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Dungeon Siege III (Xbox 360) artwork

Dungeon Siege III (Xbox 360) review


"Despite some subquests and optional grinding, itís mostly a long winding trip down an inevitable path, and often times back along the inevitable path. Expect to do a lot of walking. This is a hallmark of the Dungeon Siege series, so it should be no surprise that it hasnít changed. But developer Obsidian has tried to infuse it with a choice-and-consequence system. In theory, this seems like a great idea. But in practice, itís the difference between an attack rating of 142 and an attack rating of 145. Was it worth reading through all that dialogue?"



About half way into the Dungeon Siege III storyline, maybe eight to ten hours deep, you mediate the issue of robot worker rights as part of a quest chain. Donít worry, these are steampunk robots; Dungeon Siege III wonít go all Barrier Peaks on you. But itís a significant part of a quest chain. In the end, I came down on the side of the robot workers, which earned me the deed ďProletariat HeroĒ. It was listed on a page of about eight deeds Iíd earned. The associated reward was +3 to my attack rating. Which would be pretty nifty if an attack rating was 15 or so. But thatís not the case. At that point in the game, my attack rating was 142. As a proletariat hero, my attack rating went up to 145. That was my reward.

Dungeon Siege III is driven by these sorts of teensy incremental changes. When you level up, you get to choose whether your agility is increased by 5% or whether your healing ability has a 10% chance to stun enemies for one second. Your stats are determined almost entirely by your equipment, which means youíll spend a lot of time comparing a +3 here to a -1 there. Itís a game about scraping numbers into small piles, and the loot chase is almost entirely a matter of shuffling the piles around a bit.

Dungeon Siege III asset


This isnít necessarily a bad thing. In Sacred 2, another recent action RPG, character advancement is a meticulous and fiddly numbers game, all about fine tuning your build. But the beauty of Sacred 2 is that itís your build. Youíre choosing from a long and wide list of options, plotting your own course. The Diablo games were more focused, but they still gave you multiple directions. Other great action RPGs like Titanís Quest and Dinís Curse let you actually build your own class. A big part of the appeal of an RPG is ďthis is my character and hereís how Iíve developed himĒ.

Dungeon Siege III, on the other hand, does very little to give you a sense of ownership. The four characters with their nine skills each, all of which youíll unlock, have so few meaningful options. Youíll tweak your favorite skills a bit. Youíll level up a series of passive bonuses by a few percent at a time. Youíll shuffle around your piles of numbers with your choice of pants, hats, and whatnot. But it never feels like youíre doing anything other than running down an inevitable course. It feels more like youíre playing the designerís character build instead of your own.

This is how the game world unfolds as well. Despite some subquests and optional grinding, itís mostly a long winding trip down an inevitable path, and often times back along the inevitable path. Expect to do a lot of walking. This is a hallmark of the Dungeon Siege series, so it should be no surprise that it hasnít changed. But developer Obsidian has tried to infuse it with a choice-and-consequence system. In theory, this seems like a great idea. But in practice, itís the difference between an attack rating of 142 and an attack rating of 145. Was it worth reading through all that dialogue?

The story constantly shoves its way to the front of the game with dialogue trees of little consequence and considerable text. I'm sure I've breezed through one or two actual choices, but with so much filler, it's hard to tell. Youíd never guess that Obsidian made Alpha Protocol, one of the most lucidly playable choice-and-consequence games ever made for how it relates choices to actual gameplay. But Dungeon Siege III simply doesnít have the gameplay breadth for meaningful decisions. A reviewerís guide was sent out with press copies to highlight some of the ways your choices would vary the game. Itís not an encouraging read. Do you take a handful of artifacts now, or unlock the artifact store down the road? And more importantly, do you care one way or the other?

Dungeon Siege III asset


The best thing the game has going for it is that itís a lively enough combat system, with a few interesting synergies among the four characters. Battles feel neatly tactical for how regular attacks give you mana for spells, which in turn give you power for boosted spells or healing. All the characters toggle between two stances with distinct abilities. It can be a bit awkward (the interface on the 360 is atrociously unintuitive), but itís a far sight from simply clicking a single ability.

You play with two characters at a time, and the AI controlling the second character is passable. But, really, that second character is there for multiplayer. Hereís where Dungeon Siege III really drops the ball, and not just because characters have to stay on the same screen even when youíre playing online. It's bad enough that character development is so narrow and constricted. But what's worse is how it's entirely beside the point when you're in a game with other players, where character advancement is solely a matter of how much the host has played. All four characters essentially auto-level with the main character, so if you jump into someone elseís game, youíre playing one of his other characters. When you jump back into your own world with your own characters, youíll have nothing to show for your co-op time.

It works almost exactly like the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, which mostly dispensed with the ďRPGĒ part of action RPGs in favor of the ďactionĒ part. Being a generously licensed Marvel game, it had the advantage of a few dozen familiar and interesting superheroes and villains, dumped into wild sprawling battles. But Dungeon Siege III, with no such cast of characters and long stretches of pointless mandatory walking and talking, is just an opportunity to play out some tactical battles with a patient friend who doesnít mind abandoning his own iteration of the game.

Dungeon Siege III asset


I don't ask much from an action RPG. Unfortunately, the things I do ask are the things that Dungeon Siege III doesn't do: meaningful character development, interesting treasure, a sense of discovery when it comes to exploring the world, and ideally the option to team up with my friendsí characters. Instead Dungeon Siege 3 has the feel of pushing a plumbing snake down a drain. You're driving two characters down long twisting hallways, scraping them clean of trash loot and trash monsters. Occasionally you get to the bigger clot of a boss monster, which might take a bit of elbow grease. But itís ultimately all about pushing your way through those pipes until you come out the far end and what point... well, I suppose you could move on to a better action RPG with some replayability.

Rating: 4/10

tomchick's avatar
Freelance review by Tom Chick (June 23, 2011)

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