The 10th Legion returns in Obsidian Entertainment's Dungeon Siege III, although this once PC-centric action RPG series suffers a severe case of console-itis on its native platform. The effort to craft a Dungeon Siege title for two consoles and the PC results in a game that no longer feels like a deep, satisfying dungeon crawl--rather, players are subjected to a watered-down RPG (or a slightly crunchy action crawler). Burdened with an unforgivably clunky control scheme, which feels like a pasted-on afterthought, the PC version of Dungeon Siege III simply fails to live up to its predecessors.
The story opens with the near destruction of the 10th Legion at the hands of the mysterious warlord, Jayne Kassynder. Players take on the role of one of four pre-generated characters, all of whom have some ties to the almost-defunct Legion. Although Dungeon Siege III doesn't allow players the deep customization found in the earlier titles, the four characters do represent a decent diversity in play style. Two characters, Lucas and Katarina, fill the typical "heavy hitter/sword guy" and "ranged rogue-type," respectively. The remaining two, Anjali and Reinhart, both toe the line between fighter and mage, and both have a distinct play style that is actually quite a bit of fun. Sadly, there is very little room for character customization once the action begins. Each character boasts a meager total of nine powers or abilities, all of which will be unlocked well before the end of the game. Players can tweak these abilities slightly with level advancements, but these slight variations were just not terribly satisfying.
As for gameplay, each character boasts two fighting forms. Ostensibly, one form is focused on single targets, while the other is better suited toward attacking multiple foes. Each form has three offensive powers, and both forms have access to the remaining three defensive abilities. Offensive abilities, such as powerful attacks and bolts of fire, are powered by focus, Dungeon Siege III's version of mana. Focus is gained through landing basic attacks and from gathering blue orbs from fallen opponents. Unlike many action RPGs, there are no potions for restoring lost health or focus--green orbs and abilities are the only thing that will replenish lost hit points, and blue orbs and basic attacks are required for magic. A third resource, Power, is generated when using focus-powered abilities. Power is needed to activate the "defensive" abilities, and also to unleash upgraded blasts of basic focus-driven powers. All in all, it's a rather unique style of play, and had there been a greater depth of powers from which to choose, it would have been all the more satisfying.
Other than character customization and optimization, an important hallmark of a good action RPG is a solid and steady accumulation of loot. Finding progressively-better items with which to unleash all sorts of havoc is the carrot luring the player forward. Unfortunately, Dungeon Siege III stumbles a bit here, as well. While the goodies drop at a steady pace, I never felt much of a thrill when picking up the next trinket. Perhaps it is due to the lack of diversity in items--most characters have only a few types of items which can go in a given character slot. Finding the next "adjective" helmet or "adjective" blouse, regardless of rarity, just fails to thrill. In addition, the special abilities of the various magical items are a bit obscure, and the lack of tooltip explanation of what a particular ability does means players must drop out of the action, fire up the help menu in the pause screen, and do a little research. After a while, when the next item is simply a slight addition to a handful of attribute points plus a slightly-larger chance of special effect, there is just no impetus to find "just one more rare".
The biggest failing of Dungeon Siege III, at least on the PC, is the control scheme. There is no doubt this was a console-specific game, and the way it was shoe-horned into a keyboard-and-mouse layout almost makes one think that the PC version was simply an afterthought. Rather than a context-sensitive mouse control, the layout is simply "left-click attack, right-click move". Interacting with the environment requires a separate keystroke, and even the tried-and-true WASD controls are missing. While I eventually got used to the controls, it never felt comfortable. I also found myself often completely ignoring the "block/dodge" command, due to the "clunkiness" of pulling it off. Combined with a finicky camera system and no ability to customize the keyboard to my liking, I was very disappointed with this entire aspect of the game.
The single-player campaign, while rather brief, does present a passable (and incredibly linear) story. There are some side quests to keep folks busy for a short while, although many of them require a little backtracking through familiar ground. Players can soon team up with an AI-controlled companion (one of the remaining three main characters), and rampage across the world of Ehb. The AI actually does a decent job of holding up its part of the fight--on those few occasions where my main character was knocked unconscious, they were usually quite quick in pulling me back into the fray. Should players want to be a bit more social, they can invite friends to join them in their quest to restore the 10th Legion to its former glory. Unfortunately, those friends are merely backup singers and groupies to the main character, and unless the entire game is played with the same folks, the extras don't get to keep the characters and loot they've acquired.
Given the pedigree, I was really expecting more out of Dungeon Siege III. I was hoping for something deeper, with greater character customization and a more engaging and rewarding loot system. I was certainly hoping for a little more support for the PC platform itself--if a game isn't going to work well or be a priority on a system, I would rather it simply not be released in that format. Dungeon Siege III is not a terrible title, but perhaps it would be better enjoyed on a more appropriate console
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