Dungeon Siege III Review: An Elegant RPG For a More Civilized Age

In a lot of ways, Dungeon Siege III can be considered a “first” for the franchise. It’s the first game in the series published by Square Enix, and the first developed by Obsidian Entertainment. It’s the first Dungeon Siege game to appear on a console, and the first new game in the series in five years. With this new beginning at hand, I dove into the Dungeon Siege series myself for the first time and came away with a pretty good RPG experience.

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG (With a Dash of Incest)
Release Date: June 21, 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen

Unless you count the PSP-exclusive Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony, DS3 is also the first game in the series to tell its tale using pre-made characters. These pre-made characters come together to recount a story that is just as much based on the Dungeon Siege saga as it is on the Star Wars saga. The Jedi Order 10th Legion is a grand gathering of warriors that has protected the galaxy Kingdom of Ehb for centuries. That is, until one day when a fallen Jedi Knight a powerful dark wizard with monstrous powers wiped them out. Only a wizened old man, Obi-Wan Kenobi Odo, and the children of several Jedi Knights Legion members, remain. A secret rebellion has formed in the years since, aided now by Luke Skywalker Lucas Montbarron and his heretofore unknown sister Princess Leia Katarina.

I know George Lucas himself was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, but all the little shoutouts to both Star Wars trilogies (including Katarina flirting with Lucas even after discovering they’re siblings, as well as the goblin race’s resemblance to Yoda), are too numerous to mention all of them. Even if it’s just a medieval riff on Star Wars, the game’s story kept me entertained the entire time. I especially loved the clockwork city of Stonebridge and its assortment of greedy goblins and robotic “Automatons.” Like C-3PO, the Automatons would blurt out amusing (and sometimes wildly inappropriate) lines of dialogue.

But regardless of where they found inspiration for the story, Obsidian has stuffed DS3 full of everything that makes a great action RPG. Battling enemies is initially simple, but DS3 includes more advanced strategies for the adventurous as players delve deeper into the game. A basic attack is executed with the A button while special attacks are mapped to X, Y and B. Blocking with a shield and dodging are performed by holding down the Left Trigger. The number of attacks each character can employ is doubled with the use of the Change Stance button (Left Bumper). For example, Lucas can fight with either a single-handed shortsword stance or a two-handed longsword stance.

Hacking and slashing is great fun, and while the game may eschew the more turn-based feel of DS3’s PC predecessors, I felt right at home in action RPG mode. The dodge button allows your character to zip across the screen, sticking and moving like a prizefighter. And the special attacks have just the right amount of oomph behind them to make you feel like a Force-wielding 10th Legion badass.

After vanquishing a horde of monsters, the screen will often be littered with weapons and gold. This loot can be collected with the Right Bumper and equipped at any time to make your chosen character even more formidable. However, the stat differences between different pieces of weaponry or armor is poorly explained, and the only way to learn the difference between categories like Warding, Withering or Will is digging into a sub-menu not connected to the stats screen. Creating a fearsome warrior is less about studying the available stats and more about equipping the most expensive item in your inventory. Thankfully, selecting Proficiencies (statistical upgrades to special attacks) and Talents (statistical upgrades to the basic attack) is much more straightforward.

Like a typical action RPG, players will meet with a variety of NPCs and receive quests to undertake as they battle their way towards Jeyne Kassynder, the aformentioned dark wizard. Knowing where to go is never a problem, as the game offers (with a tap of Up on the D-Pad) the now standard “breadcrumb system” to point the way. In addition to the story quests, NPCs highlighted with exclamation marks will have sidequests to offer. Grinding levels to topple a seemingly invincible boss or to obtain some rare item isn’t usually a problem in Dungeon Siege III. But the game’s use of sidequests makes it enjoyable. Many of the quests (emptying out a dungeon full of baddies, fetching an item for an NPC, etc) seem like things the main characters would do anyway while on their big adventure. And completing them nets the Experience needed to make progression easier.

That said, sieging some of these dungeons feels rather repetitive. There’s very little variety in the enemy types until the very end of your journey, and many of the game’s environments are lifeless and generic. Forest, meadow, swamp, dank cave, haunted cave, cave full of spiders… if you’ve played an action RPG before, you know the drill. Thankfully, Obsidian doesn’t keep you in one location for too long. You’re always on to the next thing, and the constantly-changing locales keep the adventure fresh. But that’s not to say every location is too plain; the shining ceilings of Glitterdelve Mine and the clockwork city of Stonebridge both look fantastic.

Normally, the computer controls the player’s co-op companion, but the developers gave Dungeon Siege III a drop-in/drop-out mulitplayer option as well. Too bad it’s rather pointless. You can connect with friends or strangers locally or online and these players just hook in to the host’s already in-progress single-player campaign. This means that unless you’re the host, you get nothing from the game’s online co-op mode. No Experience Points, no weapons, no progress in your own game, nothing. While the multiplayer mode is a mess, the single-player campaign works so well that it doesn’t really matter.

Dungeon Siege III does everything you would expect from an action RPG. It’s not flashy, but it doesn’t try to be. Instead, players get a solid game with a compelling story and a quest that’ll make you want to keep playing until the end. I’m definitely looking forward to raising the banner of the 10th Legion and defending the Kingdom of Ehb again in the future.

Review Disclosure: A review copy of Dungeon Siege III was provided by Square Enix for the purposes of this review.

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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