Posted on June 20, 2011 AT 05:39pm
The 10th Legion is in ruins. Will you rise to protect the Kingdom of Ehb in their stead?
The once-powerful 10th Legion is dead. Jayne Kassynder rallied the people of Ehb against them and broke their centuries-long hold on the kingdom. With their order destroyed, four remaining legionnaires fight to overthrow Kassynder and uncover the truth of the legion’s power.
Obsidian’s take on the Dungeon Siege franchise is much darker and interconnected than previous games. Their version of Ehb is breathtakingly beautiful and wrapped in a winding tale of death, betrayal, and corruption. Dungeon Siege III is a bold departure from Gas Powered Games’ original, and it’s exactly what the series needs.
Previous Dungeon Siege games are heavily combat focused. Obsidian keeps this alive in DS III but you can’t control each member of your party independently or design their appearance. Much like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, your characters fulfill roles within a combined story and travel the same paths and dungeons. The only real difference is how they start their journey and what tools they use to complete it.
Each character in Dungeon Siege III is unique and employs a completely different fighting style and equipment type than the others. While they fall under the typical archetypes of fighter, wizard, rogue and fighter/magic user, their stories are well-rounded and personal.
Unlike many dungeon crawlers that let you choose your hero, DS III does not ignore the existence of the others in favor of the player. The four legionnaires share this story, regardless of who is taking the lead. The main character relies on the other three as support, and can gain favor with them through various in-game decisions. Choosing to release or kill and enemy can have lasting effects on how the player gets along with their companion and can even unlock combat bonuses.
Multiplayer in DS III is a little awkward. Players can’t import their characters into another game but can join in on an existing campaign and play as the companion. In online mode, multiplayer supports up for four players and the difficulty scales accordingly. DS III is best played in two-player co-op, however, and has a wonderful pick up and play feel to it.
Characters have nine offensive and defensive abilities to choose as they level up. It’s impossible to master every skill, so point distribution is an elaborate puzzle. Each skill has two variants to add a total of five points to. It sounds complicated but these additional choices are percentage boosts for the initial ability. Obsidian wants to challenge players to manage their resources wisely rather than build up stats at random, and this philosophy branches out from their previous games and adds a good-natured challenge to Dungeon Siege.
What really sets DS III apart is how beautifully rendered the world is. Every rock, tree, and babbling brook in Ehb is fully realized and gleaming against its background. Many in-game details were lovingly hand-painted and animated until they blended into a shifting, breathing environment. Add a haunting score to the mix and it’s easy to get lost taking in the subtle audio-visual delight.
What’s more impressive is that Dungeon Siege III isn’t a PC exclusive. Obsidian hopes to transition the staggering beauty of a PC game onto home consoles. Unfortunately this plan’s side-effect manifests not in the appearance but in how the controls work.
Dungeon Siege III is a fast-paced action RPG/dungeon crawler requiring precise blocks and dodges along with well-timed attacks. For many PC gamers this isn’t an issue, but the keyboard layout for DS III just isn’t up to the challenge. A USB controller is almost necessary for combat to feel fluid and responsive. This is likely because the console controls were in development long before the PC ones. It’s difficult recommending a controller to the computer crowd but here it’s a less frustrating and better-realized alternative.
Dungeon Siege III is a fantastic step forward for the franchise and Obsidian’s signature development style really breathes new life into the Kingdom of Ehb and the lore surrounding the 10th Legion. They’ve managed to turn a fighting first, story second series into something much more engaging. While the PC controls aren’t quite as sharp as they could be, and it would be nice to import and share characters across multiplayer campaigns, these are minor gripes in the face of how engrossing the game is.
SUMMARY: Obsidian does an admiral job of moving the series forward, but some nagging issues keep this from setting new benchmarks as a dungeon-crawling epic.
- THE GOOD: Obsidian’s reimagining adds depth to the history and story of Ehb
- THE BAD: Keyboard controls are much less elegant than using a controller
- THE UGLY: You can’t import characters across multiplayer games
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