Dungeon Siege III: Dungeon Siegin' - Review

By Brian Taylor in Reviews
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm
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www.dungeonsiege.com
Dungeon Siege III features exploding mushrooms.
Action games have a rhythm. That's what I play for, more than the loot hunting, more than the world building: that tap-tap-tap of the buttons, the constant moving forward through an acceptably linear environment. Checking off really specific quests in the most efficient way possible. The way attacks feel (a kind of synesthesia, maybe, based on how they look and, more importantly, sound).

In Dungeon Siege III, the sounds are chunky and the rhythm measured. Swapping between two stances, each with their own basic attack to charge up your focus which you can use for your (eventually unlocked) three special abilities per stance and three defensive abilities is relaxing. Its simple monotony lets you zone out. Which, yes, can be boring.

Pressing up on the d-pad creates a trail of Pac-man power pellets to guide you toward your next destination. If you are laser-focused like I am, you find yourself regularly taking your left thumb off the stick to activate it, stopping your character and looking for your next goal. You smash everything along the way, of course. Tap-tap-tap.

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I'm not really sure what's going on here. Fighting the people of Innsmouth, perhaps?

All characters level up whether or not you're using them, and enemies drop loot for everyone, though drops are more frequent for the active characters. You'll pick up a lot of stuff (clothing article of the vaguely descriptive adjective), and see plenty of numbers, but it doesn't require careful inventory management.

A little bit of strategy helps in the combat, though that strategy might just be leveling up Reinhart the mage's area damage spell and then spamming them. On normal, my AI partner died once or twice in the entire game. In co-op, my Joystick Division colleague Garrett Martin died that often every five minutes or so.

I died quite a bit as well, though I was never down for more than fifteen or twenty seconds before the AI resurrected me. I'm not sure if its survival was because of its skill, its equipment, or the enemies ignoring AI controlled characters in favor of human-controlled ones.

Co-op is absolutely perfect for when a random couchmate wants to jump in --  they don't have to spend any time creating a character, they can just press start and go. Leave whenever, the AI will take over. Single player and couch co-op are limited to two at a time. Online play allows up to four.

You don't start a multiplayer game separate from your single player campaign; instead, you can open that game to others (invited or random) and they'll control the party members you've leveled up. They don't bring their own character over, and they don't take anything back with them.

But while they're in your game, they can level up the character and wreck your carefully planned build. Also, whichever character they choose to start with will remain with you throughout the entire campaign, regardless of when you would normally find them (I picked up my fourth about eight or so hours into my 11-12 hours playthrough). And when it comes time to make a dialogue choice, they can suggest which one they think you should pick.

Quests are necessarily linear affairs, though some of them allow you to change their course partway through based on dialogue choices. One quest had me effectively act as a Pinkerton during the Homestead Steel Strike, killing the striking worker-cyclopes. But once I'd fought enough of them, one explained their reason for striking and I ended the quest by negotiating for them to get one day off a week and vision insurance (well, monocles for the elderly).

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www.dungeonsiege.com
You are essentially THE MAN to these foundry-working cyclopes.

Little touches like that, and like a mage who is actually an effective melee fighter, and a nemesis who is part Joan of Arc and part Djinn, help the setting inch away from High Fantasy Tolkien Remix (so many spiders). And there's history here, too -- one sidequest has you venturing into the tomb of characters from Dungeon Siege, some of whom are the ancestors of characters in your party -- Lucas and Katarina are the descendents of Lady Montbarron, the (canonically female!) player character of the first game. Sure, references to previous games are expected in a sequel, but it's nifty that the events of the first game, 150 years past, have become something of legend.

The humor is more a sensibility than a series of incongruous pop-culture references (see Dragon Age 2 for all your fantasy-medieval-Europeans-spouting-Internet-meme needs). Names are your typical fantasy literal compound words -- the city of Stonebridge, where humans live with Yodas and droids - er, goblins and automatons -- has plenty of stone AND a large bridge.

Finishing the game rewards you with another narrated cutscene, partially animated drawings on parchment, telling you the consequences of your action. Like all the other cutscenes, Odo, the man who summoned you to fight at the beginning of the game, addresses you directly. He reminds you of your in-game decisions before telling you their outcome. So taking that sidequest or choosing a particular conversation option may not have had much of an effect on the gameplay, but it does have an effect on the epilogue.

Dungeon Siege III has some good ideas and some rough edges. It pushes back against some tropes while reaffirming others. It keeps you constantly moving down its paths, and occasionally some piece of the scenery explodes in a way you didn't expect.

The Official Verdict:  2.75 out of 5
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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