Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Teen

Dungeon Siege III is the latest effort by America-based studio Obsidian Entertainment, and published under the SquareEnix umbrella. Obsidian is no stranger to being passed the reins to a popular franchise when the original developer is ready to move on. Dungeon Siege III joins the developer’s portfolio alongside games such as Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, and Fallout: New Vegas. All sequels to wildly popular games originally designed by others, and all met with a fair amount of success at both the critical and retail levels. Whether DSIII continues this trend has yet to be decided.

Dungeon Siege III plays like most action-RPG dungeon crawlers a la Torchlight, Titanquest, or any one of dozens of other “Diablo clones.” Enemies come at you, you do your best to whittle their health bars down to nothing, you collect loot. DSIII does add a layer of depth in the combat by giving each character two different fighting styles. For instance, if you’re playing as the fighter Lucas, in one fighting stance you use a two-handed weapon to thin herds of enemies and to push them away from you. When down to a more manageable number of foes, it’s best to switch to your sword and shield stance, making it easier to focus your damage on a single baddy at a time. Similarly, Reinhart’s two styles alternate between ranged attacks and close combat. The need to pay attention to the situation in order to maximize your damage and likelihood of survival is what keeps the game from devolving into a simple button masher.

In fact, combat seems to be the only real engaging part of the game. The RPG elements present are all pretty dumbed down. While there are skills to develop, there are only nine for each player. Three attack skills for each fighting stance, and another three passive skills triggered while blocking. You won’t need to bust out the slide-rule to maximize your DPS on this one. At the same time though, you won’t be able to fully develop everything in a single play through, so be sure to put your points into the things you use most often.

The loot is similarly simplistic. With the exception of rings and amulets, each piece of equipment can only be used by one of the characters, making it easy to decipher who gets what. Once you navigate the archaic menu system to figure out what each of the different ‘chaos’ stats means, it’s easy to figure out what’s an upgrade for you and what’s not. The real shame is that the loot table just seems to lack any real pizazz. There weren’t many drops during my time with the game that made my head turn, much less bother to open a menu and equip it right away. Even my first rare item seemed like just another minor upgrade in a string of minor upgrades.

If you count story as an RPG element, it’s been dumbed down as well. In this latest journey through the kingdom of Ehb, we find the land torn by a long and bloody coup. Jeyne Kassynder blames the 10th Legion, officers who have maintained peace in Ehb for centuries, for the death of her father the king. After three decades of bloodshed she has very nearly succeeded in eliminating the remaining legionnaires and the few others loyal to the rightful Queen Roslyn. As the player you will take control of one of four warriors, each with their own ties to the Legion, on a quest to avenge your fallen brethren.

Unfortunately, and I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, but that last paragraph is about as interesting as the story gets. The plot ultimately comes off as generic, and the presentation doesn’t make it any better. The voice acting is mediocre, and the NPC dialog trees are boring at best. I get it, your town is named Stonebridge because it has a really long stone bridge. How original. Actually, it was about this time that I started skipping the dialog altogether. Something that I (as a general rule) rarely do. Amazingly enough, the game actually was better for it. In fact, the couch co-op feature allowed me and a friend to while away a few hours shooting the breeze and killing bad guys, merrily skipping all dialog along the way, blissfully ignorant of the reasons why those giant spiders had to die. It was only after our umpteenth quest when we had run out of things to talk about, that we realized how much time had passed. Despite the obvious flaws, we had to admit there was some quality to the game if it had managed to divert our attention for that long.

So yes, Dungeon Siege III is a good game, in the same way that vanilla ice cream is good ice cream. If they had bothered to add some nuts and sprinkles it could have been something special. Still, if you like couch co-op games, or are just looking to let time pass while you kill man-sized spiders, Dungeon Siege III might just be the game you’re looking for.