Game Review

Dungeon Siege III (2011) [PC]

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“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
-G.K. Chesterton

 

 

Pink MageThe following is a contributor post by the Tickled Pink Mage.”

Square Enix’s trilogy at long last comes to an end after 9 years, and it has been a bittersweet 9 years. Truthfully, I just played them all for the first time over the past two months or so, so it wasn’t really a drawn-out, emotional affair for me, but I empathize with those who have loyally followed the games since their release. So the last two months are capped off with some sweet, and a bit of bitter. Maybe a bit more bitter than sweet, if I’m being honest.

Dungeon Siege III veers away from its two predecessors in many different ways, while keeping the core that is Dungeon Siege very much intact. There are many differences apparent right off the bat. Instead of character creation, you get the choice of four heroes to play as, each with a different origin story, a slightly different telling of the main story, different weapons and armor to use, and different skills to learn and upgrade, thus making for an overall genuine gameplay experience for each character.

One of the things that set apart this trilogy of games from the rest of the action-RPG genre is the having multiple characters in your party at once, and the ability to play as all of those characters. That is long gone now. You eventually get four characters in your party, but only one will be out fighting with you. But you can switch to any of the characters at any time. The three characters that you obtain are just whatever three you didn’t pick to play as, which kind of makes them less interesting on the whole.

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The overall mechanics have moved away from the typical top-down action-RPG. The way the game is controlled is new, having you move by holding the right mouse button now instead of clicking every time you want to get somewhere. You now also have the ability to block and dodge-roll to avoid enemy attacks. This new way of doing things actually sucks you in right away, for it’s intriguing to play an old genre in a new light, so to speak.

Another new, very welcome addition is a quest tracker, utilized by pressing the “R” key. No more reading through texts to find out the general direction of where to go to find some obscure item or enemy. Just tap that key and follow some lovely glowing bulbs that usually take you directly where you need to go. This is helpful, for there are a lot of side quests in addition to the numerous main ones. The quests are a bit more varied than most games in the RPG genre, ranging from the usual “kill this,” and “collect that.” While there are certainly plenty of those to go around, you also find yourself talking to people to investigate issues, repair items, and all sorts of other nifty things.

The quests must not be as tedious or as numerous than its predecessors, for I beat the main game and the DLC in 18 hours, which is vastly shorter than the first two, as well as most games in the genre.

At the end of the day though, this is still an action-RPG, and that means your main objective is truly just to kill stuff and collect loot, and if done right, this should be a thrilling ride from beginning to end.

If you are a fan of the first two games, a lot of the changes I mentioned may very well put you off, but I promise you, it works for what this game is trying to do, and fits well into the modern form of video games. That being said, the game is loaded with flaws, which can be very problematic at times, and very frustrating.

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For instance, you are not provided with a full map of any area. All you get is a little mini-map on the side of the screen, (as seen above). This is super annoying when trying to track down areas I haven’t been to yet or looking for quest objectives. This was more of an issue before I learned about the quest tracker. The game never mentions it has this necessary feature. That is but a small flaw.

Another one would be that for whatever reason, in the “Equip” screen, you can press “enter” to switch between characters inventories. Oddly enough, sometimes, this also will equip an item on the first character screen you are on instead of switching. But 9 times out of 10, I never noticed this. Imagine my annoyance when I found that I was using a terrible piece of equipment instead of my super magic death sword for an hour.

Or how about the fact that the level cap is only 35? Come on devs, what’s that about? I capped out at around 3/4 through the game. So the motivation to kill anything after that was completely gone. I found myself just trying to run past everything, which usually didn’t work out as I would have hoped. And what’s worse, I didn’t know there was a level cap, so I didn’t really pay all that much attention to what I was upgrading in terms of skills and passive abilities, figuring I would eventually be able to upgrade them all by the end. Nope! I never found a way to respec your talents either, but then again, I never looked either.

Another tragic flaw is that there are occasionally mini in-game cut scenes or times where the camera will zoom in on something to show you where to go or for story purposes. But guess what? While you can’t move or do anything at all during these scenes, the enemies lurking nearby sure can. Twice I’ve been killed during a scene, and a few other times play resumed with me bombarded with monsters, on the verge of death. That’s just rookie mistakes there, folks.

