Gaming Union's very on conscripted and self-proclaimed art director - that's me - is back with yet another hidden gem. Previously, I rambled on about a fun and addictive rhythm game for the PlayStation Portable known as DJ Max Portable. Now, from underneath the dusty rug, I bring to your attention Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony.
Throne of Agony is an RPG akin to that of the Diablo games and was developed by SuperVillain Studios and published by 2K Games back in ye old 2006 for the PlayStation Portable. The plot takes us to the world of Aranna, just after the passing of the Second Cataclysm, pretty much picking up from where Dungeon Siege II left off. A mysterious force long since forgotten has returned, drawing adventurers to the desolate wastelands of the northern territories. There are three characters to choose from, each with their own reasons for fighting, some fight to save their people while others journey for more intimate reasons.
I played through the story as Mogrim the Half-Giant Warlord. He's essentially the tanker class among the three playable characters while Serin the Elven Shadow Stalker is much like a Rogue or Thief, being the most agile. Allister the Battle Mage is your all-around, jack-of-all-trades guy, being able to carry most of the weapons available and deal both physical and magical damage. No matter who you choose to play as, the quests remain the same. Each character also starts off with a basic class and as you progress through the story, you'll get to upgrade to branching classes, each with their own unique set of skills.
Mogrim's story is one of redemption, although from the outset he doesn't actually know it. As you travel north and progress through the plot, you'll uncover more secrets about the half-giant's past and ancestors. There isn't a whole lot of cutscenes, instead most of the story is told through quests and dialogue exchanged with NPCs. The graphic novel style and presentation is a nice touch for the cutscenes that really set up the atmosphere. The voice acting is a tad hit-and-miss, with mostly the main cast having more than decent voice acting and the less important ones, well, they just leave a slightly sour aftertaste. Nothing too catastrophic.
The game was built from the ground up for the PlayStation Portable and as a result the controls are relatively tight and the gameplay is just nice for questing on-the-go. Movement is controlled directly by the analog nub rather than a mouse like Dungeon Siege I and II on PC. Battles are done in real-time with attacks and spells that can be mapped to the face buttons according to your liking. There is no camera control either since the game utilizes a top-down camera view that constantly follows wherever you decide to go. The game also offers a myriad of spells to learn and upgrade, however I found that it was relatively easy to blast through every area with just the melee attack. Nevertheless, the list of spells is rather extensive and as mentioned earlier, depending on which class you pick, you'll get a different set of spells and skills unique to said class.
While I found the gameplay to be quite fun and an extremely good way to kill time, I was also pleasantly surprised by the customization options available. Although Throne of Agony is a portable game, the inventory of weapons and equipment is quite substantial. You'll get plenty from looting downed foes, but there's even more in the town shops and every piece of equipment changed is reflected on your character from head to toe.
Throne of Agony also supports an Ad-hoc multiplayer mode, allowing you to team up with one other player to tackle the adventure together. There isn't anything special about it though as it's essentially the single player campaign with an extra player thrown in plus a slight additional dose of lag. However, playing with a real human comrade is far more satisfying than relying on the AI companions given to you throughout the game. Many of which tend to blindly aggro anything that moves even if they don't stand a chance against it.
Admittedly, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is the first of its type that I've experienced, even so it's left a lasting impression on me and a good one at that too. The game is not without faults though, grinding becomes a chore much like with any standard RPG and there are a few glitches but that's hardly reason enough to avoid the game. The gameplay is fun and addicting and the sizeable character customization adds even more to the experience. Although the plot may be simple at heart but the characters are more than interesting enough to tag along on their perilous journey northward. The world of Aranna is definitely worth checking out.