The latest game in the venerable action rpg series ‘Dungeon Siege’ is out. It’s been quite a long time since the second one, and we took the time to play it through on the PS3. The game follows the Kingdom of Ehb roughly 150 years following the first Dungeon Siege, and the 10th Legion has been all but wiped out, with only a few remaining descendants left alive. For those who aren’t familiar with the Dungeon Siege series’ history, the 10th Legion are the remnants of an ancient army who fled a ravaging war and started a new kingdom far in the countryside outside of the reach of that war. They’ve been protecting this kingdom for centuries now, until the events that presage this game’s story.
The Fall of the Legion
30 years prior to Dungeon Siege 3, a seemingly unknown named ‘Jeyne Kassinder’ rallied the people feeding them stories of the 10th Legion’s corruption and the assassination of the King at their hands. The people rose up, and with Jeyne at their head slaughtered the Legion. Nearly none survived, save a few who hid and some children who were kept secret. Odo, one of the last surviving adult Legionnaires, has been secretly raising whatever children of Legion blood he could find and teaching them in the hopes that the Legion could be reborn and help bring the Kingdom back to the prosperity it had seen in the past. You are one of these.
Brothers and Sisters of the Legion
So now that we have that backstory out of the way – we can get on to the characters. There are four playable characters, each with a different character archetype and history. Lucas – the Warrior, Katarina – the ranged damage dealer(gunslinger), Reinhart – the mage, and Anjali who is an Archon – which means she’s a pseudo-elemental. Each class has two ‘stances’ which determine their abilities and their stats. For example, Anjali can either be her human ‘stance’ which is much like a monk or her elemental ‘stance’ in which she throws fire while Lucas either uses a sword and shield or a big two-hander.
I played mostly as Anjali, and I didn’t ever use her human form – in stead resorting to just using the fiery elemental form for all situations. There just didn’t seem any motivation for me to switch which was a bit disappointing. Perhaps some of the other classes had a bit more motivation to switch, but given the game mechanics it just made more sense to master one. The characters definitely do have a different feel to them, and they all use their own unique gear with the exception of rings and amulets which helps to make the game feel different from character to character but really doesn’t add any replayability as the story, with the exception of a few details here and there, is largely the same regardless of who you play as. But the story is a fairly interesting one, and does enough to keep interest. It’s not among the best of the best, but it is a good story.
Each character has abilities, talents, and traits. You will learn all of your abilities over the course of the game, but you will not have enough talent and trait points to max all of them. Talents modify individual abilities, giving things such as increased damage, healing, or sometimes specialized effects like stuns or slows to an individual ability. Each ability has two talents, and you can have a maximum of 5 talent points in any ability, split how you choose between those two talents – encouraging specialization and interesting builds. Traits have more general effects, such as increased agility or regenerating focus on critical hits.
As a sort of tie in to previous games, Lucas and Katarina are descendants of the first Lady Montbarron from Dungeon Siege 1, although Katarina is illegitimate; and Reinhart is a descendant of Merik, the mage from the first game.
To Arms, Brothers!
Combat is, as is expected, pretty traditional for an action rpg. You’ve got your abilities premapped to the keys with alternates using l2 and empowered versions using r2. Your regular abilities use focus, which is capped at 100 and refills when you perform regular attacks or through certain talents/traits. Your alternate abilities use power spheres, which refill as you use regular abilities. You start with 1 power sphere, but earn more as the game progresses to a maximum of 4. Empowered abilities are unlocked by using any of the abilities a lot – and are either more effective versions of the abilities or are special secondary effects(Anjali’s summon jackal ability causes the jackal to explode when the empowered version is used while her fire pillar turns it into a more damaging wall of fire.) Empowered effects are listed in the description of the ability, so it’s not a guessing game at all.