There are a few more flaws I’d like to discuss, but I will talk about them in the…

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visuals Visuals: 10/10

For a game that is roughly 8 years old, graphically, it is beautiful, even today. It was definitely stunning for 2011, (assuming you are playing on max settings). Everything is interesting to look at, particularly the scenery and environments. As you travel through many different areas, from dreary swamps to dark dungeons, to smoldering deserts, everything is breathtaking in a way. You could almost feel the heat from the desert or smell the pungent odor of the swamp. Your skin might even tickle from the dampness of the dungeon air. All the settings and scenery are very atmospheric, and this adds a lot to the game, for it allows for you to become more entwined with it…more focused.

The characters look great too, the heroes, NPC’s, and enemies. I especially like the armor detail for the playable characters.

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Lovely…just lovely.

The special attacks, especially the fire-based ones, are also very impressive to look at.

I’m not someone who cares about graphics in the slightest, but in games like this one, they really add to the gameplay, making it much more exciting and fun to watch.

gameplay.png Gameplay: 7/10

Remember all those flaws I was talking about? Well, they will all be discussed right here. But first I will say, the game overall is quite fun. Like all ARPG’s, you spend most of your time clicking away on the numerous enemies trying to kill you. You have the choice of doing so with your basic attacks, or with special skills, and I’ve got to say, the way to use skills in this game is one of the best I’ve seen in the genre. Each character gets nine skills in total, and unlike most ARPG’s, you can actually use them all. That’s right. No pouring over talent trees or skill charts, trying to decide which ones you want to learn and then upgrade. And better yet, each skill is easy to use. You don’t have to go through cumbersome menus to equip two or three skills at a time, and then change them around every time you need or want to use a new one. Allow me to explain this new, wonderful system.

Each character has two weapons that you can switch back and forth to at any time. In my case, playing with the melee fighter, you switch between a sword and shield, good for one on one fights and blocking, or a two-handed sword that is used for hitting multiple targets at once. Each weapon set has three skills attached to it, which can easily be used by pressing “1,” “2,” or “3” on the keyboard. The skills are fun to use, and your “Focus” bar, which is essentially like mana, refills very quickly, allowing you to use the various skills often, making combat much more exciting and manageable. So that’s six skills at your disposal at all times. The final three are attached to your block stance, which require the use of some skill orbs that you fill up by murdering monsters. You start out with one, and by the end of the game you have five. Each skill you use from this stance consumes one orb, and appropriately, each of these three skills either heals you or increases your defense in one way or another.

So it’s a remarkably simple system, but so very effective. Again, one of the best skill systems, if not the best system I’ve seen for an ARPG.

Dungeon Siege III does something very different in terms of gameplay. It actually combines your typical bird’s eye action-RPG with that of a third-person action-adventure game. So you aren’t just sitting there clicking away, killing everything in sight before it kills you, and spamming potions or other healing items. In fact, there are no potions at all. The only way you heal is through your healing skill, or by the health some enemies drop after defeating them. If you die, your partner can resurrect you and vice versa. To avoid dying, you must block or dodge enemy attacks before countering with your own. There aren’t as many enemies in this game as compared to most in the genre, to make this new combat system more manageable. This really cuts down on the tedium that tends to get associated with these types of games, the dodging and use of skills really helping you stay focused and into it. So all in all, this a new and exciting take on something very old.

Now, I’d like to address the other flaws I had mentioned earlier. The first is one that really should not be an issue at all, and it’s almost upsetting I have to write about it. Picking up items can be a problem. You have to be standing at a very specific spot near an item to be allowed to pick it up with the “E” key. Why? Just as long as you are in the vicinity of items, you should be able to grab them no problem. But no, there seems to be only one or two spots where your character has to be on top of the item in just the right way to be able to pick it up. This gets annoying when you open a chest and four items pop out of it. You just want to quickly press “E” to scoop them all up, but you have to position your character just right to grab one item, then repeat the process until all are picked up.

I was just talking about dodging before. This leads to another annoying flaw. Rolling is your main means of survival. But sometimes it doesn’t work. You can keep trying to roll, and your character will just twitch a bit, like he’s doing a little jig. I died quite a few times because my character refused to roll.

The most annoying flaw of them all is that you can’t save the game while in combat. This is pretty standard for basically all games. But DS3 considers “in combat” to mean that there is a breathing life form within a square mile of you. Many times, when I wanted to simply save, I’d have to go looking all over for a couple of monsters hanging out in a place I had either not been to yet, or just some that were really far away. I feel like if they aren’t on screen with you, then that should be considered “not in combat.” And even when you do kill everything, it still takes like 10 seconds or longer for the game to adjust, finally allowing you to save.

