I’ll be quite honest, I didn’t play the previous two Dungeon Siege games, so I’ve got no idea whether this one is a continuation of some epic story, or whether each Dungeon Siege game stands alone. They looked like fun games… it’s just that I have this prejudice against party-based adventuring. I can’t stand it. I prefer to go it alone. But being starved for decent Diablo-style dungeon-crawling action RPGs on console, I found myself looking forward to Dungeon Siege III, which appeared to have all the enemy-killing, quest-completing and loot-collecting a dungeon crawling connoisseur could want.
The story is fairly simple. The descendents of a line of noble knights known as the Legion were framed for the death of a king and hunted to near extinction. But now, 30 years later, their mentor decides it’s time for the Legion to rise again and prove their innocence, but they’ll need to be careful. Their old enemies are still watching, waiting for the remaining few to show themselves so they can finish the job. It’s fairly standard fantasy malarkey, and there are reams and reams of lore to read in game – if you actually want to – but it’s a good enough reason for you to choose a character and head out on an epic adventure.
But here’s where Dungeon Siege III gets a bit weird: the four playable characters have only nine special abilities each, and each character can only equip one type of weapon and one type of armour. Sounds a bit limited, doesn’t it? Yes, you’d almost think this was a Japanese RPG. Some of the appeal is lost when you know that the next cool weapon or armour piece you find is going to be exactly the same as the one you’ve got, just with different numbers attached. You also have no stats, like strength or intelligence, at all. In place of these basic stats, as you level up and learn new skills, you’ll be able to take on tougher enemies that drop better loot with ever-increasing attack and defence values – and that’s how you boost your “stats”.
So does this kill the game? Well, when you start fighting waves of enemies with this limited system, it’s actually pretty good. Each character has a completely unique feel to them. The combat is fast and strategic, and your abilities, limited though they are, have very clear tactical applications. You’ll need to balance simple attacks with special abilities, because one fuels the other, and you’ll need to keep an eye on your health to know when to use your healing abilities. There are no potions at all in the game, so don’t get lazy. From there it’s the usual “enter town, get quest, embark on quest, kill enemies, collect treasure, complete quest, come back to town, sell loot” cycle that we all know so well. Oh, and you’re saddled with a CPU-controlled twonk – I mean ally, who will follow you around for the entire game, whether you want them to or not. This might not bother you, but it annoys the hell out of me.
There is something I should warn you about: if your primary motive behind a purchase is to play it as co-op multiplayer game, you might want to think twice. Whether you’re playing two players on the same machine or four players online, it’s only the player who creates the game who gets to keep all the stuff. Everyone else is just along for the ride. Oh, come on! You’d think developers would have learned by now that this “sidekick” multiplayer model is a bad idea. In fact, by the time I got my copy, my local game store had already received several returns of this game for this very reason.
On the plus side again, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous. Clearly the artists have put a lot of time into this one. From burning mansions and vine-riddled swamps to caves full of bioluminescent mushrooms and fantastic inter-dimensional portals, there’s always something beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, the dialogue is a bit amateurish, but the music is great, and the story is fairly compelling.
I’d readily recommend Dungeon Siege III to someone who plans to play it alone than someone looking for a multiplayer action RPG. It’s a bit limited, but if you can see past that, it’s a slick game with fast-paced action and beautiful visuals to enjoy.