Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Dungeon Siege III (PC)

Dungeon Siege III title menu screenshot
Developer:Obsidian|Release Date:2011|Systems:Windows, PS3, Xbox 360

This week on Super Adventures, I'm taking a look at the last of the Dungeon Siege games, unless they suddenly announce a new one out of nowhere again.

The first two Dungeon Sieges were developed by Gas Powered Games, but Square Enix decided they wanted a western RPG series and bought the franchise from them, putting Obsidian in charge of making the third game. Personally I'd be more curious to see the game would be like if Square Enix made it themselves, but games like Knights of the Old Republic 2, South Park: The Stick of Truth and Fallout: New Vegas have shown that Obsidian are masters at taking other people's properties and making magic with them.

It seems they're also pretty good at making pretty main menus. It doesn't look so great in a screenshot, but in game it's all animated, with birds flying by in the background, sparkling moonlight reflected in the water, and the logo flag gently blowing in the breeze. In fact I don't even want to start the game any more, I'm just going to sit here and listen to the music and the rain for a bit. It's not the classic Dungeon Siege theme but it'll do.

Also I just noticed that the statue is of the protagonist of Dungeon Siege 1! Well the amber-haired woman with the flaming sword from the box anyway, as you can make your own characters in the DS games.

(Screenshots can be viewed at their original resolution by clicking on them. Not that their original resolution is all that great.)


The game begins with the traditional sepia-tinted illustrated intro, narrated by the traditional gravelly voiced man, in which there are swords and tales of things that happened 400 years ago (but no maps strangely).

He tells a story of how Jeyne Kassynder decided that she didn't much like the noble 10th Legion, and would rather they were all wiped out. Jeyne Kassynder drove them from their estate and eventually finished them off with a super attack powerful enough to obliterate her own troops as well.

Only Jeyne Kassynder walked away from the final battle alive, but she wasn't done yet. 30 years later Jeyne Kassynder's still at war, her armies from the east fighting the royal family in the west. Man, he sure likes saying her name.

Dungeon Siege III Lucas Montbarron character select screenshot
Turns out that I'm playing as one of the children of the Legion and now I get to choose what they look like!

Hey wait, what happened to my character creator? The first two games at least me choose my face and hair style, and DS2 threw in the option to select my race. This time though I'm stuck playing as one of four pre-created heroes, and I can't even spin the character model around to get a good look at them.

Lucas here is a descendant of Lady Montbarron, the player character from Dungeon Siege 1, and he can switch between sword and shield for single targets, or a two handed blade for crowd control (at least that’s what the text says). That's interesting, as in the earlier games characters could switch between whatever the hell they felt like.

I can also play as a woman who's literally on fire, a mystical mage type with a power gauntlet who has to wind his belt up every morning, or another descent of Lady Montbarron who looks like Kate Beckinsale's character in 'Van Helsing'. Hmm, I'm spotting a pattern with their names; I guess only guys get to have a surname in this world (Jeyne Kassynder excepted).

My first instinct is to go with Katarina as she's the closest to being an archer with her pistols and rifle (and magic), but those old flintlocks probably take half an hour to reload so I'll pick Anjali instead.

Uh… there’s no select character button. Seriously, I’m clicking all the writing on the screen and nothing’s happening. Maybe I have to unplug my controller first...

Oh, pressing 'Return' got it done. I think I'll stick to playing this on 'Normal' difficulty as I found it a struggle just to beat the character select screen.

Anjali burning baby screenshot
The narrator's back to give Anjali some backstory. He always believed she was special, even when he found her as a baby. I guess the fact that she was on fire gave it away.

Hey that’s kind of a map!

The narrator did his best to raise and train Anjali, but Jayne Kassynder's spies have been hunting for them. Now they can't delay any longer, they need to join together, rebuild the Legion and take the country back from Jayne Kassynder before it's too late! Jeyne Kassynder, Jeyne Kassynder.

And it turns out that the narration is actually a letter to Anjali from a man called Odo! Surprise 'Deep Space Nine' crossover.

And this what the game looks like.

Well this is great and all, but when do I get my mouse cursor? Also I can’t seem to walk around with the keys. I was all ready to whine about the infamously poor mouse and keyboard controls but it’s not letting me have any!

