Dungeon Siege 3 Review
If you've been waiting for a competent developer to finally come up with an answer to Blizzard's brilliant Diablo II (which is now over eleven years old), well, you might have to wait a bit longer. But for gamers who are looking for a dungeon romp more in the style of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance on consoles, then I think we've found your game. Obsidian Entertainment's Dungeon Siege III has a few problems, but it's got the basics - the action, the RPG elements - down right. It falls apart in the story department, which I didn't expect from a studio like Obsidian, but it's also pretty easy to just quickly mash your way through the voiced dialog and get on with the action.
You start off as one of four characters in Dungeon Siege III: the rather stereotypical sword-wielding dude Lucas, the firestarting half-demon Anjali, the steampunk-styled magician named Reinhart, and the gun-wielding Katarina. Each character has two main stances they can fight in, usually trading off speed for power or close-range combat for long-range, and each of these stances has a unique weapon slot, none of which are shared between characters. Almost all of the gear is also assigned to only one character, with the exception being rings and amulets, so you do get to fight with your buddies over at least something.
The combat generally goes the way of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, where you're taking on many enemies at a time, sticking and moving, blocking attacks, dodging out of the way of the horde while picking off the stragglers and then focusing on the bigger guys. The combination of strategy required and the inability to just chug health potions to stay alive make this a challenging game. The console versions look and run great, and the PC version looks even better, although there are a few little bugs on PC and the attempt to channel Diablo-style point and click controls with a mouse and keyboard really didn't work out very well. If you're thinking of getting DSIII on PC, it might be a better idea to dig out a gamepad; the style of action here is not hindered by the lack of mouse and keyboard controls anyway.
If you really loved the old Dungeon Siege games, I'll tell you right now: this looks, sounds, and feels nothing like them. It's not only made by a different developer, but it's on an entirely new game engine and the timeline has been set quite a ways into the future, meaning that you'll see relatively few references to the events of the first two games. That's not to say that Dungeon Siege III is a worse game than its predecessors - in many ways it's a superior game - but if you're primarily looking for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, then you might just be better off re-installing the old games.
Where Obsidian excelled was in adding proficiencies and talents to the game, creating a rewarding play between gear and the points you use when you level up to deal out tons of damage. The ability to throw out a mix of normal attacks, focus-bar-using special attacks, and then fill up a meter to unleash super-powered versions of your specials really adds a tactical element to the combat, because here you can't just continually throw out the one spell or ability that you've pumped a ton of points into. You have to fuel your focus bar with normal attacks, and only then can you unleash more special moves. The ability to block as a third "stance" (and unleash a few more unique abilities while blockign) and the need to dodge around are also extremely useful tools. You're going to need them once the bosses start to get tougher, too.
DSIII's story is probably the most obvious disappointment. Obsidian, storytellers that they are, tried to infuse the game with a plot, but there's just something about the style of the game, along with the view shifting, that immediately turns you off of getting invested in this game's story. On top of that, some of the voice acting is laughably bad to the point of making even the half-decent acting seem awful, too. Unless you find yourself enamored by it, you can safely skip the dialogue scenes and move on.
The other issue I have is that because Obsidian was so focused on having a story in DSIII, the multiplayer action is rather limited. You can join and create games all day, but you won't be hopping into and out of games with your character because here, the host's game is in control, and anyone who joins it is only contributing to that player's game. Now, this is not an issue if you are going to have dedicated online sessions for up to four people, as you can always pick the same character, get loot in a semi-persistent way (or at least, as long as you're in that person's game), level up, and choose talent points yourself. In this case, if you're always playing online with the same crowd, it's not a problem - it's just that all four characters, and the progress in the story, "belong" to the host. The only way you can have your own game and character, while playing online, is to always make sure you're the game's host and hope other people join you. (Also, there can only be one of each character in a multiplayer game, so if two people both want to play as Reinhart, well, too bad.)
This online limitation will have a pretty serious effect on the game's longevity. Simply put, the community will dry up pretty quickly, and people won't jump into strangers' games since only one person in a public game will get any persistent progression. While the campaign in DSIII is about as big as most epic-length RPGs, what keeps these games going is the online play, the ongoing months- and years-long search for bigger and better loot. By tying this game so closely to the story, that kind of depth - whether this game has it or not - simply cannot even begin to be explored here.
These issues don't make Dungeon Siege III a bad game at all, but it does mean you might be expecting something different than what Obsidian Entertainment released. If you're looking for an exciting romp through impressive-looking dungeons where you smash monsters, get loot, use tactics to win, and level up a lot of fun abilities, then this game delivers that in a way that's more true to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance than it is to either the past Dungeon Siege games or the Diablo series. And if you want something with the kind of wide-open online play that lasts for years, well, you're better off saving your money and waiting for Diablo III.