The loot-heavy action RPG is back, and this time it’s taking a swing at the consoles; Dungeon Siege III is here. It’s the franchise's first outing under the joint banner of Square Enix and Obsidian, and a lot has changed, but not all for the good.
Dungeon Siege has never been story-heavy, and the series has historically used what story there has been as a framework on which to base the endless ‘go over here, now go over there’ quests. It’s not the purpose of the game, or at least it wasn’t in previous iterations. Unsurprisingly, though, story has been given more import now that Obsidian is at the helm, and it’s an instant mistake.
Maybe it’s because it’s not the sort of RPG that Obsidian is used to making, but the clash of a slow story and conversation-heavy structure with an action-and-loot RPG doesn't work unless it’s doing something special, which DS3 isn’t. Instead of charming or interesting characters, Dungeon Siege 3 instead contains generic fantasy tropes with nothing interesting to say and no facial animation to imply any sort of emotion.
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To worsen matters further, everyone speaks in a lifeless monotone about a story so very bland, dry and uninteresting that your brain translates it into nothing but white noise. ‘The village has been burnt down. You’re the her-bzzzzz pffff- former glory and sav-bmmmmmmm kchhhhhhh- before it’s too late!’”
It wouldn’t be so bad, but the conversations are regular and lengthy. There’s no drive behind the game, which means there’s little reason for players to find anything interesting in the mire of stereotypes. The brave hero, the old wise mage, the sidekick soldier or the plucky rogue - none of them go beyond the base, one-sentence character description. And even worse, 90 per cent of the women have the ridiculous kind of ‘beach wear’ armour that I really thought we were done with.
Nothing in the world itself is at all original either; it’s dry bits of Tolkien mixed with familiar quests from every RPG: ‘Go to X and save/find/activate someone/thing then come back.’ You’ll wade through countless low-level enemies, fight one or two mini bosses and then cap it off with a big boss at the end. This structure may be par for the genre, but most of Dungeon Siege 3’s competitors at least manage to sow some charisma into the world along the way. Here, the environments and objectives are so dull that you couldn’t cut hot butter with them. Even when there’s an easy opportunity to play with conventions and do something a little special, Dungeon Siege 3 still struggles to surpass the average.
Basically, there’s nothing in the world that you haven’t seen or experienced before - it's complete iteration and imitation without the merest tint of innovation or improvement. Whether you’re happy to put up with that or not is something that we can’t judge, but ‘Phoned in’ is a phrase that’s spun through our heads a lot as we played Dungeon Siege 3. More often than not it’s been accompanied by thoughts such as ‘this is quite boring’ too.
Meanwhile, the game's graphical presentation is best described as functional. Level detailing is enough to give environments a sense of place, but they aren’t detail heavy, and many textures look smeared, while others look blended into each other, even with the settings cranked up to the maximum. You could probably forgive this if there was any sense of scale, but you’re stuck to such tight corridors that nothing ever feels big. This isn’t helped by the extremely awkward camera angles either, which often need slow, manual rotation for you to see what’s going on. Even if you take control yourself, you’ll never be able to see a decent distance in front, and you’ll constantly get stuck on scenery.