I unplugged the controller and restarted, and that seems to have fixed it.

I also got this message about the keyboard controls being fixed in a patch, which is nice. They're also a little different to previous Dungeon Sieges, as holding right mouse button makes her walk towards the cursor (not to the place I clicked), and the left mouse button is an instant attack. I definitely won't be able to leave this character unsupervised in a fight as she's got no AI whatsoever.

So I proved my movement skills by successfully walking down the path for 10 seconds until found this burning mansion. This is the Montbarron estate, where the children of the 10th Legion were going to meet and reform the Legion. But now they're all on fire, and for most people that's not a good thing. I bet I'm going to end up getting blamed for this aren't I?

Though the one good thing about everyone being dead is that all the stuff here becomes mine by default. That's pretty much true of all rooms in this game though I expect. I walked over to the nearby chest and pressed a button on it to make the loot leap out onto the floor for collection.

Dungeon Siege III equipment menu screenshot
I'm liking this equipment menu, it lets me instantly compare the stats of my new swift spear to the staff I'm holding and shows the difference it'd make to my health, armour and DPS. Immediate feedback, no messing around.

There's no grid either, so I no longer have to shuffle my items around to make room or ration out the potions to everyone. You know, I don't even think I have potions in this.

I've found some enemies to hit! You might be able to see the them too if you look hard enough. They didn't stick around long though, as they were both dead before their text box had gotten out of the way, and their bodies faded away soon after.

Like in Dungeon Siege 2 I've also got special moves that cost Focus, which regenerates as I hit people, though they seem quicker to recharge and less devastating. This time though I can also hit the block key to reduce damage, or hold it to roll out of the way. So the game's a lot more about fast reactions and staying mobile. It's an action RPG instead of a Diablo 'em up.

Every character gets two modes, and Anjali's second form lets her slowly float around and throw fireballs.

In this case I'm throwing fireballs at the destructible barrels in the corner of the room, which is a tedious RPG tradition that wore out it's welcome with me years ago. It’s fun to break things, less fun when I feel like I have to break everything, in all rooms, forever. Because if I don't then I'll miss out on all those little piles of coins that drop out!

I ran into a guy called Marten Guiscard on the way out of the mansion, who told me to light the fuse on some barrels so that they'd explode and destroy the bridge behind us to prevent the Lescanzi mercs from giving chase. So I did and they did and it did. So that's good.

After more Odo narration and illustrations the two of us escaped right into Dragon Age 2's conversation system.

Well not quite, as I've got a bit more scope to ask questions in this. Though the distortion effect on her voice is already getting on my nerves; I’m starting to think I chose poorly back at the character select screen.

I'm honestly kind of surprised that my character even has a voice this time, though I never actually see her talk in these conversations. She just hovers around on the left of the screen the whole time.

I decided to switch characters to Lucas for a bit... which meant replaying the entire tutorial mansion again. At least the cutscenes are skippable.

The path from the mansion led directly to the 10th Legion chapterhouse, so I'm right outside the front door here. There was a branch in the path leading off to untold possibilities (which you can kind of see on the minimap up there on the right), but it was blocked by a gate, so I guess I'm going this way.

This way's blocked too, by a mercenary boss who needs a bit of stabbing. I was getting shot from off screen, so I closed the distance and now I'm hacking away at him and his friends, rolling away whenever one of them gets ready to hit me. Hit hit, roll, hit hit, roll, hit etc. Lucas's second mode can't fly or shoot fireballs, but he does bring out a bigger sword so that's been pretty handy.

Inside Legion mansion #2 I met the Venerable Odo in the flesh! I guess he's not the bloke from 'Deep Space Nine' then.

Turns out that almost all the other people he's been keeping safe for the last 30 years just got massacred in that mansion by mercenaries (he thinks that Jeyne Kassynder might have been behind it). But a few other Legion descendants might still be alive, so I'm to go down to the town of Raven's Rill to look for them. Marten will have to stay behind though, as he took a bullet in that boss fight and needs to recuperate.

Works for me, that means there'll be no witnesses as I loot every room in this chapterhouse.

Dungeon Siege III abilities screenshot
Hold on, I can't help myself to the silverware yet, I've just gotten a level up I need to deal with.

