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Aug 02, 11 at 11:19am ^My new DSIII review
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When it comes to gameplay, what you’re looking at here is something akin to Diablo or, more precisely, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. It’s all about the hacking, the slashing and the piles of loot. It’s a lot deeper then the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, but it lacks the totally open world of Sacred 2. Think more along the lines of Too Human, but with more ‘awesome’ and less ‘average’. The controls are solid and there is a LOT of loot to sort through.
The difficulty curve is pretty good, if a little on the hard side. I have seen some complaints from people having a hard time on ‘easy’, but I find that normal is a bit of a cake-walk. Hardcore is REALLY hard, and I get the feeling that it was balanced for the 4-player co-op. Going solo, even with an AI partner, escalates to rage inducing heights (I tried for 4-hours to overcome a boss – which I did, only to find the normal mobs after it were handing my butt to me).
There are a few interesting twists to the generic formula, so it’s worth checking out the online help. For example, in most games Will would dictate how much mana you have, whereas in Dungeon Siege it adjusts damage from magic.
Not only that, but in Dungeon Siege the main way to replenish your mana is to attack your foes. Each time your attack hits an enemy you get a portion of mana – just how much mana is dictated by a stat called Momentum. So a high Momentum means you could be firing off a ‘special’ ability every other attack. It’s an interesting change that means you have to stay in the action.
Speaking of new mechanics, when dealing or receiving damage you build up special ‘empowerment’ orbs. The orbs are required instead of mana to use any healing/defensive skill. That prevents you from just firing off those powerful skills willy-nilly, but the orb builds up quickly enough that you’re rarely left high and dry.
Besides powering the healing/buff spells, you can use orbs to cast improved versions of your normal skills – but only if you’ve earned the empowered version.
For example, if you use ‘Shield Bash’ a lot you’ll eventually unlock the ‘empowered’ version – basically the same thing, but with extra power and effects. That means that you have the option of using an orb (instead of mana) and unleashing a can of whip-ass. Later in the game you’ll be able to stockpile two or three orbs at once, but early in the game you’ll have to decide between launching a powerful attack or using a healing surge.
There are four characters in Dungeon Siege 3, all of which play very differently. Each character has nine combat abilities divided amongst three stances. The controls are much like the controls for Sacred 2 (or the controls from the abysmal Daggerdale XBLA game). By pressing a trigger you get a different set of abilities assigned to the face buttons - only in this game it also switches which ‘stance’ your character is using.
All four characters have a ‘Defensive’ stance (which allows blocking and rolling), and then two unique stances. The fighter has sword ‘n board and two-handed sword, the mage has magic and ‘techno-monk’, the gun-witch has Rifle and Duel Pistol, and the Archon has Spear-fighting and Fire Magic. Other then the fighter (generic as it’s possible to be) the other classes are a fascinating mixture.
As well as changing which skills are available, changing stance also changes your characters default attack, and may change your character’s stats. Overall the system works really well and makes the combat feel very dynamic.
The one downside is that since you don’t get to assign the abilities to the slots yourself it can be a little frustrating to find the specific ability you’re looking for until you’ve gotten used to the layout.
When it comes to building your character there are a few options. Each character has their nine abilities, and your choice is pretty much limited to choosing which order to unlock them in. You start with one unlocked for each stance and will unlock one more every three levels or so.
While that seems disappointingly limiting, the system is a bit deeper then that. Each level gets you one point that you can use to enhance one of two aspects from each of your unlocked abilities. For example, you might make your firewall cause more damage to enemies, or give it the ability to heal allies. You can alter each ability five times, so the same ability might be used in two very different ways depending on how you’ve configured it.
And then you also get one point per level to unlock and/or upgrade one of ten different perks or traits for your character. You can boost healing speed, add AoE to your basic attack, improve a specific skill, better the price you sell equipment for and so on.
In the end there is actually quite a bit of customisation on offer, but it’s really for tweaking and specialising your character, rather then giving you the ability to create radically different characters. It’s basically an old school class-based system. That’s okay, but don’t go in expecting the breadth of customisation you might find in something like Sacred.
It’s important to have a plan for your character, otherwise you’ll inevitably end up creating a character that is a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. It’s better to pick one aspect of your character and make all your choices with that in mind.
In another nice touch the limited edition comes with a micro-guide outlining two builds for each class.
Also good to see is that you can unlock the other three characters during the course of the game and can take one with you wherever you go. You can switch which character is accompanying you anytime you’re not in combat.
The other character will fight for you (obviously), but also offer their opinion during dialogue. There is a reputation system there and the character you have with you will be letting you know what they think of your choices. I’ve enjoyed seeing what comments my companion will come out with.
The characters that accompany you are fully customisable – you can assign their abilities and equip their gear, just like you do your own character. You can configure your ally to compliment your main character.
The story itself starts off about as bland as it’s possible to be, but it does pick up and takes more then a few interesting turns before the end. Later on in the game it even does the Bioware “pretend to be non-linear” trick by giving you a list of main quests and letting you choose which order you want to tackle them in. It’s a small thing, but it does help extend the illusion of freedom.
Even more interestingly Obsidian have taken the opportunity to add a bit of “Choice and Consequence” into the mix. The game asks you to make a few choices that not only effect your reputation with your companion, but can actually change the outcome of future events.
As well as the main quests, there are multiple side-quests. They are a great chance to explore the world a little and take the other path at the crossroads.
The isometric graphics are gorgeous, and the game is full of coloured lighting and textures that give the different areas a unique feel. The effect is lessened when zooming in for conversations, but you’ll be spending most of your time in the top-down view anyway.
The camera is pretty good, and while it’s gone a bit haywire on one occasion it generally does a decent job of keeping up with the action.
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Aug 02, 11 at 11:19am ^re: My new DSIII review
The whole thing is very well put together. It seems to add credence to Obsidian’s claim that buggyness of past products was due to the toolkits they had to use rather then their own coding. New Vegas was a disaster, but 80% of the bugs were issues that effected Fallout 3 and (in some cases) Oblivion too. No such worries in Dungeon Siege 3 - using the engine they developed it looks like they have made a fairly bug free game.
The one thing that is lacking is a ‘New Game +’ option. But I don’t think that it impacts replayability, as I’ll be keen to replay it to try out the different classes, see how the different characters respond to the same conversations and see the outcomes of different choices.
I guess my biggest gripe is that the game seems to get really good near the mid-way point. The maps are more open, the story gets really interesting, more of the setting’s uniqueness comes into play – it’s a shame that some people might give up before getting that far, because this game really does come into its own.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little disappointed at the current reviewing trend of reviews only giving Dungeon Siege 3 scores of 70-80…. But when you consider that the metacritic score for Diablo II, the king of the action-RPG genre, is only 88 – well, then 75 doesn’t seem so bad.
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Aug 13, 12 at 10:55pm ^re: My new DSIII review
Good review and I totally agree on your synopsis.
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