When I pre-purchased Dungeon Siege III a few months ago it was mainly to take advantage of the offer to get Dungeon Siege 1 and 2 for free. I remember following the media coverage of Dungeon Siege for months. From the solid looking graphics, to the pedigree of Chris Taylor, it all made me very excited. I remember when first playing it being a tad disappointing, by what I felt was an actual lack of game.
The play style felt as though I was merely guiding my party, while they chose to attack and react accordingly. I must have been expecting a more tactical, Baldur’s Gate style of gameplay. For whatever reason, I never quite finished the game. So as I approached Dungeon Siege III, I chose to focus on playing yet another RPG from the folks at Obsidian, who really are more known for how incomplete, yet fun, their RPGs are.
Taking place many, many years after the events of the first two Dungeon Siege games, this story is only very loosely related to the previous two entries. Think of this more as a new tale in Dungeon Siege, or even a sort of reboot.
You start the game as one of four different heroes of your basic character tropes; the fighter, the ranged fighter, the wizard, and the fighter/wizard hybrid style of character. Each of them comes to the story from a different background, which feeds into the main story. Depending on whom you choose, it will be determined how and when you encounter the other three. Ultimately it will be your character and your choice of any of the other three characters that adventure forth. Regardless of whom you choose, the story remains the same. You are attempting to reestablish the Tenth Legion and get revenge on the forces of Jeyne Kassynder for decimating the Legion years ago.
"One of the biggest differences in this game is that you exert a lot of control over your main character."
Dungeon Siege operates in the style of a point-and-click hack and slash RPG game. You will be accompanied by one A.I.-controlled companion, who will range from helpful to useless depending on the encounter. One of the biggest differences in this game is that you exert a lot of control over your main character. You have the ability to block enemy strikes as well as to dodge out of their way. This control really helps to pull you into the gameplay more, avoiding the whole simulator feel of the first Dungeon Siege.
As in all true hack/slash dungeon crawlers, the enemies will drop a host of loot for you to look through for both of your characters. While I occasionally found something worthwhile, I did feel that about 75% of the loot was worthless to me. After a while, killing a horde of monsters, only to discover that they only dropped some common equipment, becomes annoying. However, the game does feature a fairly competent inventory management system that makes sorting and selling your gear fairly easy. You also have the option to transmute your items for a few coins, which isn’t anywhere near as convenient as selling them, but vendors are few and far between, and with all the loot you find, you will constantly be maxing out your allowable gear.
Your combat will feature two different modes for each character. This typically varies from a one-handed attack style, versus a two-handed, more powerful but slower attack. The styles of attack and abilities will also vary via character and level. Katarina is your ranged character who utilizes rifles and pistols. Lucas is your traditional melee expert with sword and shield of two-handed attacks available. Anjali is a kind of hybrid that offers both powerful melee attacks, with some solid magical attacks that can add range to her abilities, depending upon what form she is in. Reinhart is your standard magician, and he has a variety of magical attacks for enemies both up close and at range.
The abilities vary by character, and tend to be directly connected to the fighting styles. You will be able to choose where to invest your points and will find that the more you use your abilities, the more they will gain power, eventually leveling up and offering an advanced form. Your abilities require power, which you gain by killing enemies. This allows you to continue using your abilities frequently, making it easier to power them up.
As is typical in this genre, enemies range from smaller creatures that surround your characters, to flying, range attacking creatures, to mini-bosses, and then finally major boss characters. While there is a variety, you will see a fairly predictable pattern for enemy types about two-thirds of the way into the game. Where the challenge can become overwhelming is when you get surrounded by enemies of all three types at once, and find that you cannot mover around as easily. At this point you will realize you actually need to learn to use tactics and abilities wisely, including liberal use of the dodge and block buttons.
I played through the main campaign twice, in order to experience everything as first a ranged and then melee fighter. I found that after struggling, but ultimately completing the game as the ranged fighter Katarina, my second play through as the melee specialist was substantially easier. This was likely due to better understanding the play mechanics the second time around.
This brings me to my first real complaint with Dungeon Siege III. While the game does initially give you numerous entries to your journal, explaining the play mechanics, they aren’t very thorough. In fact, it wasn’t until I was nearly finished with my first play-through that I realized my abilities leveled up over time with use. While you did get a rather generic tutorial, it didn’t really help me understand all of the play mechanics, and this led to some early struggles that were unnecessary, hence the difference in difficulty between my first and second playthroughs.
"These extras reminded me of Obsidian’s reputation for releasing promising yet flawed titles."
I was also annoyed by the influence system. Early on I made some random choice while speaking with another character, and was told that I had gained 1 Influence with them. That was it, no real explanation, just that I had gained 1 Influence. While having a high enough Influence ended up offering a slight stat bonus, it felt very tacked-on and underdeveloped. So did the seemingly random deeds that I performed, sometimes by finishing a quest and other times by not accepting a reward, but seldom with any explanation involved. These extras reminded me of Obsidian’s reputation for releasing promising yet flawed titles. I wonder if there might have been a greater plan for these types of mechanics that got cut out before release or wasn’t finished in time.
While there is a multiplayer component, it is poorly implemented and not really worth discussion. There were also some early complaints regarding the standard controls of the game, but I didn’t really have an issue. Some of the commands were a tad unwieldy, but I was able to confidently defeat the enemy hordes with my full arsenal of abilities.
Despite some odd issues on my ATI card on my tower that forced me to Alt-Tab in order to fix some odd looking textures, the game was good looking. The effects, character and enemy models are solid and offer enough variety to keep one engaged. The environments also range from drab to pretty, sometimes within the same part of the game. All story takes place within the game engine, so no pesky cut-scenes until the very end. I should note that my nVidia system had no graphical issues with the game.
The sound effects are solid if fairly forgettable. The character voices are unique enough to add to the story, and the occasional wry comment or observation from your companion tend to add at least a little humor to what was occurring around you.
According to my Steam profile, I invested 31 hours into Dungeon Siege III while playing. I found the game to be fun and engaging, at least enough so to complete it twice with different characters. While the loot was somewhat weak, the combat was unique enough, and some of the boss encounters were engaging enough to keep me happy. There is enough to offer here for fans of this style of action-RPG. As of this writing, I am eagerly awaiting the release of the first DLC for the game and hope to offer a future article on it.