Review: Dungeon Siege III
Once in a while, you encounter a game that has a lot of flaws but that you nonetheless enjoy greatly. For me, Dungeon Siege III is one of those games.First, a little back-story. The original Dungeon Siege was a hack and slash RPG in the style of Diablo that was notable for its large parties, bare bones gameplay, and free form class system in which one gained power simply by fighting in your preferred style. I loved it for its refreshingly basic (if admittedly mindless) gameplay and cliche yet charming and immersive setting, the Kingdom of Ehb.
For various reasons, I wasn’t able to play DS2 when it came out, but I recently tried its demo, and I was thoroughly disappointed. It tried to enrich the gameplay with special abilities to spice up the endless clicking, but they had lengthy cooldowns, and it only drew more attention to how basic the game was. Furthermore, it wasn’t set in Ehb, had a totally different set of races, and had none of the feel or charm of the original game. It felt like a completely different franchise, but for the mindless gameplay.
Flash forward to Dungeon Siege III. It returns to Ehb and stays true to the feel of the original, though it is different in many ways in substance.
Somewhat regrettably, the tradition of forming your own class as you play ended with DS3. Instead, you choose from one of four pre-established characters. There’s enough differences between them to give them their own unique feels (barely), but they all work more or less the same way. Each has two stances that they can switch between at any time for no penalty: one for single targets, and one for area of effect damage. Each stance contains up to a maximum of three situational but powerful abilities, plus each character has three more defensive abilities which sort of comprise a third stance.
This is really what makes DS3 shine, in my view. It’s simple, but it’s not as mindless as the first two games. It’s a small and easy to comprehend toolbox, but learning to make the most of it can take a lot of skill and experimentation.
Unfortunately, that learning process is made more difficult by one of the game’s major flaws. The controls can only be described as bizarre. A patch after the game’s release now allows people to change the keybindings, which helps a bit, but no matter how you tweak it, it’s still awkward. But that said, it’s not an insurmountable flaw. The first hour of the game spent learning is painful, no doubt, but once you master the strange controls, they’re really not that bad. It’s just a steep learning curve.
And the game has more to offer than mechanics used to slice your way through your many enemies. I’ll admit that my nostalgia for the first game renders me somewhat biased, but I really loved exploring Ehb. The game has a great ambiance and sense of history behind it, and the graphics are outstanding. This is definitely one of the best-looking games I’ve had the pleasure of playing, and unlike some other recent games (*Cough*RiftandStarcraft*Cough*), it still looks good even on low graphics settings.
The story is also surprisingly good, especially considering the one-dimensional plot of the original. It has you as one of the last surviving scions of the 10th Legion, Ehb’s heroic founders, who have been betrayed and slaughtered by a mad religious fanatic and her crazed followers. It’s a great feeling of “us against the world,” and the game does a good job of building pride in the Legion’s history. I already liked the Legion from my experiences in the original game, but after a few hours of DS3, I was ready to salute every time I saw the number 10.DS3’s story starts out basic, but it slowly evolves and ends up quite murky and morally ambiguous. It also manages some fairly surprising twists. Thanks to the Mass Effect craze, this is another game that lets you make your own decisions on how to steer the story, though none of them have a radical impact on how the game plays out.
I have mixed feelings on DS3’s audio. The music is decent but not stellar, and the voice acting is highly inconsistent. Many of the voices are filled with gravitas and personality, but one of the playable characters, Anjali, sounds like someone mumbling the newspaper headlines to themselves while waiting for the bus, and the villain sounds more like a petulant fifteen-year old than a mighty warrior-priestess.
This brings me to the game’s other big issue, and that is that it’s glitchy. I’ve heard of many issues, but mine was the sound. It often (very often) was marred by jumping, pops, and general distortion. It was extremely distracting, and it’s the one problem with the game I really can’t forgive. There’s just no excuse for glitches like that in this day and age.
Still, taken all in all, I though DS3 was a good game. It could have been better, but I enjoyed it a great deal.
Overall rating: 7.7/10 It would be much higher if not for the glitches.
You can buy Dungeon Siege III, as well as the original Dungeon Siege, on my Amazon Affiliate.