The combat works quite well, and the lack of a non-regenerative resource encourages use of abilities, which is something that bothers me quite often in some games – you get these fun abilities but you really can’t use them regularly for fear of not having them if you desperately need them. I was quite pleased by the fact that the abilities all tied into one another for regeneration, as it really does make it feel necessary to use your abilities, especially on hard difficulty.
The game features a party system that can either be used to have two people playing cooperatively locally, 4 people online, or 1 person with an AI companion. When playing solo, the AI companion is not terribly useful. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t know how to dodge anything, and it often will ignore you when you’re dead for quite a long time rather than resurrecting you which was quite annoying.
In addition to the equipment and levels, there’re also ‘deeds’ which are passive stat bonuses acquired based off of decisions you’ve made or what you’ve done in the game. For example, there is a deed for gaining the loyalty of each of your companions, that boosts a stat relevant to that companion(agility for Katarina, for example). The system adds a certain level of progression to the decisions you make, which definitely helps with the feel of the game.
The difficulty was not very well tuned on hard. Some parts were insanely touch and go, and other parts I could practically sleep through leaving me feeling as though I was going through the game on easy much of the time.
A Message from the Tourism Board of Ehb
Dungeon Siege 3 has very well polished graphics on the ps3. The landscapes, buildings, and monsters aren’t as interesting or beautiful as some games, but they are all very clean and well-made with no graphical errors or glitches that I could find. The special effects for spells and abilities are all quite interesting as well, and they’re distinct enough that except in the few cases where you fight an enemy who uses the same ability as you; you can always easily tell your spell effects from your opponents. Where the graphics really shine, however, are in the models of the characters. When you zoom in a bit, or when you see them talking to each other, the character models are gorgeous.
The sound design is all well done as well. The monsters have very interesting sound effects, and the spell effects all have good impact to the sounds, for example with the fire spells actually sounding hot and the melee special abilities having good sounds. The voice acting is fairly good, although a few characters can get a bit annoying at times and a few of the lines felt very awkward.
The cut-scenes were mostly a little disappointing – using partial still-frames with narration in stead of actual cut-scenes. For a few of them it worked well, and for the ending it worked very well, but mostly I was just disappointed with the cut-scenes. The ending, however, was very well done – hailing back to the days of classic JRPGs where the ending gave you a wrap-up of the fate of every major character following the ending. It was nice, I’ve missed those endings so I was glad to see it. But a proper cut-scene version might have worked even better.
Dungeon Siege 3 is not the best game, but it definitely does a lot of things very right, most notably the use of a self-sustaining combat system encouraging use of many abilities which is a problem I run into in a lot of ARPGs – the ‘I must save x resource for the perfect time’ syndrome. The story had enough content and mystery to pull you along, but there are some aspects of it that seem to fall flat. Basically everything about this game, save the character models and the unique intertwined resource system screams ‘average’ – but there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s still a pretty solid gameplay experience.
- Very cool intertwined resource mechanic encouraging use rather than conservation of abilities.
- 4 distinct characters each with different styles and abilities
- Interesting dual-sided ability talent system.
- Very good ending bringing back memories of JRPG classic endings.
- Decent to good presentation in nearly all areas.
- Excellent character models.
- Intuitive combat system.
- Fun ‘deed’ system to get stat bonuses from how you play the game.
- Decent story.
- Game does a good job of filling you in about previous events over the course of the story.
- Game did not do a good job of providing situations that encouraged use of different stances for some characters.
- Game feels very ‘average’ except in a few areas.
- Cut-scenes, other than the end, were lacking and delivery method was uninspired.
- Story doesn’t differ from character to character in any meaningful way.
- Ally AI is very lacking, often leaving you dead for way too long.
- No way to manually override ally to give specific commands at all, even as basic as ‘come resurrect me’.
- Certain characters were very annoying, as were some side quests.
- Difficulty was not very well tuned on hard difficulty, with some areas feeling impossible and others making you wonder how ridiculous they were on lower difficulties if they were this easy on hard.
- Very little replayability.
Review Written by: Sean