Dungeon Siege 3 preview
by Jeff Mattas, shacknews.com, May 26, 2011 1:20PM PDT
Dungeon Siege 3 is getting ready to bring its monster-hacking loot fest to consoles and PC in less than a month. Though I'd gotten my hands on the first couple of hours back in February, I recently revisited a near-final version for the Xbox 360 to see how Obsidian's return to the kingdom of Ehb is shaping up.
My earlier preview laid out the basic Dungeon Siege 3 design. It delivers solid, mission-based hack-and-slash gameplay, and rewards players with loot at every turn. In these respects, the game is very successful. In the first half-dozen hours of the campaign, I never felt as if I were fighting the same kind of enemy for too long, the environments (even the locations near the opening town) were visually varied, and I was popping into the menu every fifteen minutes or so to equip some better armor, weapons, and accessories.
Having already spent some time playing as Lucas (the warrior) and Anjali (the Archon), I began by trying out the characters I'd never seen before. Reinhart Manx is a mage that channels his power through an arcane gauntlet, and Katarina, who is a gun-wielding Lescanzi witch. Both are interesting additions to the playable roster, requiring slightly different play-styles. Katarina and Reinhart are much stronger at range, but do have serviceable close-range capabilities. As with the other characters, it's easy to see how some abilities might be more useful when combined during cooperative play, but I still found all of the characters to be perfectly capable choices for single-player adventuring.
I hold some misgivings about Dungeon Siege 3, however. During my first couple of hours, I found it incredibly difficult to get invested in the story. It's not that the dialog sequences, cinematics, and bits of text-based lore that you'll find aren't well written; they just seem a bit dry. Much of the information relayed (at least early-on) contains a wealth of detail about the world and its inhabitants, but, to me, much of it felt like exposition for its own sake. It got to the point where I became reluctant to ask characters for supplemental information, and found myself wanting to skip through the blocks of text that are presented when a new piece of lore is discovered.
Those already familiar with Dungeon Siege fiction may find it less of an issue, but I personally found that it took longer for me to get into the story than I'd have preferred. It's a little troubling, given the game's role-playing nature. That said, certain quests were more immediately engaging on an individual basis, like when I was asked to deliver a care package to a woman's husband, who I eventually found hanging upside down in a cave full of giant spiders. The dungeon for this sidequest was also unique, giving me the strong sense that even the game's optional missions aren't just throwaway quests.
As the screenshots show, Dungeon Siege 3 looks quite good during its action and exploration segments; however the cinematic close-up dialog sequences betray some flat textures and lighting. Character models in these segments aren't very expressive and behave rather woodenly, ultimately giving the sense that they aren't meant to be viewed from up close. The visual disparities between cinematic dialog segments and the game's primary isometric third-person perspective can be jarring. The game will serve up beautiful battlefield vistas one moment, and homely-looking close-ups, the next.
Presentational quibbles aside, killing monsters, looting, and upgrading--Dungeon Siege 3's meat and potatoes--are all handled well, with responsive controls and a good number of unique spells and abilities to play with. I had something of a tough time getting into the story, but the minute-to-minute gameplay and some fun scenarios have been compelling enough to carry the experience so far, and keep me looking forward to the June 21 release on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.