In the other Dungeon Sieges my attributes were automatically enhanced according to the type of hurt I was inflicting. This time though I'm much more limited in the range of damage I can deal and if any attribute increases are going on then no one's telling me about them.

This particular level up's letting me choose an ability from the… one available. I’ve already got a one-handed ability and a two handed one, now I’m getting a defensive one that gives me a bit of slow healing. I guess my health's not going to regenerate on its own in this one.

Dungeon Siege III purchase proficiencies screenshot
Now I get to spend my proficiency point on an unlocked ability. Seems I get to choose how I want to evolve one of my powers by choosing ranks in either of the two proficiencies on the right. Up to a limit of five total ranks per ability. If I keep putting points into the Impetuous Slam proficiency on Shield Pummel for the next five level ups, I'll actually be able to rely on it doing the thing I want it to do!

Dungeon Siege III purchase talents screenshot
Now I get to purchase one of these four talents.

Wow, 10% health back every 25 kills, that’s... simply astounding. I can keep spending points on the same power every time I level up though, until I get 10% health back every 5 kills! That's 100% health every 50 kills!!

I'm just picking whatever, because the numbers are so low that I doubt it really matters much. And it doesn't seem to be like the other games where weapons and skills have requirements to meet before I can use them.

Alright, what was I doing again?

Dungeon Siege III quests journal screenshot
Oh right! I'm looting the chapterhouse.

This is a nice journal screen by the way; I always appreciate a pretty UI in a game. That 'Treasures of the Sun' quest is from the DLC by the way, I've had that there from the very start. The DLC's also given me the ability to enchant my gear with Essences, apparently. But I won't, because I'm carrying nothing but crap tier stuff.

There's spiders in the chapterhouse basement! Big giant things with sinister shadows that abseil down on their spider-ropes and start swarming me. And if I hit one of the eggs, I get more spiders coming my way! Odo's done a terrible job of keeping this place clean.

That green ball is a health orb dropped by one of the dead spiders, which I can grab to restore a fraction of my health. And I probably should because I don't have any healers or health potions around. The spiders also dropped a sword of life stealing, which sounds handy. Sure it didn't help the previous owner much, but they probably weren't rolling enough. Hack hack, roll roll, hack hack, roll roll, hack, roll, hack, roll.

To be honest, I have to admit that the game really isn't pulling me in so far. Dungeon Siege 1 opened with a tedious solo grind through a million krugs but there was a charm to it that made me want to keep going. Even if it was just to get my Strength up a level so I could finally equip a sword I'd been carrying around for a whole dungeon. This on the other hand feels like Action RPG Simulator, a game that gives you a genuine simulated experience of what its like to play a typical action RPG.


A FEW BATTLES LATER.


I stripped the chapterhouse clean of loot and lore and walked the road down to Riven's Rill. It wasn't hard to find, as this is where the road goes. There were a few fights along the way, but I used my big sword mode when there were many enemies, and small sword mode when there was one, and things were resolved without much incident.

That yellow thing on the right is a save point, which I need to save. Fortunately they're everywhere so the lack of a save button hasn't caused me any grief.

There's also a yellow exclamation mark down there, which is floating over the head of a NPC to indicate she has a sidequest for me! Actually she wants bloody retribution, but I politely declined her request to murder someone. Most of the other NPCs are silent though and I can't go into houses like I could in the earlier games. So it's a bit of a boring village really. Basically just more road, except decorated with buildings.

Whoa, I ran into Katarina! Now I want to start again playing as Katarina to see who shows up in her place. A palette-swapped clone I hope.

She claims that this is an ambush, with mercenaries waiting to pounce on any legionnaires passing through. Fortunately Katarina's the one who's supposed to spring the trap, and she's secretly on my side, so I'm free to carry on through to the caves to chat to her sister about it.

There's no map this time to point me in the right direction (or even a quest arrow), but I can press a button to mark the path with breadcrumbs. First though I'm going shopping!
 
Dungeon Siege III shop screenshot
That's a fine name for a shop.

