Journey back to the land of Ehb, thirty years after its monarch was murdered. Blamed on the 10th Legion; the most powerful of the land’s armies, the incident tarnished their name and eliminated the respect they once garnered from the public. The cowardly assassination case was never officially solved.
With no official governing body to take over, the kingdom was split up into different states – one of which (eastern Ehb) fell under the control of the murderer herself: Jeyne Kassynder – a powerful witch with deadly intentions. Motives so terrible that she led the majority of the Legion’s members to slaughter under a large tree deep in the woods.
Only a few who possess the Legion bloodline still exist, kept safe after the attack through the use of safe houses and shelters. Training and conversing under secrecy, they quietly plan their uprising for when the time is right. Under Jeyne Kassynder’s evil thumb, Ehb has fallen into disarray, with bandits, demons and gigantic bugs taking over the throughways and caves. That’s where we pick up our storyline in Dungeon Siege III - a hack n’ slash, dungeon-crawling role-playing game from Obsidian Entertainment and Square Enix. We get in when the secret uprising is about to begin – just in time to sharpen our swords and load our guns.
The game begins after an attack on a Legion chapter house, where the eldest remaining members of the group were meeting to discuss their plans. You get to choose one of four unique playable characters, each of which have their own distinct weaponry, skills and ties to the powerful bloodline. There’s the powerful warrior whose father was murdered in the woods all those years ago, plus a seasoned mage, a quick-shooting rogue witch and a mythical archon.
All four are completely different in many ways, from their weaponry (swords, guns, staffs and spells), to their motives and personalities. Despite their unique qualities, they all band together (at different points within the campaign, depending on who you choose to play as), for the common good. It’s time for Jeyne Kassynder and her army to fall, so that the Legion can clear its name.
If you’re looking for a recent game to compare it to, Torchlight would be your best bet. Dungeon Siege III is a top-down game where your focus is fighting through hordes of different types of enemies. They come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny spiders to gigantic beasts. The world is a series of pathways with each section branching off to a new area or leading towards a hidden secret. As you fight your way through the pretty and lush world, you’ll meet citizens, former friends and shady fellows, who will give you quests to complete. Yellow dots show you the way towards your next goal when activated, making it nearly impossible to get lost.
There are a ton of story quests, plus even more side quests, which culminate to give players around ten hours of gameplay per playthrough. Each of the four characters has its own version of the campaign, which adds replayability, so you could quadruple that amount of time for some people. Especially those who want to get all of the trophies or achievements. In order to unlock them all, you must play through the game four times, to make sure you have the ultimate Ehb experience.
When you begin your quest, you’re a lone ranger. Even on normal, it’s a tough beginning, but it gets a bit easier once you meet your first pal. Playing alone, you only get the opportunity to have one artificial intelligence partner accompany you, but the game also supports four-player co-op over a broadband internet connection.
The two you’re not using will disappear into the menu screen, though they’re more than willing to come back for a visit (almost) any time you’d like. As long as you’re not in combat, then you can pick a new companion. Choose which one fits your play style or the situation. All four characters have their own personalities, so it’s amusing to listen to the way they speak during certain situations.
Your own personal preference plays into it in more than just those ways, however. Just like in Mass Effect and the Fallout games, there are multiple paths that can be chosen based on different dialogue choices presented. Do you want to execute the evil-doer or add him to your team?
Would you like to bend the truth a bit to get your way? Both are possible. Some choices are ho-hum, but there are others that can make a huge difference in regards to events later on in the game, as well as the ending you get. At the end of the game, there’s a lengthy recap telling you what your decisions made happen in the world and it’s really cool to see how your choices affected the digital creatures who call Ehb their home.
Character experience points are linked as a pair, meaning your duo will level up at the same time. If new party members are chosen afterwards, then they’re given the opportunity to auto-level up to the plateau that you reached with your previous comrade. When they level up, players get to pick different skills and special moves for their heroes to use – consisting of both powerful offensive and defensive moves.
Each hero can specialize in different areas, chosen by the way that you divvy up your skill points. Your special abilities have an orange path and a blue path, with approximately five slots to fill. Though it’s impossible to fill all five of each, players get the opportunity to pick which skill they want to max and how. For example, one may offer to give you an extra chance to set someone on fire with an attack or, conversely, the opportunity to deal a lower amount of fire damage to a larger group. Usually it’s more advanced and creative than that, but you get the idea.
Combat is handled differently for each character, with two being ranged and two preferring close-combat. Even though they’re paired like that, all four play differently with their own styles and professions. Though a similarity is that pressing a shoulder button (no matter which character you choose), will alter their combat stance.
Essentially, it’s offering you one stance for your average attack (mid-range/small sword) and another for your more powerful but slow attack. Lucas, the warrior, has a powerful attack that can hit and do a lot of damage to several enemies at once, whereas his light attack is best against only one enemy at a time. Guns and spells work as you’d expect, with special moves triggered by certain face buttons or combinations of a trigger and a face button. Though this game was made for the PC first and foremost, Obsidian did a good job of customizing the control scheme for consoles.
