Dungeon Siege III has been a huge disappointment to me. I finally finished the game after taking my sweet time. A whole run through took me around 14 hours but it’s been over a month since I first started playing it. While I rarely play one game at a time, the fact that it took me so long to finish this relatively short game speaks volumes about its inability to engage me. One could say that an action RPG is generally made up of three components: Action Combat, Loot and Story. Dungeon Siege III utterly nails it in one of these aspects but falls flat where it really counts.
The combat in DS3 is a simple affair and it is clear from the get go that it has nothing to do with previous games in the revered series. The primary reason for this is that the game was developed first and foremost with console gaming in mind. Having this knowledge I decided to get the Xbox 360 version of the game. I believe that an action RPG translates well on a controller, especially if it is specifically designed for it. However the combat in DS3 was way too simple and ultimately did not manage to excite me. Players are offered two aggressive stances and a defensive stance. These determine the spells available to them at any given time. One of the aggressive stances focuses on direct damage while the other deals primarily area of effect damage. In concept this is interesting since you can mix and match according to the situation. However, in reality, I only found myself using a couple of spells most of the time and switching to other specific spells on rare occasions. Mostly this was because the levelling system is such that you can focus on one or two spells to augment them. Once those abilities are augmented they are markedly better than the others in your arsenal removing any incentive to mix things up. There is little variety in the spells I was given and enemies rarely challenged me to change tactics in any way shape or form. This made combat incredibly boring which was crippling considering that I was fighting enemies most of the time. Defensively the game serves a little more options, with the possibility of dodging, blocking or using specific defensive abilities such as creating a shield or applying a heal over time. Safe to say this does little to fix a combat system which is broken at its core.
As bad as all that sound Obsidian made even bigger mistakes with regards to loot. The stat system is unnecessarily complicated so it was quite difficult to understand how, exactly, a new piece of gear would affect my battle prowess. I always ended equipping the item which cost the most (ie. the item with most stats on it) for the majority of the time. Needless to say this led to a situation where equipping loot could just as well be automated. Even more crucial was the fact that the loot very rarely changed the appearance of my character. At the end of the game I did not look more powerful. I was just wearing something slightly different. I did not come across any set pieces, and the rare pieces I found dropped without much fanfare. There wasn’t the sense of excitement when some good piece of equipment dropped. It was more like ‘Oh this is an orange. It costs 3040g more than what I am wearing now and the stats look a bit better. Let me put it on’. For the record loot just gave me stats. Towards the last third of the game a transmute system was introduced. I never felt the need to use it. Vendors rarely offered any good wares so I did not know what to do with my money. Just before the final boss I was given the opportunity to buy and sell from a special vendor who exclusively sold rares. He was the only one to have things I wanted to buy, so I blew all my money there.
Story is the third and final component and here DS3 just shines. It is, singlehandedly, the reason why I kept on playing the game till the end. The world of Ehb has been lovingly created by Obsidian and there is a good amount of lore for players to discover along the way. The main story quest is interesting and keeps you guessing until the very end. Characters are very three dimensional. There are no obvious good guys or bad guys. Everyone has their own reasons for their actions and I was often put in a position where I was not quite sure if my own actions were warranted. To make matters worse for me (in a good way) Obsidian often tasked me with making moral decisions on the fate of individuals I met along the way. These decisions were sometimes tough and never obvious, much more so than those found in a game such as SWOTOR. In most situations I felt that both sides of the argument had merit. What would at first seem like a clear cut situation would turn into quite a conundrum after carrying out a little investigative questioning to discover the true motives of the parties involved. Furthermore when the credits rolled I was given an in-depth account of how my decisions affected the people of Ehb. This aspect of the game singlehandedly instilled in me the urge to start the game again and role play a different character altogether.
The urge died when I remember how monotonous the other aspects of the game felt, especially after I have savoured the joys of Diablio III’s superb combat. It pains me to be so negative about this game especially considering how Obsidian nailed the storytelling aspect. The game can be found in bargain bins at this point so it might be a good idea to give it a try if bought for under 12€. It might be worth playing if only to experience this intriguing story.