The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
With Dungeon Siege III, developer Obsidian Entertainment brings the
hack-and-slash RPG series to consoles for the first time. The game is
firmly entrenched in old-school tropes, but it does add a few more
The story is set in the kingdom of Ehb,
though you don’t have to be a Dungeon Siege wonk to get what’s going
on. The 10th Legion has been routed, and it’s up to you and your party
to remobilize it and prevent Jeyne Kassynder from killing its
descendents. Dialogue is handled through a Mass Effect-like conversation
wheel, though players are largely guided through preset conversations
rather than having multiple choices during verbal encounters. You make
decisions in a few key moments – and can see the effects of those
choices – but I never felt I was making significant waves in the world.
Considering how generic the overall conflict felt, I’m perfectly
satisfied with that.
Fortunately, the action feels more immediate
and engaging than typical games in the genre thanks to Obsidian’s
approach to combat. Rather than merely hammering on the attack button
and waiting for a spirit gauge or mana bar to replenish automatically,
you have to be an active participant in battles to pull off flashy
moves. As you attack enemies, a will meter fills with each successful
blow. That meter is tied to all of your character’s abilities. In a
typical encounter with my archon character, Anjali, I’d pick away at
enemies with ranged fire blasts, and then summon my fire jackal when I
had scraped together enough will. As it baited and attacked my foes, I
was free to scorch them with pillars of flame or area effect infernos.
When I got hurt, I couldn’t rely on a few quaffs from a potion to cure
my wounds instantly, either. Each of the four characters has some form
of healing ability, though they replenish health over time rather than
in one instant chunk.
As a gamer who appreciates the action part
of action/RPGs, I enjoyed how Dungeon Siege III kept me involved in
battles. You don’t reap any benefits from hanging away from combat, so I
had to reexamine my usual caster strategy of nuking groups of bad guys,
running away, and then turtling as I waited in seclusion for a mana bar
to max out again. Instead, I often found myself weaving in and out of
groups of enemies, dodging and blocking their attacks as I got my lumps.
Each character has two stances, which affect their offensive and
defensive abilities. For example, Anjali’s fire form lets her use those
powerful flame-based attacks, while her human form focuses more on
staff-based physical damage.
Character customization is
satisfyingly deep, and players can tweak each character’s abilities
through proficiencies. For instance, Anjali’s fire jackal can be tweaked
to do more damage or have a bigger pool of hit points. Each ability has
five slots for proficiencies, so you have to make some tough decisions.
Beyond that, talents offer ability neutral buffs to characters, such as
improved healing or additional damage.
In the single-player
campaign you fight side-by-side with an AI companion. I found that
having Legion swordsman Lucas Montbarron at my side made life
significantly easier, thanks to his tanking abilities that complemented
my more mage-like skillset. I didn’t have any direct control over Lucas,
though I got to upgrade his abilities and equipment. I was surprised
(and impressed) by the amount of autonomy he displayed. He used his
various abilities effectively, waiting for enemies to cluster together
before attacking groups with his special sword slashes, or making sure
that the area was clear before attempting to revive me if I was down. He
even picked up gold on his own at the end of skirmishes, though he left
the loot on the ground.
Alas, loot management is a major weak
spot, which is a problem for a game that showers players with all manner
of weapons, armor, and goodies. Weapons are ranked in a variety of
attribute-enhancing categories, but optimizing between piles of gear can
quickly become a headache. You can compare items against what you have
equipped, but you can’t sort your gear according to different bonuses,
which would have been a tremendous help. After a few hours, I stopped
looking forward to incrementally better gear, which is a problem when
nearly every chest or enemy encounter fills your sack with more. If you
like playing with a spreadsheet in your lap, however, more power to you.
is a big draw for Dungeon Siege III, and it’s handled fairly well.
Players are tethered to one another, whether in the two-player local
co-op or through four-player online matches. Because of the small size
of some of the areas, it can feel constraining at times – especially
when there isn’t consensus on which direction to explore next. It’s also
easy to lose your character amid the various spell effects and trap
displays. It doesn’t help matters when the targeting system occasionally
has a mind of its own; in a few battles I aimed at where I thought the
enemies were and hoped for the best.
The story didn’t bowl me
over, but I enjoyed the setting and characters. Obsidian brings a neat
steampunk vibe to the proceedings, with automatons, firearms, and
graphical embellishments that make the world feel unique without being
self-conscious about it. You can check most of the usual fantasy
settings off your list, too, such as a haunted forest, frozen wasteland,
and murky swamp, but there are enough little touches to keep it
interesting. For instance, as you make your way across a mountain pass,
enemy cannons are firing on you, striking your party and causing the
occasional rockslide. It makes the world feel more dynamic, which is
I recommend Dungeon Siege III to anyone who wants to
connect with friends and kill a whole mess of monsters together. Thanks
to the strong AI, even the single-player campaign is worth a look if you
can’t wrangle up a party. It’s one of the best hack-and-slash options
out there for consoles, and it’s no slouch on the PC front, either.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.