Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dungeon Siege 3

Dungeon Siege 3 is a fantastic game; however a few flaws keep it from being rated the best. To begin, the most egregious oversight is the fact that the mouse and keyboard controls are so seemingly broken. If you are planning to purchase this for a PC make absolutely certain you have a controller. Moreover, even if you have a controller, make sure it will read as a Xbox 360 controller. I personally use an Xbox 360 controller emulator for my cordless rumble pad; I will link to a download for this emulator at the end of this review. I’m doing this because I’m going to be mostly praising Dungeon Siege 3, but if you play it with a mouse and keyboard, you will think I have my head up my ass. The mouse and keyboard interface is that bad.

I must admit, I’ve never been really impressed with the work done by Obsidian. I have barely played Fallout: New Vegas because every time I do, it crashes. Never winter Nights 2 suffered from the same problem. In general their work often seems like a slapdash effort using stuff that other better developers have come up with. As a result they’ve carved out a reputation as the “shitty sequel developer.” With Dungeon Siege 3, I was forced to eat some humble pie, because not only are they using their own engine and making a great game, but in 14 hours of playing Dungeon Siege 3 didn’t crash once. This shows that not only do they have the chops for original content; they can run with the best of em.

The story is fairly straightforward. You are one of the last surviving members of a group known as the 10th Legion. The 10th Legion, once servants of the King and Kingdom of Ehb, were “framed” for the murder of the King and slaughtered by Jayne Kassinder. The story begins with an attack on a mansion which held some of the last few Legionnaires. The character you pick is one of the few to survive and escape. From there you go on a journey to rebuild the Legion and defeat Jayne. For those who have read fantasy or play these games, the Narrative will hold very few surprises. As is typical for these games, you are given choices that will rate as either good or evil. In some cases, the choices are shamelessly obvious “good” and “evil” choices. Whereas in other cases, what is good and what is bad is ambiguous. All of these choices affect how the game plays out and eventually ends. All in all, it’s a well spun tale, even if it is a bit predictable.

Dungeon Siege 3 is a looker, for the most part. The environments are generally beautiful. Occasionally, they are a bit dark, and hard to navigate. For the most part, the environments and the majority of the gameplay are very good looking. That is, until the camera zooms in on the characters during dialogue sequences. Not only do they seem to be made of plastic up-close, but they have no life or expression. It doesn’t matter what is going on, the characters generally have the same expression regardless of whether or not they are happy, sad, or excited. It’s disconcerting. It's also disconcerting that the camera never changes position during conversation. It's typical film practice to frame whomever is talking, but in Dungeon Siege 3, you only ever see the back of your character. (I did encounter a bug that had my character facing the camera during one of these conversations, and it was especially creepy since his mouth didn't move.) This is especially annoying since the best looking characters in the game are the main character. Most notably Anjali and Reinhardt are especially well designed. Many of the characters you will encounter are simply uninteresting visually.

The character's general lack of "life" is only noticeable in a few cases, because for the most part, the dialogue is delivered in a very stiff manner. The Radiant Youth is by far the most wooden of all the characters but they are all fairly monotonous. That isn’t to say that the voicing acting is completely terrible. The acting isn’t as bad as say Resident Evil, but it just isn’t as good as something like Legacy of Kain.

Ultimately, what matters is the gameplay, and I have a feeling that’s either a love it or hate it affair. The game runs like an average Dungeon crawler, except for how you control your character. Your character has three stances, each with a different purpose. I played as Reinhardt. He has a range stance, a melee stance, and a guard stance. The guard stance is common to all of the characters, so the other two stances will vary depending on who you play. Each stance gives you access to three separate skills. Attack stance skills use focus. Normal attacks in either attack stance will generate focus. Guarding stance skills use orbs. If you are hit while you are guarding you will lose focus. Focus is essentially mana crossed with rage. Using attacking skills builds up a secondary resource known as orbs. These orbs can be used to empower skills or use guard skills. All of these skills are seemingly meant to be used in tandem. You’ll find yourself stance dancing to be effective. As Reinhardt, his range stance is useless against enemies that get close to him, but his early range stance spell is a point blank area of effect and his early melee stance spell is a lightning bolt. So the way early fights went was “ranged attack, ranged attack, pbae, switch stance to melee stance, punch, punch, punch, dodge away, lightning bolt, range to build up focus, repeat.”And if I ever got low on health, I’d use the guard skill which was a heal over time. The absence of healing potions forced me, as a player, to play more strategically. It was a very engaging system and I can’t heap enough praise on it. Unfortunately, it is slightly clunky, insofar as there is a definite 3 hit rhythm to normal attacks and the system prioritizes finishing an animation as opposed to your input. This clunkyness is what will lead to 90% of your deaths. Thankfully, your ai companion is pretty diligent about rezzing you

As mentioned earlier, you are forced to pick one of four characters. You aren’t allowed to customize race, sex, or anything like that. If you want to play a warrior, you’re stuck with Lucas. This may seem to really kill the RPG aspect of Dungeon Siege. However, you are given a lot of options about how to build that character. Playing Reinhardt, I focused on entropic magic and status effects, but you could focus on his lightning magic and make him a direct damage powerhouse very easily. I’d be willing to bet that there is a way to make him a decent melee character. It really depends on how you milk the system. To me, that screams RPG. Moreover, the gear you get will determine how you play your character. If you stock up on will then you are building a character that relies on their skills rather than their normal attacks.

Finally, and arguably, most importantly, Co-Op. What seems odd is that local Co-Op only allows for two players. I’m told that online matchups allow for four player co-op, but I haven’t had a chance to experience that yet if it’s true. What I can tell you about local co-op is that the second player can pick one of the other three characters regardless of whether or not you’ve encountered them in the story. That character is stuck with whatever points you’ve assigned them. As your friend plays through he/she won’t be able to keep any of the loot they earn. Once again, I am told that the online co-op features separate characters that you build online, but I can’t attest to that. The co-op is designed to be non-committal. A friend can jump in, and jump out without having invested anything. This may turn off some who want to earn something more permanent in their online play.

Two final thoughts. This entire review is coming from someone that HATED the original Dungeon Siege games. Games which I found largely monotonous. If you loved that experience there is a very good chance you'll dislike Dungeon Siege 3. Also, if you are looking for a game to satiate your dungeon crawler fix until Diablo 3 then you are quite honestly better off spending less on Torchlight or the upcoming Torchlight 2. However, if you're looking for an experience that is distinctly different from Diablo, a good story, and some decent multiplayer, then Dungeon Siege 3 is for you.


Graphics: Pretty until you zoom in on the lifeless character models

Story: Predictable, but well told

Sound: Voice acting is hit and miss

Design: Very engaging when using a controller, nothing but frustration when using a mouse and keyboard.

Multiplayer: Ephemeral, player 2 gets nothing out of the experience in terms of loot or character advancement. That being said, it’s still fun to play with someone.

All in all: Excellent game, marred by a few minor issues. I personally really enjoyed it, but I’d recommend at least trying out the demo. Or you could watch the recorded livestream I did.

Here is the first 2 and a half hours. The connection was kind of garbage, so it skips ahead every few seconds, but it should give you an idea of what to expect

Watch live streaming video from morganagod at

Here is the 360 Controller Emulator, it makes it so that the game will read your controller as an xbox360 controller. It works with most controllers but may require configuration. Don't ask me about that stuff though. I don't know all the much about it.

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