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 Narrative: 7/10

The story in Dungeon Siege III is somewhat interesting, though it isn’t all that fleshed out and the characters aren’t very deep or developed, which for this type of game, is typical, and it works. It never feels lacking, and all the characters are interesting enough and consistent throughout.

The story differs slightly during certain points depending on who you play as, but the gist of it is that a once great army or fellowship, if you will, known as the Legion, is slaughtered by an army led by an evil woman named Jeyne Kassynder. 30 years after this tragedy, the few survivors that have been hiding out join forces and try to rebuild their ranks and stop her evil empire. So basically Star Wars. You meet many new faces and ally yourself with new armies as you advance, each with unique personalities that make each new area fun and interesting.

One great feature is that there are decisions throughout the game you can make which bend the story and/or character development a bit, so there are multiple ways things can be set into motion, or some things may never happen at all. Relationships between characters can be affected by your decisions as well.

The story is told primarily through text, that is voiced over, or you can just speed through it by reading it faster than the people can talk. The game does not force every little detail of story on you as well, a new addition to the series that people may find welcome, in case you get bored during the talking segments. You have the option during these story scenes to ask questions so that you can learn more about the characters you are talking to, the areas you are in, or just the overall story that is being told, in terms of the main quest or side quests. Sometimes I found myself wanting to learn more, other times I just pressed the “I’ll do it” option to start the quest right away.

Overall, it’s not a bad story by any means, and I was looking forward to finding out what was going to happen, but it didn’t keep me hooked enough to ask all the questions when given the option.

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replayability Replayability: 7/10

I have already touched on this, but the most obvious reason to replay this is simply to experience the ever so slightly different story for each of the four characters, and more importantly, their unique play styles.

The only other reason to replay the game is to experience the higher difficulties, but you cannot carry over your old characters and items, nor is there any type of post game. Once you beat the last boss, that is it. So you can kill two ogres with one fireball and just play the game on a higher difficulty with a new character.

There’s also the story based decisions you make throughout the game. I don’t know how much of an effect this has on the story as a whole, (not much, if I were to guess), but it could definitely be fun to see what outcomes are created through the various answers you can give and actions you can take.

Normally, I would give this a much lower score, but the difference in gameplay, with all the new skills and armor/weapons for you to use with each character really makes up for the lack of any end game things to do or new game+. Because really, if you like the game enough to play it again, then this, along with the tougher difficulties, is all you’re gonna need to be happy.

challenge Challenge: 6/10

DS3 can certainly be challenging, and usually is. Sometimes it is not though. While this is not necessarily a problem, the way the difficulty fluctuates randomly is quite a large. The game starts out simple, and then out of nowhere, it becomes very hard, only to switch back to being easy. In other words, it’s a roller coaster ride of gliding along and getting your backside handed to you…not my favorite type of roller coaster.

A lot of the problem, for me personally, comes from the fact that I keep thinking this is your typical ARPG, where you can just stand around killing stuff and popping potions.

It’s not.

I always forgot that I needed to dodge and block constantly, like in a Souls-like adventure game. If you try to take on a horde of enemies by recklessly hacking and slashing, you will die…very, very quickly.

The gameplay and tactics aren’t where the issue is, but rather how fast you actually die. Throughout the game, it generally took 3-4 hits for me to keel over. My partner, for whatever reason, could take a much worse beating, which is fortunate, for then they could actually survive long enough to resurrect me. When resurrected, you start with half your health, so a lot of the time you die immediately upon getting up, over and over again until you get lucky and nothing hits you or your partner dies and you have to restart.

Another thing that makes the game needlessly difficult, well…more annoying than difficult, is the fact that many attacks knock you down. When this happens, you are floored for like 3-5 seconds, which when a mob of enemies is beating down on you, seems like an eternity.

Going in stride with annoying difficulty is the fact that some of the bigger enemies take forever to die. This doesn’t actually make the game harder, just tedious and boring when facing one after another of these things. Their attacks are easily dodged, and you can usually stun these types of brutish monsters, so it’s just a marathon of beating them down for a while, then moving on to the next one. In other words, a poor excuse for challenge…

But the absolute worst challenge in this game is the enormous disadvantage you have as the melee character, Lucas. So many bosses and enemies have nothing but close-ranged attacks, forcing you to dodge just as much as you attack, whereas a ranged character can happily kite them around. This isn’t all that bad in itself, until you get the enemies that have cheap auras around them that cause constant damage or some other terrible effects on your character. Again, only the close-ranged characters are affected by this, for ranged characters can hit enemies well outside the aura.

