The PC has always been a great platform for action RPGs and most of them are developed keeping in mind the mouse and keyboard. In fact, chances are you've heard stories of mouse casualties associated with classic games like Diablo and Diablo II and newer ones like Titan Quest. The original Dungeon Siege was also designed as a PC hack-a-thon where you would battle hordes of enemies with standard fantasy weaponry and magic. Dungeon Siege III is the latest game set in the fantasy world of Ehb but this time it has been developed with the consoles in mind.
Like most fantasy RPG games, Dungeon Siege III has an expansive story and takes place in a world whose history has been fleshed out in the previous Dungeon Siege games. However, this time around, there is a greater focus on the story and the game not only makes your objectives clear but also lucidly explains the context behind every objective.
While you will be expected to fight through dozens of fantasy beasts, bandits, ghosts etc. the game's plot frames a political conflict taking place in Ehb. The story is well-told and although characters tend to come across as generic, they fit in well and make the entire story-telling process a smooth affair. Like in Diablo, you can't create your own character and instead have to choose from four pre-made characters with readymade names, backgrounds and classes. The neat thing is that the game doesn't resort to the unknown adventurer cliché but instead lets you play as characters that are intrinsically linked to the plot.
Overall, the story and the way it's told is probably one of the best things about Dungeon Siege III.
How it Plays
On one hand the gameplay structure of Dungeon Siege III is standard action-RPG fare. You travel to large closed off areas where you are given a bunch of side-quests held together by stages of the overall main quest. Once you complete the primary quest in a particular area, you are allowed to travel to a different area. The side-quests are primarily of the "fetch this" "kill that" type that lets you earn gold, loot or experience points. You can also buy/sell items at stores which is another staple of RPG titles.
When it comes down to the new things that Dungeon Siege III brings to the table, there are a couple of great additions. The quest locator is the best of the lot and it reveals markers that guide you to your next objective for both primary and side quests. I really liked this feature since it's frustrating when a quest based RPG doesn't give you the required information regarding where you're supposed to go, forcing you to randomly run around the map. I also liked the fact that the game doesn't devolve into a potion-guzzling fest where your character is forced to chug down massive amounts of health/mana potions repetitively. Instead, in Dungeon Siege III, killed enemies drop spheres that increase your health/mana and combat refills your skill meter that lets you use your special skills.
The leveling up system also works. Every time you reach a new level, you can put in points in skills, unlock new ones and also do the same to talents (such as increased chance of a critical hit, enemies dropping more gold etc.). You will also be able to level up your additional party members (only one of who can accompany you at any given time). The game's interface is crisp and simple without a plethora of menus to confuse you.
I wish I could say that everything else was also fine in Dungeon Siege III but the game did throw up many frustrating moments too. My biggest gripe is with the controls. While I don't mind controlling my character's movement through the WASD keys (in fact, I find it more organic than clicking on the ground to make my character move), the top down view means that auto-targeting is a must. Unfortunately, Dungeon Siege III's controls force you to face an enemy in order to attack him. While this is fine in an FPS or a game that uses an OTS view, the top down view here means that in the midst of being surrounded by enemies, you have no idea where your character is facing without actually pausing for a moment. As a result, I often found my character getting backstabbed by enemies who I thought I was attacking. The camera is locked to your movement so the game also makes it possible for you to be staring at a wall while your character is being attacked off-camera.
The original Dungeon Siege games allowed you a four-member party each of whom you could play as which made them feel like a great mash-up of the action oriented gameplay of the Diablo games and the more tactical feel of the Baldur's Gate/ Icewind Dale games. Dungeon Siege III forsakes that and allows only one party member who you can't control. I can't fault the AI of the party member but I felt that, in comparison to the original games, the combat lacked depth.
How it Looks & Sounds
The worst thing I can probably say about the way that Dungeon Siege III looks is that its graphics aren't consistent. While some of the outdoor maps look great and colorful, some of the indoor settings are too dark and homogenous. Character models look good even when zoomed in (cut-scenes and dialogues happen in this mode) and the graphics are sharp. The best part is that the game runs at a decent clip with all settings on high even on a mid-range PC.
The sound design is good and the score is majestic without being obtrusive. The voice acting is surprisingly well-done and there is plenty of spoken dialogue to listen to.
At first glance, Dungeon Siege III looks like it was developed for co-op gameplay. While you and a friend can have fun in co-op, if you initiated the game, your friends won't be able to transfer their character, progress or loot to play on their own. Four-player online play is saddled with camera issues since the camera always needs to have all four players on screen at the same time.
On its own Dungeon Siege III is a fun action-RPG with a couple of interesting innovations to the venerable genre. Just don't expect as much fun as you remember having with the Diablo games on account of un-PC like controls, camera issues and limited multiplayer.
Dungeon Siege III has been launched in India for Rs. 699 by Express Interactive.