RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Apr 22nd 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under review, review, rpg, obsidian, square enix

During the discussion of Diablo on our podcast, I remarked that the game, while mostly enjoyable, made we want to play more modern games inspired by the classic dungeon dive. One example of such a game, which I mentioned by name, is Dungeon Siege III, a title I purchased quite a long time ago, but had never even cracked the shrink wrap on. Having put the game back on my radar, I decided to finally give it try. Did the game satisfy the modern dungeon crawler urge that Diablo had lit within me? Let's take a look.

Dungeon Seige III was developed by Obsidian. Over the years, they have become one of my favorite developers. They typically create games that are sequels to games from bigger studios, for example and perhaps most notably Fallout: New Vegas, the sequel to Bethesda's Fallout 3 and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II the follow-up to Bioware's beloved Star Wars RPG. I have yet to play Knights of the Old Republic II, but to me New Vegas is as good as or better than Fallout 3 and I also particularly enjoyed a gamed called Alpha Protocol, which is a spy RPG with gameplay very similar to that of the first Mass Effect game. 

I must admit, I have no background in the Dungeon Siege franchise as the first two entries are PC exclusives, but there is a PSP game in the franchise that I am certainly interested in now. Dungeon Siege III was released in 2011 for the Playstation 3, XBox 360, and PC and was published by Square Enix.

At the start of the game, the player chooses from one of four main characters, and these are basically the main classes for the game. Your choice is between a tank-type, a ranged-type, and two magic casters, one who is more projectile based and the other who is more area of effect based. All four characters are important to the main plot of the game and the three characters who you do not choose will join you as party members throughout the game. The character chosen will have his or her background and relevance to the story explored deeper than the other characters, adding some replay value to the game.

The gameplay is top-down, isometric, real-time action. While it is not the most strategic action I've ever experienced, I found that hacking away wantonly was a sure way to get a quick game over. I played as Anjali, who I described above as the ranged spell caster. However, this description isn't completely true though. One of the things I really liked about this game is that each character has two forms. In the case of Anjali, in her human form, she performs melee combat with spears and spinning kicks, but in her powered up form, she can shoot fireballs and cast area of effect and buff and debuff spells. Although I liked the ability to change between the two forms of the same character, I did tend to lean on the more powerful magic-based version for most of the game.

Your party in this game is only made up of two people, you and one A.I. partner. The friendly A.I. in this game is very decent. The computer controlled characters use all of the skills at their disposal and are quick to make with buffs and healing. When knocked out, your companion can revive you, and vice versa. I rarely got a game over as my companions were always quick to revive me. They also run around and collect gold (but not equipment) which is a nice touch. Party members can be switched out at almost any time. Each one has his or her own equipment that can be used, with little crossover (usually only with accessories), and this brings me to the loot aspect of the game.

I enjoyed the looting aspect of this game for a variety of reasons. First of all, there is quite a lot of it. Enemies are always dropping gold and equipment when killed. There are ample treasure chests everywhere. Although I eventually hit the item capacity, I was able to hold way more than I ever needed throughout the game. What I particularly like about the equipment is that there are very varied stats for each item. The choice to change a piece of armor or an accessory is almost never an easy one, as there is rarely a clear cut upgrade to the item you already have equipped. One thing that is interesting to note in this game is that there are no usable healing or buffing items. All healing must done through magic skills or abilities. Many area of effect spells have healing aspects and there are also passive skills, which I will discuss next.

Gameplay sample courtesy of BEEZYM

The leveling system in Dungeon Siege III is very robust and satisfying. There are nine active skills to unlock for each character, all of which will be unlocked during the course of the game, and each of which can be augmented with buffs or debuffs when leveling. For example, an active skill that increases the critical hit rate of a character can have points added to it for either slowing the enemy down or healing the character when a critical hit is achieved. Lastly, there are passive skills that can be beefed up at every new level. These are generally going to make spells more effective, gold pick-ups more valuable, or add more damage to attacks or spells. All nine of your skills can be accessed at any time with a very well done (for a controller) hotkey system.

The story of the game is not terrible, and includes one of my favorite mechanics in gaming; dialogue choices. They are well written, as they usually are in Obsidian games, and generally well voice acted. Again, I'm not familiar with any of the other games in the series, but I didn't feel like I was missing too much to understand this game. In a nutshell, your character is tasked with defeating Jeyne Kassynder, a blood thirsty warrior on a path of vengeance against the Legion, which you are a part of. I won't go much deeper into the story because the player should experience it for himself/herself, and I can attest that this is way more than a simple revenge tale.

The story will take you through many different environments, all of which are represented colorfully and beautifully. Though the game starts in the stereotypical forest with a small town next to it, you'll be taken to swamps, caves, and icy mountains. One of my favorite places was a steam-punk inspired town with (mostly) friendly automatons patrolling the streets. Graphically, most of the game holds up quite well, even on a console. There were few technical hiccups during my time with the game, with the exception of the camera wigging out a few times too many if I got too close to an object. 

I didn't think the map was very useful. I might have missed it, but I don't think there is anything other than the mini-map. For the first few hours of the game, this was a little disorienting and I commonly had issues figuring out where to go. Luckily, I realized that pressing up on the d-pad produces a bread crumb trail to your next objective. It looks a lot like Pac-Man pellets, which I found to be an odd aesthetic choice, but it certainly got the job done.  I'll also mention here that there is a multiplayer mode available but I did not have the opportunity to check it out.

Dungeon Siege III certainly fits the mold of what some would now call a "Diablo-clone." But in the video game world, calling one game a clone of another tends to be reductive to the point of being detrimental to our culture. In a vacuum, Dungeon Siege III could be a universally acclaimed title. As it is though, I can see how some people would complain that the game is not innovative enough as far as the Diablo formula goes. I hope I have made a sufficient case here that you should give the game a chance. I believe you will like it. It won't cost you much or take you long to complete, since the game clocks in at about fifteen hours. It is a nice addition to the collection of anyone who appreciates a solid, story-driven western RPG.

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If you like this game, you will like the PSP game, Ghost.  They're even about the same length.  They are both less faithful to the original two games (being more linear with the world and character selection), but because of this are more Diablo-like in general feel, which is cool.  Puts me in mind of the Champions of Norrath games or the Dark Alliance games on PS2.  Remember those?  Speaking of that, I'd love to see you tackle those games.

If you do plan on getting the PSP game, do yourself a favor, and after you buy it, get CFW and rip the game yourself.  Saves a ton on battery as well as game performance.  Plus, you can install a plugin to take screenshots (doing it for my May article).
This was recently $2.99 or something in the Xbox Spring Sale - backwards compatible with the Xbox One so I quickly grabbed it. Even more excited after reading your review.
I finished this game several years ago but I remember it being a lot of fun and having a couple callbacks to the earlier games. I would rate as one of the better Diablo clones out there.
@bombatomba: Great info, and I did not know I could put a screen cap app on my cfw. I will definitely look into that. I have the Norrath games on PS2 but haven't tried them yet.

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