But as a close-ranged attacker, what in the world are you supposed to do in that situation? You sit there and wait for your partner with a ranged attack to slowly whittle down it’s hit points, that’s what! If you are playing as Lucas, you will die far sooner than the target with the aura, this I promise you. So you have to run around while the enemy chases you very slowly. Your partner isn’t smart enough to move, so they stand in the aura and die. Then you have to painstakingly get the enemy to move away from them, typically in a tight room, narrowly avoiding the aura in the process, (which seems to have a range slightly beyond that of the physical aura that you can see), and revive your partner. To make matters worse, a lot of the enemies with the fire aura have shields and can only be damaged from the back. Needless to say, it takes a long time to kill them, and they are far too common to be forgivable. Truthfully, they are not that common; there’s maybe six in the whole game, but that is six too many, for Lucas anyway.

This issue does not add to the challenge as I imagine it is intended, but just makes it tedious and cheap feeling.

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audio Audio: 9/10

If you are looking for over the top, catchy music, you aren’t going to find it here. Instead you will find the slow, rhythmic churning of an orchestra, (not an actual one by the sounds of it) or sometimes no music at all. This both works and doesn’t. While the game would certainly benefit from intense music, particularly during combat, the slow, quiet drones or absence of music benefits the game just as much. It really adds to the atmospheric settings you travel through, and even when there is no music, it aids in building the suspense in between fights, causing your anxiety to fly through the roof as you anticipate that inevitable run in with a giant, blood-thirsty monster.

The sound effects are great, especially when you turn up your speakers to volume awesome! There is plenty of clashing and booming and explosions, which is what really makes the combat thrilling, not to mention extremely satisfying.

The voice acting is very good. Each character has an appropriate voice, and the terminology and accents used really aid in making you believe you are back in the medieval times of wherever and whenever this game is supposed to take place. This all makes the storytelling that much more interesting, and actually helps you connect with the characters as well.

uniqueness Uniqueness: 9/10

For a game that is the third in a series, one might assume any shot of being unique has long been tossed away. But Dungeon Siege III manages to prove us wrong. Not only is the gameplay a complete overhaul from the previous two, it is unlike any game that I personally have ever played. The ARPG combination with a third-person action/adventure is definitely a new one for me. And while it has some issues that need to be smoothed out, it is still very fun to play through the game in this manner, and that really is mainly due to the fact that it’s so different.

The other unique aspect, which I have already talked about, is the skill system and how you can actually utilize all the skills available to you with ease. This is another thing you don’t see too often, if ever, and that’s big points.

These two things are the main driving factors of the game, for me anyway. It’s the credit that these choices add to the gameplay that kept me coming back for more.

The rest of the game fits your typical ARPG mold, but that’s just the cherry on top of the unique sundae that is Dungeon Siege III.

mypersonalgrade My Personal Grade: 6/10

I like this game, I really do. It is a good length…not too long, not too short…has fun gameplay, a story that I enjoyed largely thanks to the likable characters, and has some great ideas throughout. In truth, I would recommend the game to any action/adventure fans out there. It really isn’t bad at all. But all the flaws I described throughout this review are just too annoying and/or frustrating to ignore. When you find yourself wondering, “how in the world did this make it to the final game?” over and over, it becomes a serious problem.

The interesting part about this is play experience could change drastically if I replayed it with another character. The game isn’t so bad that I cringe at the thought of replaying it. I absolutely would play it again, but not anytime soon. And honestly, simply having a ranged fighter makes half the flaws vanish, but they really shouldn’t be there at all, now should they?

They improve the gameplay from the last two games, though I miss the multiple party members. And while it is more fun overall, they bring back a lot of the same flaws that plagued the first game, which in my eyes, is unforgivable. I would place Dungeon Siege III as the second-best in the trilogy, or second-worst if you’re that type of person. It is a hundred times better than the first game, but doesn’t quite live up to the second.

Aggregated Score: 7.6

 


 

The Tickled Pink Mage is an avid gamer who does not discriminate against console, developer, genre, development budgets, etc., but just tries to enjoy all games for what they are, for it is his passion, along with movies and music, which he writes about at www.vidchord.com. He’s only out to have fun!

 

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