Aug 31, 2011

[Games] Dungeon Siege III (PS3)

Dungeon Siege III (PS3)It's rather difficult for some PC game franchises to make the transition over to the console market. You just don't have the same level of functionality the moment you take the keyboard out of the equation. And thus game designers are constantly challenged to figure out how to somewhat simplify the game to work with the console setup without taking too much away from the core gaming experience. It's a lot more difficult than it sounds, believe me.

One of the rare good examples of this is probably Civilization Revolution. It still managed to capture a lot of the rich depth of the various incarnations of the desktop version of the game while still keeping things manageable for the console gamer. Thus managing multiple cities, research projects and armies moving across the land still remained efficient and not too annoying an experience.

Now this was a clear attempt to translate a generally successful hack-and-slash PG game into a decent console version of the experience. On its own it's a pretty decent game but it tends to loose luster once you compare it back to the original games. And the fact that this same version of the game was not only distributed to consoles but was also ported back to the PC game market seemed like a bad idea. What we're left with is a game that could have done a whole lot more but instead barely managed to get past the finish line.

Dungeon Siege III is an action RPG / adventure game developed by Obsidian Games. It is the first edition of the game to be published by Square Enix (of Final Fantasy fame) given they now own the full rights to the franchise.

The game brings us back to the Kingdom of Ehb, which was generally the setting of the very first Dungeon Siege game for the PC. Thus about 150 years after the events of the original game, the 10th Legion is practically decimated. The culprit behind this purge of the Legion is Jane Kassynder. For reasons that you'll discover as a player, she holds a serious grudge against the Legion and has rallied various forces to her cause.

As a player, you get to select one of four characters and go through the story. The characters include Lucas Montbarron, the youngest son of the former Legion Grand Master Hugh Montbarron, Anjali an mythical being known as an Archon, Reinhart Manx, a descendant of Marik the Mage from the original Dungeon Siege and Katarina, an illegitimate daughter of Hugh Montbarron and a Lescanzi witch. The overall story remains pretty consistent regardless of which character you use but there will be small changes here and there based on your character selection. The nuances can include modified dialog to fit your character's role in the overall plot and similar tweaks.

Each character has two "stances" that allow the player to fight in different ways. For example, Anjali's human form has her equipped with a staff that allows her to deal with larger groups of enemies from close range. On the flip side, her Archon / fire elemental form allows her to hurl fireballs as her default attack instead. Each stance has its own share of abilities and modifications to your stats so it becomes a key part of the game to efficiently switch between stances during combat to make the most of the abilities given you.

Another main gameplay element is the use of Focus, which is like mana or magic points in other games. The use of any special ability consumes Focus and this can only be recovered by attacking enemies or receiving damage. While all other stats such as life and attack rating level up as you go, your focus bar remains stuck at 100 points for the entire game, Combined with the stance system, this really does provide a rather interesting and complex gaming system that still works decently in the console environment,

However the game has its fair share of issues plaguing the game. Beyond the ridiculously convoluted plot, the game suffers from uneven power creep for the enemies this level bosses seem inordinately difficult to kill even if you complete all story and optional quests before making an attempt. Even with a second player controlling the alternate character, it's still highly difficult to defeat major bosses unless you spend a generous amount of time level grinding.

And despite how confusing the story gets at times, it ultimately felt short once everything ended. There just aren't many abilities for your character to learn and thus this limits the game. I liked how the stats mapped out and all that but then there just wasn't much growth beyond the core set. And ultimately, this remains a one-player game. Even with a second player joining in, this player gets dragged along wherever the first player goes, has no control over the camera, save points or story dialog and thus remains mainly for support. And given how bad the automatic camera is, this can get pretty frustrating. This is especially true since most of the maps seem to be designed as long corridors / paths / bottlenecks and rarely do you have an open space to fight in.

My partner and I are still trying to play through the game a second time to see how things will turn out. So far it hasn't been anything too amazing but it's nice to experience different character classes.

Dungeon Siege III is a decent game on its own but is probably a bad example of a continuing franchise. It could have used more story or at least more character abilities to learn and master. Thus it only gets away with 3.5 shops and bazaars that you never end up buying from since the game is overly generous with loot.


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