Dungeon Siege III
Progress is a funny thing. It’s great obviously, but sometimes things that were pretty good just as they were get left behind by progress. Take the classic looting action-RPG, for example. It pretty much emerged in 1996 with Diablo and was perfected just four years later in Diablo II. From there, there was nowhere much else to go with the formula. Diablo’s creator Blizzard, of course, evolved it into World Of Warcraft.
But if anyone wants to make a game appealing to people that enjoyed Diablo, then it’s inevitable that it’s going to be a lot like Diablo. Blizzard’s own Diablo III we suspect, will be one such Diablo clone, albeit an excellent one, no doubt. And Dungeon Siege III, even with the fresh outlook of a new developer and publisher for the series, will be another.
But not a total clone you understand.
The Dungeon Siege series has tweaked the formula a little bit. The main difference is that where Diablo’s environments are mostly randomly generated, none of Dungeon Siege’s are. The advantage of random environments is that you don’t have to play through exactly the same dungeons each time you play, while the disadvantage is that the level design is inherently formulaic and samey. Dungeon Siege set out to address that particular chink in Diablo’s magical yet cracked armour by focussing on story-driven quests and distinct, carefully crafted environments, while sticking pretty close to Diablo’s random loot and character development systems.
The result was a couple of minor hits on the PC that hardly surpassed Diablo II, but certainly provided worthwhile alternatives to it. You get a bit more of a sense of involvement with a Dungeon Siege game – you aren’t just hacking and casting your way through one dense horde of identical enemies after another just to get to the next X on the map. It’s a bit like that, sure, but the enemies are less densely packed, the combat a little more tactical and the action broken up by a little puzzle here or a simple set-piece there.
That’s what Dungeon Siege and Dungeon Siege II were like and there are no major departures in Dungeon Siege III.
The biggest difference is that this is Dungeon Siege’s first time on a console and the formula has been adapted, although hardly revolutionised, to cater for this. Blinkered PC die-hards might try and argue that Dungeon Siege will have to dumb down to compensate for the fact that a joypad doesn’t have 16 function keys, but that’s obviously not true. It’s fundamentally an action game, so the bulk of it actually plays better with a pad, and while tinkering with your equipment and skills isn’t quite as intuitive without a mouse, Obsidian has created a pretty slick interface that keeps awkward fiddling around to a minimum.
The direct control afforded by a console platform – as opposed to the indirect control via mouse pointer in the PC games – has allowed Obsidian to make Dungeon Siege playable from a conventional, from behind, third-person perspective. This makes the action look better and more familiar to the uninitiated, but we found it more natural to stick with the most zoomed out camera option available.
It’s still more focussed on the action than it was in the PC games, but we soon got used to it and stopped worrying about what we were missing just off the edges of the screen.
But that’s about it as far as significant differences go. The combat system has been tweaked and improved so that there are now three tiers to it as opposed to two.
In Dungeon Siege II you have your basic attacks and spells on the one tier, then on the others you have your powers, which take a while to charge up then allow you to unleash a high damage attack on one enemy, or a big area-of-effect attack. In Dungeon Siege III there’s an intermediate tier of abilities that don’t take long to charge up, aren’t that powerful, but do add a bit of variety and tactical choice to proceedings. It’s not revolutionary though, it’s just good. And that’s Dungeon Siege III all over.