By – Phil Cordaro

Dungeon Siege 3

Hola pals and welcome to another edition of Rainbows At Your Front Door. Or “RAYFD” as I have started calling it for short. Today I am going to attempt tackling a real doozie – Dungeon Siege 3. I hope you are not already mad at me for even suggesting this game is not totally garbage. Dungeon Siege 3 was a massive disappointment to many PC gamers out there, particularly those who were fans of the first two games in the series. Which is kind of exactly what the problem is, really. Dungeon Siege 3 is actually a pretty fun game, but it’s just so radically different from its revered predecessors that it probably shouldn’t have been called Dungeon Siege in the first place.

First of all, forget about using a mouse and keyboard for this game because that is an absolute exercise in futility. This game was clearly designed around a controller / consoles in general, which is an extra bitter pill to swallow given that this is the sequel to Dungeon Siege we are talking about here. That is another major strike against this game but don’t worry, I’ll get to the good stuff in a minute. If you are able to look past the totally bizarre and not-at-all-like-dungeon-siege controls and gameplay, it’s all quite cleverly designed.  You have direct control over your character, and 2 combat stances available to you. Each of these stances has different standard attacks, plus 3 skills / spells. You can also block and dodge, and you have an additional 3 defensive skills available to you while you are blocking. This means that each character has 2 different types of attacks, 6 different types of attack skills, and 3 defensive skills (which are things like healing / defensive buffs and are roughly the same for everyone). Attacking enemies with normal attacks generates energy which can be used for the more powerful special abilities, and each character has a nicely varied set that will give you a nice selection of potential tools.

Dungeon Seige 3

Once you get adjusted to this style, the benefits start to become a bit more obvious. The limited number of skills are all accessible to your character at any given time and are all completely different, which conveniently avoids the dreaded action RPG pitfall of “wasting points” on some skills only to have them be replaced by skills that are just flat out better. Sure, the number is small, but there’s something to be said for a handful of skills that are varied and work in a variety of circumstances instead of the typical “energy blast becomes useless once you get the lightning bolt” thing. In the context of how the game plays, this all works quite nicely and the variety of abilities you have feels like just the right amount for tackling the challenges ahead of you. I played as the Wizard guy, whose abilities included a direct damage lightning bolt, a large circle placed on the ground that would damage enemies who wandered into it, and an electrical clone guy that would fight at my side. The other characters have a similarly diverse array of skills and attacks, so it’s interesting to try them all out. Throughout the story, your character will be accompanied by one of the 3 other selectable fighters, so you can experiment with different combinations and figure out cool ways for abilities to complement each other. Despite the console-centric, seemingly simplified gameplay style, there really is a surprising amount of depth to how you can build and play your character.

Speaking of building up your character, that stuff is pretty robust in this game, too. It starts out kind of weaksauce because you have to unlock the skills as you level up, so you don’t actually have all of them accessible until you’ve made a decent chunk of progress. As you level up, you also earn points that you could invest into strengthening your skills. Each skill lets you invest a total of 5 points, and there are 2 possible bonuses for each skill. So one skill might have one upgrade that increases base damage, and another that increases stun time. You can focus entirely on one, or come up with some sort of compromise. The fact that you can do this with every skill individually means there’s already quite a bit of variance in terms of possible character builds, and that’s only scratching the surface here. You also get an array of passive abilities that you can invest an entirely separate set of points in, which might include things like stat buffs, increased health for summoned creatures, and more gold drops. All of these passive skills also have multiple levels, so you can max out a handful or give yourself a few points in everything.

Dungeon Seige 3

 

There’s also the gear. Glorious, glorious gear. I’m not ashamed to admit that gear is probably 50% of the reason I play games like this. Dungeon Siege 3 throws quite a bit at you, with each character carrying about a dozen pieces of different equipment. This equipment can have radically different stats, and there are a bunch of cool extra little bonuses that might be attached to them as well. You can easily focus all of your stuff on one or two important stats for your character, try to be well rounded, or use stuff with crappier base stats but cool bonuses like health regeneration or more energy gained for each standard attack. I found myself playing my character in a few different ways based on what my stuff was like at the time, and of course you’re always finding new stuff and making adjustments. The only crappy thing about it is that the gear in this game only has a handful of different looks, which is a big no-no as far as I’m concerned. I want to see every piece look different on my character, dammit! Come on Dungeon Siege 3! Here I am trying to convince people that you’re actually pretty cool, and then you have to go and pull a jerk move like that.

Anyway, the reason I’m going into all of this detail about these different little subsystem is that Dungeon Siege 3 really has a ton of depth and complexity to it for a game that so many people have written off as Baby’s Console RPG. I’m not going to pretend that the game has no faults, but if you can get over the fact that it’s almost nothing like Dungeon Siege, it’s actually a really cool little fantasy action game. It looks pretty, takes you through loads of varied environments, offers a ton of flexibility and customization with your character, and even has some funny little sideplots and characters. Above all of that, the game itself is simply fun to play once you get used to the controls. Try to forget about the reputation attached to the name for a second and just pretend this game is called Action Dungeon Blast or something. You might wind up like myself and find it to be a really charming adventure.

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  • Adam Ames

    It is interesting when I hear the phrase, “This should not have been named GameXX 2″. FlatOut 3 comes to mind very quickly as does Dragon Age. Even Far Cry 2 falls into this category.

    • Phil

      Far Cry 2 should have probably been called “drive out to remote little huts to shoot guys while stopping to jankily fix your car with a wrench every once in a while” but I guess that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

      • Adam Ames

        I thought the car fixing was an interesting dynamic. It added a lot of tension when trying to get away from enemies. It was pretty too. That is all I liked. Far Cry 2 was a game that overused the largeness of the world. Also, re spawning enemies so quickly was annoying.

        • Phil

          ja I don’t really mean to come off as catty because I still thought Far Cry 2 was fun (As you can see by the gimmick of this column, I find something to like about everything) but I found a lot of the car stuff pretty annoying, and a lot of the random missions you’d do in the world felt a bit too similar. Drive out to this random place while being periodically attacked, get there, kill some guys, drive back. I think it would’ve probably benefited a lot from being just a bit “tighter” which is something they hopefully nail down in the next game.

  • Russell S

    Have you tried playing it co-op ? The game will only allow your party on the same screen so no wandering off to explore on your own. Kinda like they used to have in games on computers like the Atari ST (I’m thinking Chaos Engine, except that was a great game)… in the 1980s…
    Yes the game is pretty, yes some of the mechanics are pretty cool, but the controls are horrible and the camera is unforgiveable.

    Verdict: Don’t buy unless you’re a masochist.

    • Phil

      ffffuuuuu I actually haven’t tried playing it co-op but that is awful – I remember fable 2 was like that and I was gonkin out like crazy.

      I still think as a single player game it works fine though – Guess the point is that nobody will agree. :D

  • Voxelman

    I could just never find a control scheme that was fun for me. I tried both keyboard and mouse, and a X360 pad controls felt clunky ether way. I always felt like I was fighting the camera, and controls and everything else just felt pretty average so I ditched the game after a couple hours.

    Oh and co-op is just broken