Monday, July 25, 2011

Dungeon Siege III first impressions review

So what happened with Dungeon Siege's 1 and 2? Well they were PC based and I've never played them. Fortunately it appears this game is set after all of them and thus requires no knowledge of past events to play.

So far my over all impression of this game is that it's from the same stable as Sacred 2; oh dear.

The good news if that the major fault with that game doesn't crop up in this you can actually pause the game and it does pause. There's also a plethora of save points - so many in fact that it makes me wonder why it's not possible to just save at any time.

Picking a character is easier what with only four to chose from and zero ability to alter their statistics, but given the nature of role playing games such as this the information is a little sparse as to the differences between them.

The opening dialogue is atrocious and highlights its foreign origin - The 10th Legion (to which your character is affiliated) acted as peacekeepers in the Kingdom of Ehb. However when the old king died Jeyne Kassynder rallied the people against the 10th Legion. Then Jeyne Kassynder killed them all in a final battle before Jeyne Kassynder took over the kingdom. As a child you were hidden from Jeyne Kassynder, but now it appears that Jeyne Kassynder may have finally found you.

Yeah little matches a repeated full name to scream "Made in Japan". [Update - as per WalkerNo5's comment this was apparently made in the USA. Likewise finding and rewatching a video of the opening sequence it doesn't seem that bad; however it's still clunky and that clunkiness continues on to the character opening sequence and any dialogue that follows]

Sadly playing the game highlights many of the same faults as Sacred 2. The camera is essentially fixed directly above you hiding enemies from sight, but sadly not from their weaponry. The tutorial is almost non-existent and mostly consists of 'Read the entire manual' which is also the only way to discover what any of the attributes mean. I was playing for an hour before I discovered the dodge button by accident.

At times certain game play decision seem odd - for example gold, health, and 'focus' are collected automatically; however items require the action key to be used to collect them. Now on the surface this makes sense so that you don't clutter up your inventory with rubbish, but every item can be transmuted for cash from the inventory screen. It yields less money than selling it, but still it's money. So there's never a time when you don't want to collect items.

Despite reading the manual some aspects are still unclear. When levelling up you gain points, but there are three different kinds. The first type unlocks abilities, the second type allows any unlocked abilities to be enhanced and the third type enhances character abilities. And they all behave slightly differently.

Abilities just get unlocked, but enhancing them means choosing between two different aspects for each ability. As this can only be done five times it's important to pick the right combination of enhancements. Except one type seems to be 'evil' and fills the bar from the left, while the 'good' one fills it from the right. Does it make a difference if they are mixed and matched? I don't know as the game nor manual tell me.

Character abilities on the other hand are purchased in ranks - one point per rank in an ability X% chance per rank; much simpler.

Those are the bad points, are their any good ones? Well yes, kind of at least once it's understood how things work.

The basis of combat is the stance. Use one stance and it opens up the abilities associated with it. As there are only three for each available they're mapped to the three upper controller buttons. In the PS3's case square, triangle and circle. While in that stance; press that button for that ability. Change stance and another three appear. So for my current character in Rifle stance my first unlocked ability mapped to the first button (square) is Heartshot. Switch to dual wield stance and it becomes Curse; switch to defensive stance and it becomes Heal. When it works it's quite simple. The abilities are powered by a focus bar and if there's not enough focus for that ability it greys out. Add in that there's only one Fire button and combat is quite simple.

When it works. There seems to be little feedback when using abilities and as they seem to require the character to be standing still on occasion I've dodged, regained my feet, switched to defensive stance and hit Square, then got back to the fight only to find the ability hadn't activated.

On another plus side it's an open world - no loading times; on the downside it uses the normal streaming process of loading in the next area complete with enemies. So except for quest level baddies once you've completed a quest and need to return you'll be fighting exactly the same enemies as you did on the way in simply to get out again.

Another plus is the shopping; besides the problem with knowing whether a helmet with +2 Will offsets replacing it with a +1 Attack buying does allow easy comparison. Whenever an item is selected it states the overall type of item, which character it's for, and how it compares with the relevant item already equipped. Once you grasp what the terms mean it makes things much easier.

The map is a bit of a pain; again a case of inference or reading the manual. My particular character is represented by a gun; save points by feathers (?); quest givers by Exclamation marks (thank you World of Warcraft); and quest destinations by a blue disc. Sadly the map comes in only one type - mini-map, and only three flavours - off, zoomed in and zoomed out. This lack is countered by a guide trail, pressing up on the directional pad and a a trail of golden balls will show you the way. Would have been nice though if the game had bothered to tell me about it rather than me finding it by the expedient of mashing everything to see what it did. [Update - my bad the game does tell you about it, once and then never again.]

Menus amazingly for an RPG are simple and uncluttered. The main screen is tabbed, but will be rarely seen as the two main tabs Equip and Quests are mapped to two of the directional buttons - straight in, and straight out again. The only complication arises when you join with another character. Each screen only shows details for one character, but it's a simple button press to switch to another.

Ah yes the other character. They get their own abilities and equipment though you don't get to choose how they use them. So far the AI hasn't been bad. A slight touch of overdosing by using a massive damage ability on a weak enemy, but at least they haven't got stuck on any doors; at least not yet. Also although they can take damage there's no friendly fire, so it doesn't matter if they perform some massive blast next to you or just wander across your firing line.

So far it's not bad, just needed a better tutorial and for someone to re-write the opening narration.


walkerno5 said...

I don't think it was made in Japan though.... Square Enix own it now but I thought the series was actually a German thing.
Wiki tells me I'm wrong and it was made by Obsidian in the US!

FlipC said...

That makes it even worse. But hey judge for yourself