Well this is definitely a shop in an RPG alright. Very similar to the shops in previous games, except for the lack of scrolls, potions... items of any kind in fact. This time it's all about the gear, and I can't see anything here that I'm too low level to equip. There's plenty of stuff I can't equip at all though, as this time weapons and clothes are character specific. No shotguns or corsets for Lucas.


SOON, IN THE CAVE.


I'm in the cave!

I met Katarina’s sister near the entrance and she gave me the key I'll need to rescue some prisoners. Which means gameplay!

I'm getting bored of waiting for mouse and keyboard to piss me off now so I'm switching over to Xbox pad here. I find it more comfortable on controller, but the mouse controls are much less of a pain than I remember. I think they really must have fixed it.


A FEW MINUTES OF ROLLING AND HITTING AND ROLLING IN A CAVE LATER.


Oh hang on, I've walked right into more dialogue. It seems that the captives are being watched over by this witch, so now I have a choice: combat, or exposition and then combat. It might look like a Mass Effect game, but there's no interrupts to take action during conversations and the chances of anything surprising or interesting happening are slim.

Holy shit what is even happening here? You can't really see, but I’ve suddenly been surrounded by enemies and the witch is firing homing magic at me. I’m starting to think that maybe I should’ve gone wandering a bit more and levelled up first, because I’m getting my ass handed to me here. Would help if I could tell which of these is the witch. I know, I'll use my classic Dungeon Siege tactic of running away and coming back once I've healed up.

Oh shit, she's locked me in here! I've got my Graceful Repose skill to recover health over time, but getting 50% back in 30 seconds doesn't help when I'm losing it far quicker. This fight is 10 times harder than anything I've encountered so far and all I seem to be able to do about it is lose.


But it's too early for me to give up, so I restarted from the beginning as Katarina and took the time to get an extra level before the witch fight. This time I got wiped out almost instantly! As Lucas I had half a chance because I got a fortuitous level up mid-fight that restored my health, so levelling up had actually put me at a disadvantage.

I figured out the trick on my next try though: rolling. Never stop rolling. People who roll can’t be hit, and I occasionally got an opening to start firing back at all the skeletons she was summoning, and sometimes her as well! Turns out that the annoyance of being chased by homing magic is equal to the satisfaction of dodging under it effortlessly every time.

Now I can rescue the prisoners!

Hey I've found fire woman! Plus I've apparently made the right dialogue choices to increase my influence with her.

This is good because she'll be one of my sidekicks from now on. In fact I'm pretty sure I can only have a single sidekick in this, compared to something like seven in Dungeon Siege 1 but I can at least level her up and choose her equipment. And hear her annoying distorted voice all the damn time.

Well she's not technically a Legion descendant, but she's close enough. I guess I should go give the Venerable Odo the good news and get my next mission.


LATER, AFTER SOME STUFF HAPPENED.


I've been starting to get into the game a bit more, wandering down the road, doing sidequests, collecting loot and pretending that I like the gameplay... but then I ran into a giant sidequest spider boss!

I wish I could say that fights have gotten better now that firegirl is on the team, but truth is that she does her own thing and I barely see her. Still, she's distracting the spiders and that's exactly what I need as a ranged character. Well she was until she died at least.

But holy shit this spider boss is taking a lot of damage! I'm going to wear out my roll button before it's done. I think I’m going to have to drag firegirl back to her feet as soon as I get enough of a lead to stop rolling. Fortunately there’s no messing around with resurrection spells required this time, and I don't even have to pick up all her stuff off the floor and re-equip it.

It took 11 minutes and 17 seconds of rolling, rolling, rolling and sometimes shooting for me to kill this guy in the end, but it was all worth it. Actually it wasn't, I'm lying.


MORE ADVENTURING LATER.


I've finally reached my first teleporter! They've gotten a lot more menacing since Dungeon Siege II though, as I have to walk across this causeway through creepy dimension to get places, it's not instantaneous any more.

It seems like this is basically just destination select screen though, except the exits are unmarked and I have to walk over to them in this place with no landmarks.

I'm going back to Raven's Rill by the way, taking the teleporter to a different part of town to attack another witch, called Rajani. Only this time I know what I'm doing, so I expect she won't be quite so much of a challenge for me.


HALF A BOSS BATTLE LATER.


