Game: Dungeon Siege III
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
The name of Dungeon Siege is one that’s only been around for ten years or so. It’s relatively new in the world of fantasy games, and although we’re used to names such as Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons and the like, that doesn’t mean that the Dungeon Siege name doesn’t have some weight behind it.
With new developers, new publishers and a storyline set a whole 150 years after the events in that very first 2002 game, Dungeon Siege is being taken to a whole new level with Dungeon Siege III, and considering that those “new developers” are the guys behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, you already know you’re in for something worth experiencing. You may or may not recognise certain features but whatever happens, you’ll need to remember that you’re a part of the 10th legion and you’re here for one very important reason: The Kingdom of Ehb needs you.
STORY: The story in Dungeon Siege III takes place 150 years after the last Dungeon Siege game, and follows the story from the perspective of one of four possible characters which the player chooses from at the start of the game. Most of the story will play out in the same way whoever you choose, so your decision is a matter of personal opinion more than anything else.
Whichever character you choose, you’ll soon learn that Jeyne Kassynder, the daughter of a king believed to have been murdered by members of the 10th legion, has lain waste to the aforementioned legion and all of its followers in revenge for the death of her father. It emerges, however, that she didn’t manage to kill them all, so it’s your job to recruit men and women to the cause, in order to bring about the 10th legion’s rebirth.
There are lots of side quests in Dungeon Siege III, some that stray far away from the main path of game and some that stick quite close to it, only serving to get you a little bit of extra cash and some insight into the game’s elaborate world. Either way, there’s enough story elements to get even the most astute lore-hound foaming at the mouth for just the tiniest bit of extra information. On the whole, the story is chock full of treachery and deceit, just like any good fantasy story of the last 100 or so years.
GRAPHICS: Dungeon Siege III has pretty decent graphics all round, and although there are a few areas where the textures could have done with a little bit more of a polish, these are few and far between and occur mostly in dungeons and areas with low light levels. Despite the fact that the game has “Dungeon” in the title, you’ll probably find yourself outside and in brightly lit manor houses more than you will in dark, dank spaces, so most players won’t notice the very slight discrepancies anyway. Even if you do notice, you’ll probably forgive them when they see how good the rest of the game looks, especially when the camera zooms close into the characters during dialogue sequences.
The main problems with the visuals lie with the camera angle. Most dungeon crawler games use an isometric camera angle and Dungeon Siege III is no exception to that rule. The problem is that some of the items that drop from the enemies are so small, and the camera angle so high up, that you can end up missing something, possibly even something very important. Interactive items aren’t highlighted, so until you’re practically stood on top of them, there’s no way of knowing whether you can do anything with it. This is terribly frustrating when it comes to items and gold that’s dropped by the enemies, but it’s even worse when you’re missing an item to continue a quest because it’s on a tiny bookshelf that you can’t even see unless the camera angle is set to something very specific.
SOUND: As with any fantasy RPG the soundtrack is suitably epic, and you can’t go into a new area and not notice the swelling of the music in relation to the area that you’ve just entered. In games as in films, the music in a video should sets the mood, and Obsidian Entertainment clearly understand this. The sound effects are generally good too: all the weapons sound as you would expect them to as they’re slicing through waves of enemies, and most of the creepy enemies (such as spiders) sound very creepy indeed. Play these areas of the game in a darkened room and with decent quality speakers and you will probably feel your skin crawl.
The main problem with the sound effects is that, for most of the enemies in the game, they can get a little repetitive, especially if you’re in an area that has a lot of the same type of enemy. They will all generally make the same noise as they die, and with the sheer volume of enemies that may be coming towards you at any one time, this can get irritating. That said, this won’t annoy you as much as the little one-liners that your AI ally will come out with. Companions have only a couple of small lines which they say when enemies die, and though they don’t say them all the time, it’s enough to get quite annoying after an hour or so of intensive gaming. In general however, the dialogue for all of the characters, when you’re talking directly to them in a dialogue scene, is generally well-acted and despite the conversation trees getting quite deep sometimes, they never feel boring.
GAMEPLAY: When you first put the disc into your console, you will see that Dungeon Siege III is a very basic dungeon crawler, in every aspect from the feel of the environments, to the camera angle and even some of the dialogue that you’ll go through at the beginning of the game. The biggest thing that makes it a “basic dungeon crawler”, however, is the way that you’ll find yourself playing the game. Essentially, you go to a place, kill everything that moves, collect quest item and return to the start. Then rinse and repeat.
After a little while, the RPG elements start to kick in, with familiar yellow exclamation marks over villagers’ heads. You can grab a quick quest and go off and do something different for an hour or so. The places where you end up on these side quests could be along the same route as the main game quest, or they could go totally in the opposite direction. It’s the addition of these choices that set Dungeon Siege III apart from other games within the same genre, and it’s what makes it feel a deep and fleshed out, and will almost certainly keep people coming back for more time and time again.
Another way that Dungeon Siege III screams from the rooftops that it’s also an RPG is the fact that there are lots and lots of weapons and armour to pick up and lots of different ways to customise your gear. Not only do you have to customise and sort through your own gear but also that of the members of your team. While this part of the game does help it feel a lot more like an RPG than it would otherwise, it does sometimes feel a little bit tedious when you’ve only got 30 minutes to play a game, and all you really want to do is cut and slice some enemies but you’ve got to spend 20 minutes sorting out your gear. The addition of a button that would automatically optimise your gear would have been nice, just for those times when you don’t have time to sort it out for yourself.
The camera angle being locked to the isometric view might have made the entire game really difficult to play because you sometimes can’t see far enough in front of you to tell if you’re going in the right direction, unless you know the roads of Ehb like the back of your hand of course. The addition of the “bread-crumb trail”, similar to that in the Fable games, makes what could have been a very tedious questing experience very enjoyable. All you have to do is simply press “up” on the D-Pad and a glowing trail will appear in front of your character. Simply follow this trail and you’ll be take directly to your quest objective. This immediately alleviates what could have been the major problem with Dungeon Siege III and turns the whole questing experience into something that’s really quite enjoyable.
LONGEVITY: Dungeon Siege III is a typical dungeon crawler, and it has a similar longevity to just about ever other game in the genre. If you’re the type of person who enjoy hacking and slashing through wave after wave of enemies combined with deep conversation trees and a wonderfully fleshed-out universe to play in, then you could do a lot worse than Dungeon Siege III. The co-operative mode of the game also adds to the game’s lifespan by ensuring that as long as you’ve got friends to play with there’ll always be something to do.
The online co-op is a nice extra addition and ensures that, if you’re the type of person who can’t play a dungeon crawler alone, there’ll always be someone available to play with, day or night.
VERDICT: Dungeon Siege III is one of the better examples of a dungeon crawler style game. The addition of RPG elements will keep even the most hardcore RPG player interested along with players who only really enjoy hack and slash games. The bright colours and vivid imagery make it a game that as nice to look at as it is to play. Some lesser quality textures and models along the way hinder it overall, along with a camera that fits the genre but isn’t as free as most players would like, making it a little too difficult to see drops and the like.
There is plenty of game here, however, and it’s well worth the money, the side quests alone will keep you entertained for hours at a time. It can sometimes get a little tedious, but there’ll always be reasons to keep coming back for more and more.