The lights are on
[Dungeon Siege III Review - Xbox 360 - 8.75/10]
When browsing cheap used games or rentals, you'll occasionally find a real gem among all the dirt. Dungeon Siege III is certainly one of those gems, but like most gems found in the rough, it lacks the full polish and refinement to make it really shine to its true potential.
Coming off an awful review I regret writing in the first place - where I was suckered by the demo for AMY that ended up being far less awful than the full game - I thought it was fitting that my next review would be for a game I initially dismissed based on the demo. The Dungeon Siege III demo is nothing special, merely introducing you to the gameplay and a few minutes' worth of action, without a hint of the leveling, abilities, or equipment customizing the game offers. It would hardly leave you scrambling to run out and spend $60 on it when it first came out, but for the $10-$15 it's likely to go for now, it's well worth a playthrough.
Concept: An action/RPG dungeon crawl, that draws comparisons to Champions of Norath or Baldur's Gate.
Graphics: Lush color palettes, detailed character models, and visual flourishes bring the action to life.
Sound: The music is good but not particularly memorable. Sound effects really pop in combat, though, and the voice acting is very well delivered.
Controls: Attack, block, and abilities mapped to your buttons, 3/4 view camera with some control - similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Mostly familiar by now and easy to pick up.
Replay value: High. Four unique characters and several story choices to make along the way give you plenty of reason to play through multiple times. However, a shoddy multiplayer mode and no new game plus severely hinder what could have been an even greater experience.
1) Lure enemies into trap 2) Defeat enemies 3) BIG PROFIT
The gameplay mechanics are nothing new to fans of the action RPG genre. One interesting deviation is the use of two "stances" in combat, each with its own equipment and abilities mapped to X, Y, and B. Meaning, you'll have access to different abilities when using a sword and shield, than when you're using a claymore. Plus, only one set of equipment is active, so your boosts and stats may change with your stances. It takes some getting used to, but it also lets you tailor your equipment based on how you play each stance - for example, you can equip Katarina with pistols that drain health when up close, but a rifle that boosts your magic when you're attacking from a distance.
Character progression is similarly straightforward; kill things, get more powerful, repeat. Every few levels you'll unlock a new ability, and every level you gain an ability point and skill point. One is used to boost your abilities (such as choosing whether to do additional damage, or add % chance to stun enemies) while the other offers passive boosts, such as gaining extra focus (aka MP) when defeating enemies.
While enemies on the paths between major locations do respawn, travel is somewhat time consuming and the experience gained is not a flat rate. XP gained is proportional to your level, so you can't just hang out outside of town and kill spiders until you reach level 30. You can always grind out for money and loot drops if you're saving up for a particular item, though.
Quests follow the familiar "main quest and some side quests here and there" formula, and most are given to you at the various towns, which server sort of like hubs. There's no fast travel option per se, but each has its quest givers and a few shops where you can sell extra gear and hope to find something better than you already have. The side quests are optional, but completing (or ignoring) them will affect the ending you get. Much like X-Men Legends 2, there's no right or wrong way to beat the game, but you do get various cutscenes throughout the game and at the end based on your decisions.
So the plan is, I'll murder things up close, and you'll murder things from a distance. Got it? Good. GO TEAM!
There's quite a bit of replay value to be had; the choices you make along the way, along with a decent (but not amazing) loot system and four distinct playable characters (each of which can be tweaked with gear and abilities to be played in a unique way) mean that while you may be going through the same quests, you can at least do so with a little variety.
The single player game has a few flaws. The loot system is decent, but unbalanced; getting gear worth replacing yours with gets rarer and rarer near the end. About 2/3 of the way through you're likely to hit a plateau, where you'll have gear you really like, and very few dropped or purchasable items will offer enough benefits to be worth swapping. This brings Borderlands to mind, where later in the game you're picking up and selling off loot hoping to have enough cash on hand if a vendor has a truly great item next time you look. And while shops change up their inventory at times, there's nowhere near as much variety as Borderlands had, so it's far less likely for you to run across a really great item worth spending all that gold on.
Mapping abilities to your buttons based on your stance means that while all nine are available at all times once unlocked, you'll be switching stances to get to your favorite abilities, which can be a nuisance in the heat of battle. Abilities can be "leveled up" to an empowered version that you can use at the cost of a power sphere; however, there's nothing more past that. You get regular and super, and it's almost impossible to rank up your last tier of abilities by the end of the game, unless you grind like crazy for the sole purpose of using those abilities. And oddly, there is no "new game plus," meaning you can't use your awesome character to start on a higher difficulty and get better gear with a higher level cap.
If you can't tell what's happening, keep hitting "attack" until things stop moving.
Despite its flaws, the single player game (or local co-op) will run you several enjoyable hours. Aside from that, there's an online multiplayer for up to four players, but sadly it's here that the game really loses some of its shine. Only the host can use a saved character; there is no way to import your own character into someone else's game. There is no saving loot or progress, other than the host. Loot drops seem to favor the host character (since gear and weapons are character specific,) which means that when you join a game without your saved characters, you'll also have a hard time getting gear to keep up with the enemies at your level. While experience and health pickups are shared, so are your gold and inventory - meaning someone can sell equipment for your character before you have a chance to equip it, or spend all your group's money on one item for themselves. Unless you're playing with people you know, it's very possible for one player to ruin the game for the other three.
Despite a multiplayer mode that feels poorly thought out and other shortcomings that limit the game's overall replayability, it's still tremendously fun to play through at least once. I've completed the game with two characters, and plan to do so for the other two as well. It's a shame that it'll never see the type of staying power that Dead Island has, but with its reduced sticker price at this point, it's still worth picking up for a playthrough.
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