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Dungeon Siege III
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
What Dungeon Siege III lacks in standout features it makes up for with solid, enjoyable gameplay. Nothing will stick out in your mind, yet it is something you'll want to see through to the end and, just maybe, replay with a friend.

I shouldn't say nothing sticks out; Dungeon Siege III's visuals are incredibly good. Details are everywhere, ensuring there is always something new and cool to see. There are a few minor issues - characters looking lifeless during conversation sequences is the big one - though they seem inconsequential next to smaller effects like fire, which actually looks like it belongs in the environment thanks to a small bit of detailing at the base.

Dungeon Siege III does a great job at placing you in a variety of environments. There are the requisite forests and crypts, though you'll also go through a neat mine lined with crystals, a haunted mansion and a snowy peak beset by cannon fire.

It is a shame the camera can be finicky. For most of the game, it is not a problem. You have full control over the angle and amount of zoom. Every now and again it will inexplicably tilt, pan and zoom. Presumably, this is supposed to give you a better view of the action, but it is usually unplayable. Worse, you usually can't escape the bad angle without first blindly fighting your way through an enemy or two.

Audio treads the balance between great and good. Voicework is just okay, though the sound effects and soundtrack make up for any shortcomings. There are, however, a few glitches that pop up. Audio cut out once or twice during a game and I'm pretty sure it failed to load once.

Dungeon Siege III places a greater emphasis on story than past games in the series. It is enjoyable and enough to keep you from giving up on some of the lengthier and more involved quests/ dungeons. Still, expect to check your Quest Log whenever you decide to jump back into a game. It is great, but far from memorable.

The main quest line follows four heroes - Anjali, Lucas, Reinhart and Katarina - who are charged with reviving the 10th Legion, who are being hunted as part of a grand coup being lead by Jeyne Kassynder. Each of the four heroes has their own back-story and intro, though all follow the same sequence of events. The story is linear, though there are a few chances to influence the story's outcome based on your responses. Some choices impact the ending, while others influence your relationship with party members. Some choice is nice, but like most of Dungeon Siege III, the end consequences of your choices are unremarkable.

In single-player games, you're allowed one companion from the remaining three characters. Up to four players can participate in dungeon attacks, though Dungeon Siege III is best played with two players. With four players, some areas are a tight fit. With two players you get the extra firepower, but without the claustrophobia.

There are a few issues with Dungeon Siege III's multiplayer that may cause issues with some players. You can't carry characters between single and multiplayer games. If someone joins an in-progress game, they join in as one of your characters rather than their own. It's like going to a friend's house and playing with their toys. You'll have fun, but there isn't much of a connection, which hurts when much of the game is based around upgrading your character to fit your play style.

Best advice: Save often. Dungeon Siege III isn't incredibly tough, though it still puts up a good fight. Enemy A.I. is dull, but makes up for its lack of smarts with numbers. If you aren't careful, you will be overwhelmed in some battles, especially towards the end of the game. Even small groups can seem larger since everyone goes for you, completely ignoring your ally. This will lead to a couple of unnecessary deaths, though it is something you can use to your advantage.

There's an unstated tactical mechanic running through Dungeon Siege III. Battles are mostly of the hack n' slash variety, but you'll have to know when to use your abilities and, more importantly, how to pair your abilities with your ally. I ended up pairing Katarina, a ranged fighter, with Anjalt, a mid-range fighter with an incredibly handy healing ability. Every character can heal (so no potion chugging when you're in trouble), but Anjalt's worked well with Katarina's powerful rifle. There are a few more combinations, so experiment.

Allies can revive each other in battle, which will come in handy during some boss fights. Though the system seems open for abuse, it is surprisingly well-balanced.

Game Mechanics:
The closest Dungeon Siege III comes to carving out its own niche is the upgrade system. You'll learn nine skills that are upgraded each time you level. Each has two types of upgrades associated with it, which break down to either building a more defensive or offensive character. It's a cool system, especially since it forces you to think about how you want to play. Some upgrades are specific; some are based around using a lot of blocks and dodges, while others are tied to heavy use of certain skills. It's a great system, though I thought some of the abilities could have been better explained in the menus.

The lack of explanation also has a negative impact on loot collection. Dungeon Siege III packs in loads of equipment and items, ranging from common to extremely rare. If you're a loot whore, this is your game. The issue is the statistics associated with each. It is hard to tell how each stat influences your overall character stats. Each is shown in relation to the equipment, not your character - or at least that's how it looks on the equipment screen. Some items carry vague stats as well, like "Doom." You'll figure a few out, but again, it is hard to tell how some relate to your character's stats. I ended up equipping the most expensive stuff, figuring that meant it was better.

The control system will throw some players for a loop; though once you understand the flow, it's a really handy system. Characters have two combat stances, toggled with the (L1) button. Each stance has different benefits. For example, Katarina switches between a long-range rifle and shotgun/ pistol combo. Each stance has three abilities attached, which you can only use while in a stance. This leads to confusion, and really, even when you figure it out, it makes little sense, especially when so much of the game's strategy relies on piling up abilities on enemies. I would have preferred the option to assign powers to shortcuts. It's easier and makes sense.

Dungeon Siege III does little to separate itself from other games in its genre. It lacks Torchlight's quick-fix playability and Diablo's style. Yet, it is still a solid, well-made game. I had a fun with Dungeon Siege III, which is all you really need.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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