencies are the further honing of your Abilities. You have two options for each and the ability to stack five levels of Proficiencies on each Ability. For example, with Lucas, Blade Dash Ability you have a choice between two Proficiencies: Hemorrhage and Lightning Precision. Hemorrhage adds an extra 20% damage per rank chosen while Lightning Precision adds a 10% critical chance per rank chosen. Again, you can mix and match up to five ranks total, so your Blade Dash could have a 30% critical rate and 40% extra damage from your base level, a pure 50% critical rate, a pure 100% bonus damage or any combination that is possible. Finally there are Talents. Talents are innate abilities, each with a possible five ranks. So even though you can’t customize your stats, there is still a lot of min/max potential with each playable character.
6. I played an Anjali first and then as Lucas Montbarron. I was pleased to see that both characters have distinctly different opening cut scenes. The majority of the demo’s storyline was exactly the same, but there were some differences regarding dialogue. It’s just different enough to make it worth playing through a second time, although probably not right away.
7. I love the use of “bread crumbs.” By hitting up on the D-pad you trigger a trail of what appear to be Pac-Man power pellets which show you the right way to go on your current quest. It’s a cute but very functional ability that will be a boon for younger or less experienced gamers.
8. Like with previous Dungeon Siege titles, you gain a sidekick in the demo. The sidekick’s attitude towards you is determined by your dialogue choices throughout the game. By making choices they agree with, you gain influence. The higher the influence, the better they will perform. Some secret moves will even be unlocked with a high enough influence. Very nice.
9. Visually the game isn’t that different from action RPGs throughout the past two or three console generations. It’s all from a three-fourths overhead perspective and honestly, if you didn’t know you were playing Dungeon Siege III, you could easily mistake it for a number of other action RPGs. The graphics aren’t top of the line for a modern system, but they are on par with what you’d expect for this subgenre of role playing games.
10. Overall, Dungeon Siege III is fun, but also extremely generic. This will no doubt help gamers that are new to the series, but long time fans of the Dungeon Siege franchise may be turned off by the fact it feels just another hack and slash title instead one that is definitively a DS title. This is both good and bad. As I have always been pretty neutral on the Dungeon Siege series, this doesn’t affect me either way, and it will be interesting to see how I feel once I’ve finished with the final product. Right now, I’m pretty optimistic about Dungeon Siege III. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it really doesn’t stand out as anything memorable, but it’s fun for what it is and if you are a big fan of action RPGs, you’ll at least get a new hack and slash to hold you over for a while.