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PlayStation 3 Review: Dungeon Siege III

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Forget Dungeon Siege I and Dungeon Siege II, we’re not talking about them here.  There is no need.  It is not that Square Enix and Obsidian have completely jettisoned the backstory involved in the first two games, but they have made this one exceptionally easy for anyone who hasn’t played the first two to pick up.  The plot here does make several references to the older games, things that will enhance the story for those who have played the original two, but nothing that will make those who haven’t feel as though they’re missing out. 

Dungeon Siege III takes place in the same world as the first two games, but 150 years down the line, when the characters from those games have been in enshrined in legend.  You’ll notice statues and other references to them in Dungeon Siege III, and you’ll revisit some of the places you went to in the first titles, but that is all more of a value-added proposition than an essential element.

Stating it in the simplest terms possible, Dungeon Siege III is a traditional dungeon crawler title – you walk around a world getting assigned quests and then you go and complete them in crypts, mansions, caves, woods, swamps, etc.   You do battle with spiders (lots of them), people, the undead, and all manner of other icky things.   Complete the quests and you earn experience, armor, and unlock more things to do.

The entire style of game is a throwback, one which recalls earlier times (and not necessarily earlier times in this series).  You are allowed to select one of four characters to play as, and they are not truly customizable.  Yes, you can choose the armor, weapons, and select which abilities you want to unlock, but there is no real customization involved, making the title a far cry from Oblivion-style open world adventure. 

Additionally, the linearity of the story involved makes this a distinctly non-open world title.  That is not to say that you don’t get some choices about how to proceed, you unquestionably do get to control bits and pieces here and there.  However, all too often in a dialogue tree you find that while you can ask a whole lot of questions to whomever you’re speaking, the tree forces you to end at a single spot.  They do not all do that, but way too many do.  Beyond that, there are many quests which the game requires you to complete before they will open new areas, and you will find yourself all too often running up against a door that you can’t unlock or a bridge that won’t be put in place until you do x, y, or z.

There is, therefore, a certain ease to following the story, you just go from one point to the next doing the assigned task.  You can venture off on sidequests, but it is pretty easy to discern what is a sidequest and what is the main task.  While there are not that many branching roads and paths you can travel on (literally travel), should you lose your way, simply press a button and Dungeon Siege III will bring up a series of “breadcumbs” lighting the right way for you go.

For all the ease and linearity, there are also moments when you can find yourself getting ahead of your abilities.  There are a couple of tasks here and there upon which you can choose to embark only to find that you simply don’t have the items required (and can’t get them without doing more main quests) to complete.  While that is okay, it does seem odd that the cutscenes which take place during some of these quests don’t acknowledge that you don’t have the needed items and make it appear as though you are allowed to move forward. 

As for the characters themselves, they do have different fighting styles, but since there’s no switching once you’ve started (the characters you don’t choose eventually enter your party as computer controlled NPCs) it can be a little tough to figure out who will best suit your style.  All four of these characters—Lucas Montbarron, Anjali, Katarina (she’s an illegitimate Montbarron), and Reinhart Manx (he’s related to Merrick from Dungeon Sieges’ past)—have two different fighting stances, allowing for a wider range of attack choices, but there are still not all that many options.  Each style of fighting comes with a standard attack and three extra abilities can be unlocked for each style.  There are then also “proficiencies” and “talents” which further enhance your abilities and character, and which can be selected/improved upon as you level up.  In local multiplayer two folks can play simultaneously and online, four.  But, secondary (and beyond) players joining in are playing as the primary player’s in-game extra characters, the extra human players will not be building up their own character’s XP and loot. 

There are also a whole lot of different weapons, armor, rings, necklaces, and all other forms of accoutrement which will allow you to promote your chosen style of fighting (we’re a big fan of the vampire stuff).  There is absolutely no shortage of loot to be obtained when battling off enemies.  And, should your inventory become full, you can simply “transmute” anything you have into gold.  The game even makes it easy for you to know whether you’ve gotten a good item or not, by color-coding them according to how rare they are.

It may sound like there’s a lot you can do with your characters, but it simply doesn’t feel that way when you’re playing.  You do level up on a regular basis, but having all the choices of what you can do with your added XP before you, rather than forcing you to think creatively and decide what’s best for your style, make it feel as though the game is far too stingy in how much it allows you to add to your character with each level obtained.

Keeping things on a perfectly average level are the camera and graphics of the game.  At times, the graphics are ultra smooth and gorgeous, but then there are moments where they simply don’t look as fully realized.  When viewed in close-ups, the characters appear outstanding and exceptionally well-detailed.  Unfortunately, you mostly only get that close-up view when you turn a corner (or back into one) and the camera swoops in for no particular reason.  You can control the zoom and angle (the game will alter them to its perceived idea of the best view), but from no angle do you ever really feel as though you’re getting both the best look at the details offered and view of the world around you.  There are far too many instances in Dungeon Siege III of characters attacking you from just outside your line of sight, and with no camera angle providing you an appropriate view of the attacker.  In fact, we’d venture to say that the vast majority of boss battles are made difficult due to the camera angles involved and not the bosses (and, unlike a Metal Gear Solid title, the game’s messing with you, the human player, during the battles doesn’t seem intentional).

Dungeon Siege III is, in virtually every way, a perfectly average dungeon crawler.  It has moments which will delight you and others which will frustrate you to no end.  Some of the quests are truly enjoyable, and others simply exist to get you stuff.  We wouldn’t say that it isn’t worth your time, but you won’t necessarily feel as though you’ve spent your time all that well.  But, then again, it won’t take all that much time to beat the game either – whether your not that’s a good thing, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Dungeon Siege III is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://www.seriousgamer.ca Michael Prince

    Nice writeup and I couldn’t agree more. There is a lot of wasted potential here and further cements Obsidian’s reputation as an average developer.

  • http://www.thiscouldbegood.co.uk Ian Jolley

    This is not usually my cup of tea (so to speak) but I might just give it a go. Nice review – thanks.