Fuck it, I'm just going to lie here and let my sidekick beat the witch up on her own.

The fight isn't over when I fall and I can be resurrected by the AI, but only if she wants to. To be honest I'd be happy enough to let her fight all the bosses for me, if I thought there was any chance that she'd win.



MORE OF A BOSS BATTLE LATER.


This time around I've lasted long enough to reach phase two, where Rajani brings the ceiling down and starts chasing me around with these magical eruptions.


C'mon Anjali I'm relying on you to deal out damage while I'm keeping her distracted! I can't run and shoot at the same time! Anjali? Oh, she died.

I went over to resurrect her, but standing for a few seconds in the same spot turned out to be a really quick way to get killed. So now I'm back outside the building again, ready to start the fight again from phase one.

Look Rajani, I can't stop and shoot at you unless you stop shooting me for a moment. I'm trying to make this work, I've been rolling all over the place, but I need a chance to send some hurt your way occasionally or else this'll never end!

Actually screw it. I've been pretty much drifting through the game looking for an excuse to stop playing and I think I've found it. I don't care nearly enough about the plot or the characters to put the effort into beating this witch and I'm certainly not enjoying the combat.

So I'm done with it.


CONCLUSION

I can't say with certainty that Dungeon Siege III is a bad game, because it's by Obsidian and I've been conditioned to believe that they don't make bad games, but it's been hard work trying to find the fun in it. And I genuinely wanted to find reasons to like it, partly because it's gotten a bad rap. It's known as the Dungeon Siege that went wrong, the Obsidian game people didn't love, and I was hoping to prove that it's better than its reputation suggests.

But man I'm really tired of this playing this game.

The trouble I had with it is that chipping away at the enemies health bars is tedious and that's all you do in this game. Hit hit HIT, hit hit HIT for regular enemies, roll roll hit, roll roll roll roll roll roll roll roll roll roll hit for bosses. The combat felt utterly routine, the skills I got didn't do enough to mix things up, and most of the decisions I was making during gameplay involved choosing what direction I wanted to dodge roll.

Sure the earlier Dungeon Siege games had monotonous combat as well, but I'm starting to think that their comparatively hands-off gameplay wasn't entirely a bad thing. In Dungeon Siege II gameplay is about choosing your next target in the group of monsters, keeping an eye on your life and mana gauges and hitting the special move keys when the time was right, but Dungeon Siege III is far more hands on. The fights are just as dull as ever, but you can't tune it out any more as it demands your full attention for every punch and shot. You're fully immersed in the boredom instead of managing a team of bored warriors from above.

I can't really criticise the story though because I wasn't really paying attention to it after a point. The writing wasn't hilariously bad, it wasn't astoundingly good, it wasn't trying too hard to be witty, it wasn't going all ye olde English, it just conveyed information in an RPGly manner. I definitely wouldn't call it the game's strong point though as I had zero investment in anything going on, and that's strange for an Obsidian game.

In fact my favourite part of the game is probably the presentation. It has pretty menus and it's generally slicker than the last two games, as you'd expect considering that it came out six years later. I bet the music's fine too, but to be honest for the last few hours I had a podcast on instead to keep me entertained while dungeon crawling.

So I can't really recommend this game as the gameplay doesn't interest me, the story definitely doesn't interest me, and I'm not even that interested in dungeon crawling for loot because I know at the end of every dungeon there'll be another bloody boss fight waiting for me. I'm not even curious enough to look up if they beat Jeyne Kassynder at the end, because who cares?

I did look in my notes though to see if there was anything else I hadn't mentioned yet:
"Probably a lot better in co-op.
It's not buggy.
dull dull dull dull dull"
So there you go.


Thanks for reading that. Next time I'll be playing something a bit more retro: a SNES game based on a DOS game tie-in to a movie adaptation of an 80s comic inspired by classic black and white movie serials!

Leave a comment if you're in a comment leaving mood!

5 comments:

  1. The next game is The Rocketeer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really hated this one. Technicaly there's nothing wrong with it, but it's mind numbly boring. Like its predecessors. So i guess Obsidian did a spot on job of keeping with traditions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Are you going to eventualy do Space Siege as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I do, then it'll be VERY eventually.

      Delete

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