In terms of gameplay, Dungeon Siege III is the red-headed stepchild of the franchise, considerably dumbed down from its predecessors and lacking the depth that its PC only forebears possessed. A big slice of the fun of playing RPGs comes from leveling your humble farmer into a rampaging, fireball-throwing, city-destroying juggernaut. Your journey from rat-killer to God-vanquisher in Dungeon Siege III is less than epic, featuring a paucity of skills and talents to chose from, with only a handful of new abilities to be learned per character. At no point will the player have to scramble to adapt his play style to a new set of powers or change tactics to accommodate new triggered abilities. Baring the occasional tough boss fight where abilities are a must, you can easily navigate through the entire game using your chosen character’s basic attacks.
Here’s the point where I start getting hate mail from console gamers. The horrible lack of fighting options presented in Dungeon Siege III are a symptom of having to bring the franchise to a controller-centric environment. Even the most intricate of handheld controllers simply cannot match the number of keys available on a keyboard. Thus, to avoid tying a console player’s fingers into knots that would make sailors blush in envy, it’s wiser for game developers to limit available powers to the same number of face buttons on a standard game pad. Unfortunately, sacrificing depth for ease of play seems like a bad trade to me.
The inevitable downside of having fewer levels to gain and powers to master than previous entries in the series is that you’ll grow tired of dispatching waves of enemies with the same damn click of the same damn toggle every single time. Dungeon Siege III’s only saving grace is that it features four completely different characters, each with their own unique abilities, so minor replayability is present. However, whether you get tired of playing one lame character or four, you’re going to be bored either way. In my first attempt at finishing the game, I played as the gunfighter, Katarina. I soon found myself wishing that I had an actual gun I could use to shoot the game, several innocent bystanders within easy reach (just for giggles) and finally myself right in the damn head. Massive cerebral trauma, I decided, was no doubt much more entertaining than the constant click-fest of picking off enemies before they closed to melee range.
On my subsequent attempt, I played as the mage Reinhart. At the very least, battling foes using his spells was visually spectacular, though in the end combat still relied on spamming your most damaging spell over and over again. Repeat until the screen is cleared of bad guys. Difficulty ramping is an issue, you’ll be cruising through the game at a nice clip only to smash into an overpowered boss fight or run into a mob that will suddenly overwhelm you, despite the fact that you were knocking down their compatriots liken tenpins a moment earlier.
Before moving on, I have a slight confession to make. Hello, my name is Matt and I’m a lootaholic. I’m completely addicted to lootahol.
There’s nothing that gets me off more than double-clicking a chest and watching as rainbow colored items spill out like Skittles. I’m the stereotypical loot ninja, the worst nightmare of many World Of Warcraft groups. (ME NINJAZ DAH PURPLEZ!!!! OMG!!) Both previous Dungeon Siege games had the uncontrollable urge to overfill your inventory, each chest or destroyed barrel spewing forth more loot than you could ever hope to spend in several lifetimes. By comparison, Siege III is the bargain bin of loot-based games. New items are handed out with regularity but not capacity. Whereas in previous games you often had to pause and take a moment to consider carefully what to pick up and what to leave behind, in Dungeon Siege III I never had to make any chill-inducing decisions as to whether I should abandon my trusty Boomstick Of Doom in favor of a newer model that adds +1 to my awesomeness rating. Into the inventory it goes. Meh. Whatever. I’ll check it out later. Graphically, more powerful gear does very little to change your character’s general appearance.
As an aside, I dearly wish more games would adopt a Borderlands-style model of inventory collecting, where tens of thousands of possible weapon combinations are randomly rolled whenever the game spawns a piece of gear, ensuring that you never see the same item twice. Alas, this game is no Borderlands.
While entirely too dark for its own good, I had to turn the brightness up all the way to see what the heck was going on, Dungeon Siege III is still well served by its graphics engine as far as combat and exploration goes. Conversations, as previously stated, are borderline inane, with character models and animations holding up poorly to close scrutiny. NPCs lack detail and personality and are so stiff in cutscenes that the developers might as well have inserted mannequins to play their roles.
Combat fares infinitely better. Spells are particularly colorful, with lightning arcing from foe to foe and fire spells erupting like volcanoes all over the screen. Yes, you’ll see those same spells roughly a million times throughout the course of the game, so it’s a good thing they’re so visually impressive. Enemy variety is lackluster, if you can think of an RPG monster then odds are its included in Dungeon Siege III’s repertoire.
The high point of the graphics engine is without a doubt the environment. While combat becomes a chore quite rapidly, exploring the game world is moderately more entertaining. You’ll travel through towns, snow-capped mountain ranges, swamps, abandoned castles and your usual assortment of dungeons. Say what you will about Siege’s game play but at least it features very little backtracking and you’ll constantly find yourself in new and exciting surroundings.
Voice acting is especially tedious, yet another reason I had for abandoning poor Katerina. She speaks with a haughty, grating, faux-nobility accent that made my hackles stand erect. It’s a generalized problem in Dungeon Siege III and in fantasy games overall. Why voice actors feel the need to give funky accents to their characters just because they’re in a fantasy setting, I’ll never understand. It’s a pet peeve, granted. But Dungeon Siege III is a serious offender.
The Verdict [rating:2.5]
Dungeon Siege III is not a good game. It feels rushed, incomplete even. Like the best bits were left on the cutting room floor. In trying to appeal to both PC and console audiences, it ends up doing nothing right and being a mediocre product. The game simply does not provide you with enough convincing reasons to keep playing. Bad story, bad combat, poor loot and unappealing protagonists. Avoid it.
Your faithful reviewer,
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go poke the glowing portal on the floor over there. The one with the runic markings and skulls littered around it. The one that old witch I ran into warned me never, ever to poke with a sharp stick. The one that’s rumored to contain a malevolent demon that returns to our world every 1000 years to feed on the blood of small children. Pft, what’s the worst that could happen?