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Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
System requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1, Windows 7; Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz; 1.5 GB RAM; Radeon HD 3870 or GeForce 9800 GT; DirectX 9.0c; 4 GB HDD/SSD space
Genre: Hack-n-Slash RPG
Release date: Available now
Before I begin talking about Dungeon Siege III, I want to mention two things that are directly related to my review. First and foremost, I am not really a fan of the hack-n-slash RPG genre. I liked Diablo because it was fresh and novel, but found Diablo II to be tedious and unpleasant. Nox was pretty cool, but the original Dungeon Siege was clearly not my type of game. The second thing I want to disclose is that I am really not a fan of Obsidian Entertainment. I believe KotOR 2 to be an unfinished mess, and Neverwinter Nights 2 is one of my least favorite games of all time. I haven’t played their other games, but believed every bad thing I heard about them. In fact I used to use the studio’s name as a synonym for “terrible developer.”
I bet some PR person is reading this and having a minor heart attack, but there’s no need to worry. It looks like after all these years I will finally have to find myself another developer to make fun of. Dungeon Siege III is a complicated work and for that alone it deserves a solid measure of respect. It is most certainly not for everyone, and even those of us who end up liking it will have quite a few complaints. Those who dislike it, however, will find a lot of admirable traits if they are at all honest with themselves. A game like this means (at least to me) that a lot of right things are happening with the developer, and while I am not ready to become a fan or anything of the sort, one thing is for certain – I will now take Obsidian seriously and wait for their next game with curiosity and expectations of reasonable quality.
The gameplay is quite simple. All you do is run around and click on monsters until they are dead. Every now and again you’ll use a special ability to make them dead a little faster, but in all honesty, unless you spent the last 15 years in deep space, you already know how to play this game. There are four character classes, which give you some variety, but it’s the garden variety of variety. The warrior fights up close, the gunner fights from afar, and the two magic users are only marginally different. Each character has three stances and three skills per stance, and each skill can be either made stronger or enhanced with a supplemental effect as you level up. There are also talents, which give you permanent bonuses after you select them; deeds, which similarly give you bonuses, but in exchange for making certain storyline choices, and an ability to make any of the skills extra powerful during a single use.
There is also, of course, an abundance of loot with all manner of stats, and a number of additional ways to tweak your characters. The items you acquire will also often have strange and obscure bonuses. Chances are you will be infinitely confused by the differences of your gear. Is 15 Agility better than 57 Doom? Who knows? Fortunately this doesn’t really matter for so long as you keep replacing pieces of gear with more expensive ones. Price is not always an accurate gauge, but it works for the most part. Frankly, I was a little surprised that a hack-n-slash RPG (a genre renowned for its obsession with loot) didn’t go crazy in this department. There are not gems, no enchantments and no sets to complete. To me this was just as well, because I don’t play for the loot and don’t like spending much time on it, but those who loved this aspect of the original might be unhappy.
What surprised me the most about Dungeon Siege III is that the plot wasn’t half-bad. I expected something atrocious, but instead was treated to a generic but competently executed story. Writing can be an art, but it can also be a craft and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would say that a simple, non-pretentious craftsman who creates reliable, well made things is usually better than an artist wannabe, who tries to reach for the stars but falls on his rear more often than not. Granted, there is no Hugo Award anywhere in there, but even though I am the type to roll my eyes and make dismissive noises when it comes to writing in games – this time around I don’t feel the desire to bash the plot or the characters. The lore that is expressed though dialogue, cut scenes, books, notes and object descriptions is both interesting, and non-punishing to those who never played the previous two games in the series. Humor is rare, subtle and never a failure, which is unusual and commendable. It also helps that the overwhelming majority of the voice acting is genuinely well done.
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