While playing, the term focus will be thrown around in a lot of the ability descriptions. It’s the term that the development team decided to use instead of mana or magic. It refers to the limited amount of blue energy that you have at your disposal. It’s used to perform special attacks and replenishes when you land strikes against your foes.
Leveling up increases your health capacity, but it doesn’t add anything to your focus meter for some odd reason. That means that you need to take special care to land the attacks you use it for, because wasting it can end up turning a potential victory into a dire situation. Certain pairs can team up with their different attacks for maximum damage and effect, leading to more critical attacks.
Like its competition, this is a loot lover’s dream come true. The amount of gold, weapons and armor that players come across in this game is outrageous. So much so that it’s tough to keep track of it sometimes unless you’re a seasoned professional.Each category has many different qualities of wares of similar and altered characteristics. You’ll have to weigh the importance of will and stamina over strength and blocking, or specs along those lines, in order to find your perfect mix. It’s sometimes hard to decide, but the game lets you hold onto quite a few items, so it’s never a big worry. Changing items can be a bit cumbersome at times, but you always have the option.
Buying and selling items is an opportunity that occasionally presents itself via different wagon-based salesmen. Their wares are usually only a bit better than what you can find, so it’s not a big deal if you don’t buy anything from them. Then again, it’s not like you have anything else to spend your gold on. Selling can be completed with just the click of a button, as statistic comparisons are shown at the bottom right-hand corner of the menu. Granted, it’s a clunky shop system that could have been implemented better.
Dungeon Siege III is a tried and true game. It knows what it is and delivers, but doesn’t push outside the box very much. Upon selecting the start option, players will be greeted with the traditional tropes we all know this sub-genre for. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Although it isn’t overly creative or unique, it’s solid and awards its consumers with a relatively long campaign that doesn’t have many bugs. There’s the odd issue, but nothing prevalent or game breaking. You can tell that it went through a lengthy testing process, which is nice.
What may turn some people off is its focus on story over gameplay. The game’s world has a ton of lore that is carried over from its predecessors, factoring in via lengthy dialogue sequences, several animated comics and approximately sixty collectible text entries of lore. However, don’t quit reading just because its focus on a rich, interesting (and quite accessible for newbies) storyline was mentioned. It’s not a movie. There’s a ton of hack n’ slash or hack n’ shoot gameplay available. There was just an obvious focus on crafting the storyline over adding unique elements into its combat mechanics.
Online sessions allow each of the four players to vote on dialogue options that they would like to pursue. It’s a cool idea that works pretty well in allowing the majority to win, as opposed to the host taking over and controlling the flow. The fact that co-op is available is great in itself, even though your single player character will always be separate from your online slayer. In order to keep an emphasis on story, the development team decided to keep them separate, though you can level up your multiplayer character(s) through playing in different online games for long periods of time. This multiplayer generally works quite well, though the frame rate drops a bit.
Taking a stroll through the magical world of Ehb, players’ in-game avatars will come across a bevy of different locations. There’s the odd indoor environment (usually all wooden buildings to keep with the era of the lore), tons of dark caves, snowy mountains, forest areas and a couple of towns. Most of these environments look quite nice, with some pretty lighting effects, though it loses definition when you enter dark areas. The character models do tend to glow nicely (with the help of magical attacks) in these areas, which is cool to see. Their models generally look pretty good, altering their look based on equipment you’ve selected for them to don.
Generally speaking, the game runs pretty well. Its frame rate is relatively consistent, but it dips when there are a lot of enemies on-screen at once, and can also dip when you’re in town or playing multiplayer. Its major issue is its camera, which is too close to the action at its default setting, making it tough to see as much of the battlefield as necessary. Most of the time, it does a pretty good job of following your action when you’re in an open outdoor space, but gets itself lost easily when you’re in the confines of a small and claustrophobic cavern. Going into a corner, the game will occasionally decide to zoom in or switch its viewpoint on you, which can get frustrating. The right joystick gives you free control of your view though, so that helps out quite a bit when you need to reset it quickly.
The voice acting professionals hired for this project must have put in a lot of man hours because every single line of dialogue has full voice work. There’s a large cast, who took care of every single character in the game, including townsfolk and merchants. They generally did a pretty good job (especially the narrator), though there’s one secondary character who is pretty funny to listen to. Obsidian’s audio department also did a good job of producing an appropriate organic score, plus creating a ton of nice sounding effects that make the world seem more lively. It just would have been nice if there were more people to fully interact with and/or more buildings to go into.
If you’re itching for a good fantasy dungeon crawler then Dungeon Siege III should be on your list. It’s not a spectacular game that will wow you from start to finish with its new and exciting mechanics and features, but it’s tried, true and quite polished. Not to mention an entertaining and engaging experience that will keep you busy for a while – even longer if you decide to try all four characters and/or go online. The game has its odd issues such as a frustrating camera and a frame rate that likes to go for the occasional dip, but there aren’t any major issues that should keep you away. This siege expedition has been safely planned and reviewed, to reflect that it’s safe for your time and investment.