Review: Dungeon Siege III

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With the backing of Square Enix and the solid development skills of Obsidian Entertainment, Dungeon Siege III has arrived. Is Dungeon Siege III the dungeon crawler you’ve been waiting for? Or is this title better left on store shelves? Hit the break for our verdict.

Dungeon Siege III is an average title, boxed up in the illusion that it’s some epic adventure; when it’s really a mixed package overall. I enjoyed Dungeon Siege III; however there are some things that really bother me about this dungeon crawler. Usually in titles similar to Dungeon Siege III a huge emphasis is put on the loot, however this isn’t the case in Dungeon Siege III. The menu to sort through loot is a mess, mostly because developer Obsidian did a very poor job labeling different items. Usually the colored coated system (based on rarity) for labeling items works, but not in this case. For instance, the portraits for the items look the same most of the time, even if the item itself looks different. This leads to a lot of frustration because you have to guess and micro-manage each item and it this often takes you out of the action.

My other large criticism in regards to the loot system is the minimal amount of different appearance options. Stats are nice, but customizing your character in appealing ways has become the staple of western role-playing titles. Dungeon Siege III miserably fails in this regard, because it doesn’t offer adequate choice. For a title that relies heavily on loot gathering it seems like a huge oversight to not include tons of different options and unique sets.

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It doesn’t help that Dungeon Siege III starts off extremely slow. In fact, the first few hours are nothing more than a repetitive grind. New abilities, which are the life-blood to the combat system, take way too long to unlock, and there’s only one basic combo for each stance. Offering a couple more initial unlocks and a few more variations would have prevented the combat from becoming tedious. Hours into the game things do improve. The skills do open up a bit more, and there are some nice sub-skills, however I wasn’t impressed by any of the skills or spells. One of the high-level spells amounted to nothing more than a cone of cold spell.

Each of the 9 skills has an empowered version and two sub-sets which include different stat boosts. The empowered version is where I hoped the skills would pack a little bit more punch, but they also disappoint. The combat system is still fun, only after you get passed the initial dead-zone, where your character isn’t picking up any meaningful new skills. Even though the skills you use can range from effective to cliché the boss encounters are frantic and challenging.

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One area that Dungeon Siege III did impress me is with the environments. There’s a ton of variation, and despite some back-tracking you never feel bored with the area you’re exploring. At its heart, Dungeon Siege III is linear, but it does a good job of giving players tons of forks in the road to explore. In fact, I would argue it’s one of Dungeon Siege III’s greatest strengths; which is something a lot of dungeon crawlers fail at providing.

Though the graphics and presentation is severely lacking in some areas, Dungeon Siege III has a lot of charm. The art style goes a long way into trying to sway some of the initial criticisms I had on the graphics. Quality can vary, especially when it comes to things like the character models. Some of them look great (aside from the bad lip-syncing) while others look like Gumby had a really bad day. The environments in general look good, though some of NPC’s are reused and the animations look wooden. The lighting can also be temperamental when you enter a cave or building.

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The story is also of mixed quality. For a dungeon crawler, it succeeds in having a some-what compelling narrative, however anyone looking for anything more will be sorely disappointed. The soundtrack really helps set the tone and really doesn’t stutter in any spots, though it can be overused. The voice-acting on the other hand ranges from solid to horrifically bad; especially if you decide to use one of the main character called Anjali. I shutter to think what personal robot assistants will sound like in the years to come.

Dungeon Siege III supports online cooperative play, but it’s bogged down by some unpleasant issues. I can’t stand how the camera needs to focus on the entire team, rather than the individual. This type of approach to cooperative play seems like the quickest and laziest shortcut you can take. While I do enjoy the jump-in and jump-out co-op there’s unfortunately no sense of progression. Despite these issues, the co-op actual runs smoothly, something Obsidian hasn’t exactly excelled at.

Dungeon Siege III is great at some points; however as a package it’s completely mediocre. RPG fans will find some things to like, but casual fans will hardly have the patience to explore everything this title has to offer.

Score: 6.5

Square Enix provided us with a copy for reviewing purposes.