Dungeon Siege III Review

By Darryl Kaye on June 28, 2011

We haven't seen a full-on Dungeon Siege title for quite some time, with the last main iteration appearing in 2005. Back then, it was a PC exclusive and was from the creative minds over at Gas Powered Games. Things are rather different now though, as not only does the game have a different publisher in Square Enix, it was also developed by another studio, Obsidian Entertainment. Dungeon Siege III is also the first game in the franchise to appear on home consoles, and it seems like all of these changes hindered the game, instead of helping it move to the next level.

The story once again returns to the Kingdom of Ehb, where the Legion is in a dire state. After being accused of killing the king, his daughter, Jeyne Kassynder, rallies the people of the land together to destroy the very organisation that had served to keep them safe for centuries. She almost succeeds too, as only a few descendants of the Legion still exist and have done under the watchful eye of Odo, a former spy. But when Odo organises a meeting between the remaining Legion remnants, things go horribly wrong.

From here, you embark on a quest to restore the Legion to its former glory and bring peace back to the land.

It's a pretty decent tale, and the branching paths give it quite a lot of substance. It's one of the few games where you feel your actions may well have consequences. The fact your decisions are neatly rounded up at the end of a segment adds credence to this and at the end of the game, you will learn how your decisions affected the Kingdom of Ehb and may well affect it in the future.

The most disappointing aspect of the story, and this is a complaint about the game in general, is that it's so short. There are certain expectations for genres, and with the RPG genre comes an expectation that the game, due to its extended capacity to tell a story, will be a considerable time sink - even more so when side-quests are factored in. Dungeon Siege III can be easily completed in under 10 hours, even if you complete all the different side quests the game has to offer. It's very disappointing.

There are four players to choose from at the start and as you go through the story, you will also meet the various other characters you didn't pick. It gives you the idea that were you to play as the other characters, their story might start in a different place and you'd get a different perspective. However, if you choose another character the story just gets re-written to somehow be exactly the same - it feels like there's wasted potential here. If you meet Reinhart in your travels, he has one story, but when you start up a new game his story is oddly familiar to the one you've already played. It's just odd, there's no consistency.

The gameplay in Dungeon Siege III is quite standard. You can perform generic melee attacks in a small combo and you also have the option to perform up to seven other spells (four offensive, three defensive). Three of these spells, your basic offensive spells that get mapped to the face buttons, require focus. While the other offensive spell and the three defensive ones, require the use of a power sphere. The catch here, is that in order to procure focus, you need to land attacks and in order to procure power spheres, you need to take damage.It almost feels too basic though, as there are almost no options. The only options you get revolve around how each move develops - there's no choice about the moves you can learn. What this means, is that when you level up, each skill has two options and you can have up to five options per skill. So, you can choose to level up a skill with all of option one, all of option two or a mixture of both. But if you hate the skill and think it's a waste of time, there's nothing you can do about it - you're stuck with it.

To try and give it a bit of variety, each character has two different fighting styles. But to be honest, you will probably just end up using the one you prefer the most the entire time. There doesn't seem to be much consistency either amongst the characters, as for example, one character (Lucas) can shift between a sword/shield and a great sword - both melee and a nice balance. Another character (Reinhart), a mage, can shift between melee and long range. But if you use it, the character literally can't attack anything close to him, so you become defenseless at short range - especially when playing with the AI.

The combat also feels quite stiff, it never flows that well. Whenever you attack, you get rooted to the spot; it breaks up the action quite a bit. You can make it more active by using different abilities, but this only applies to certain characters and it feels more like you're having to compensate for the game's deficiencies, rather than something that was intentional.

When looking at other aspects of the game's presentation, it also falls flat. The graphics could be a lot better - nothing really contains any detail. The character models feel very bland too and while it's nice that appearances change depending on what's equipped, it all feels a bit lacklustre.

Speaking of which, the game does offer quite a lot of customisation options. Each character has multiple equipment slots and when you start getting towards the end of the game, you'll end up with glowing weapons and maybe even winged armour. But even the drop system seems quite antiquated. Throughout the course of the game, you don't acquire that much stuff - but maybe that's because it's not that long. You might get maybe three or four unique weapons, but most will be different forms of rare.

The game's stunted story also hinders the prospects of replaying, something which the developers quite clearly expected people to do. Yes, it's very open ended depending on the choices you make, but there aren't that many different choices.

It becomes a bit more appealing when you throw in the prospect of playing multiplayer with up to three other people, but it's hindered by a dodgy "fixed" camera and annoying interfaces. Checking a menu to change equipment requires far too much coordination because the people can't walk off screen without the other characters having to hold their hand. Then again, it's probably better than the solo AI companion you get, who has no clue how to use their abilities properly and continues to suicide at a rather consistent rate.

Final Thoughts

Dungeon Siege III is competent at best. It's a game that features plenty of good, solid fundamentals, but almost nothing else. The story has a nice array of choices throughout, but what's ironic, is that most of the time, the game as a whole just seems like it offers lots of choices, when in fact, it offers very few. If you need a game to scratch your RPG itch, Dungeon Siege III might be worth your time, but if you can wait for something better, do so.

The choices throughout the story feel like they actually have some weight.
There are four characters to choose from.
Visuals change to reflect your equipment.
Everything feels very shallow.
The game is criminally short.
Multiplayer doesn't work all that well.
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