Review: Dungeon Siege III (360)

Right, before I start, I suppose I should mention that my opinion of this game is a little biased, as I was in a bad mood when I rented it (suffice to say, Blockbuster is shit – they had none of the titles I remotely wanted in stock, so I chose this as a last resort.) I also didn’t try the Multiplayer mode as no one I know on Xbox Live has the game and most of my uni friends have gone home, so no comment on that part (sorry.)

Style: Action-Role Playing Game
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: June 17, 2011

When you put together the words “Square,” “Enix” and “RPG,” what would you expect to get? Yup: me squeeing at a volume only dogs can hear. However, while this did happen, when I got home and actually played the product of what is normally a marriage made in heaven, I was a little nonplussed.

Yes, it looks beautiful, lovely environments etc. but you don’t expect anything less nowadays. The story is of course in-depth which is of paramount importance to fans of the genre. But it’s hardly groundbreaking or immersive, and the names of places and people jar slightly; some sound Scandinavian, others Germanic and a few thoroughly British. This apparent confusion of where the game and its characters are supposed to be set is exacerbated by the voice-acting. There are accents from all over the world, which, while great for equality, does annoy, considering this is definitely some kind of medieval European land – strong American accents (the worst one courtesy of Odo, the game’s narrator) just feel wrong. Maybe this sounds like nitpicking, but for a game which is essentially a film with interactive bits, the little things dramatically affect its overall feel and quality.

Odo: "Howdy, there, partner!" Knights: "Pardon?"

Anyway, just to satisfy any curiosity you might feel about what this game is actually about: the goal of the game, regardless of which character you choose, is to re-establish the once triumphant 10th Legion, and to reclaim its ordered and just rule of the Kingdom of Ehb from the ruthless Jeyne Kassynder, who, 30 years ago slew the original Legion and took control of the Kingdom to its detriment. There is wide range of characters to choose from at the start, in terms of background, combat style and choice of weapons, from a  massive sword-wielding knight to a nimble shotgun-toting half-witch. While this variety and the relationships between the characters is refreshing, the premise still feels a bit half-arsed from the start, and even after many hours of playing the game I never really felt emotionally attached to my character (Katarina, the trigger-happy half-witch, who, for anyone who’s interested is the illegitimate daughter of the late Grand Master of the Legion, Hugh Montbarron.)

Jeyne Kassynder: stupid name, massive bitch.

Let’s focus on the positives: unlike in previous Dungeon Siege games, as the player progresses they may choose one of the three characters not selected at the beginning to accompany their character as  AI-controlled back-up at a time, (which can be changed instantly in the menu at any point) so you’re not sacrificing magic abilities in your arsenal by choosing a sword-based character. Furthermore, each character has two different fighting styles: one less damaging and faster for close-range, and a more damaging, slower style that leaves the character vulnerable to retaliation, good for long-range combat. It’s great being able to switch automatically to suit the situation, as the game is quite ‘Hack ‘n’ Slash’ at its core. However, this is sadly hampered by the new combat control system (introduced to accommodate the PC version) which doesn’t allow for independent weapons aiming – you have to physically move your character to face your desired victim, which is very frustrating and feels clunky, like we’ve gone back to a time before GoldenEye 007 (great for an authentic atmosphere, bad for gameplay.) The camera doesn’t move much either and there’s only two viewpoints – high up above or a bit closer – although when you zoom in during combat, the character models look particularly impressive.

Ooh, just look at those thighs...

In a way, one could excuse the shortcomings of the story as it’s clear that the developers wanted to focus more on the combat side of the game, but as said earlier that feels laborious, mostly due to the awkward combat control system (with Katarina who prefers long-range combat I had to keep running away so I could get enough distance between myself and the enemy so I could dole out any proper damage.) The controls aren’t logical, for example the Right Trigger is used for “Empowering” attacks rather than executing them which is slightly disconcerting. Attacking is the A button, while the Left Trigger is used to switch to a third defensive stance for blocking, dodging and using magic to regain health (the other buttons are used for special attacks.) Weirdly, you have to press the Right Bumper whilst standing on top of items to pick them up; why can’t you just walk over it like in most games? Annoying.

It seems like this game is trying to be everything to everyone, from the variety of characters to the option to skip the story cut-scenes (something which makes the game more action-based rather than story-based to please the more impatient player, and I think this should be illegal in an RPG.) However, trying to cater to every gamer’s needs often results in a case of “jack of all trades, master of none,” which Dungeon Siege III suffers from – it’s passable, but I can’t help but think I could be playing a game that does all that this one does, but better… like Fable III, for instance.

Check out how cool and different we all look - surely there must be SOMETHING you like?!

Disappointingly, even the soundtrack is forgettable, I don’t remember thinking about it at apart from as a warning that enemies were approaching. The only thing that’s unsatisfactory because too much thought has been put into it, is all the things you earn and can tack onto your character’s levels and abilities, such as Proficiencies, Talents (almost the same thing?) Power Spheres… you get the idea. To me they seemed too much to deal with, so that it actually puts you off raising levels and perfecting your character’s qualities. But then again, some people love all that so I can see why they’ve put a lot of unlockables in (although weapons aren’t customisable.)

Final Verdict: I suppose it’s a combination of the fact that I was ready to be underwhelmed and that it’s a Square Enix RPG, that  I was simultaneously expecting to be disappointed and wowed,  (keeping up?) – but basically, if I had to sum up this game in a word, that word would be “meh.” Don’t bother with it – if you’re looking for a quality RPG, go for the obvious, like a Final Fantasy title, or if you like your tales more medieval, perhaps a bit of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow  would go down nicely. Better luck next time, sir knight.