Dungeon Siege 3 places players in the role of one of four distinctly different characters. Each character is filled with their own back story as the role of a member of the 10th Legion. Players can choose to play as Lucas (melee), Katarina (ranged/guns), Anjali (magic/fighter), or Reinhart (magic). The story takes place long after the events of the first game in the kingdom of Ehb and 30 years after Jeyne Kassynder all but wiped out the Legionnaires who were the protectors of the kingdom.
Right from the get go you are introduced to a solid action/rpg experience. All the ingredients are there - XP, hit points, abilities to unlock, and plenty of loot with slick names to collect. Graphically the game is a standout - there’s continuous sweeping environments with huge draw distances, plenty of colors and effects, and solid fighting animations. There’s almost no visible loading while playing save for a few slight pauses or doors in your path. It really is quite impressive and there’s a good variety of environments to boot.
I played through most of the game as Katarina, she utilizes guns as her main weapons. Every player has two battle stances - one for close combat and one for ranged. This can be done on the fly and mid battle so you can quickly mix up strategies in the heat of combat. For the most part combat is satisfying and there’s plenty of little touches that give you some visceral feedback. For instance, one of Katarina’s abilities is called “Heart Shot” which aims a big rifle blast at an enemy’s chest with an increased chance for a critical hit - at times when finishing off an enemy with this attack they’ll go flying clear across the map as if hit by a cannonball.
Abilities, called proficiencies in the game, are divided into three categories - attack, buff and defense. On the console these correspond to your top three button buttons and an alternate set can be loaded by pulling the left trigger. Attack abilities are self-explanatory. Buffs can be a temporary spell or ability to improve your stats, or it could be something that hurts the stats of an enemy or area. Defensive abilities usually are some manner of healing.
The depth of Dungeon Siege 3 becomes apparent when you level up and start unlocking these abilities. While, by the end of the game you’ll unlock all 9 of your character’s abilities, you won’t however be able to master each one. Each ability has two bonuses that can have up to 6 points of proficiency applied to. So, if you want your Heart Shot ability to ricochet instead of causing damage over time, you’d put a point in that. During your next level up you could put it in the damage over time and now there’s a chance your ability will do both. Every single ability can be customized this way with a whole variety of modifiers at your disposal.
But wait...there’s more.
After your abilities there’s also passive skills you can pour points into as well - these include increased agility or attack modifiers, a deeper mana pool, and the ability to heal faster. Once again - there’s many, many skills here and you won’t be able to unlock them all (or fully upgrade them all) - so there’s a lot of customization going on.
The third and final piece of depth for your character is actually using the proficiencies. The more you use an ability, the more XP you earn in mastering it. Once you master it you unlock a more powerful alternate version of it that consumes a small special meter.
So far we’ve established the game has a solid story (with a horrible villain name - seriously try not to laugh when it’s said in cut-scenes), great graphics, fun combat and an incredibly deep character system. There are also some epic boss battles as well, some fun - others frustrating. But now, lets talk co-op.
Here’s where things get dicey for Dungeon Siege 3. The game has such potential to be a truly great co-op Action/RPG and it really does do some great things to streamline the co-op experience.
Let’s establish this now - unless you are the host you are a slave player. You are a mercenary without pay and short of earning achievements from the game, get no tangible goods out of the co-op experience. You are a mule.
This is the mule from Dungeon Siege 2. There's no mule in Dungeon Siege 3, but he's there in spirit...in your co-op partners.
If you play with consistent couch or online partners, this isn’t too big of a deal. The second (or third or fourth) player can still independently manage their character’s equipment, proficiencies and talents making that character their own. This is actually the first place the game creates a truly excellent co-op feature - when playing online co-op the game won’t pause while someone is managing their character or looking at equipment - instead the AI takes over for them so the rest of the group can keep playing. There’s even a “take a break” option like Left 4 Dead had so if Fido has to pee, you can let him out without yelling “hold on” over the mic. With four player online co-op this feature really streamlines the process and keeps the action moving. Sadly for couch co-op you’ll be taking turns looking at each other’s inventory screens.
The other tricky situation that Dungeon Siege 3 puts co-op players in has to do with the camera. Even in online co-op players are tied to the same screen, though each person has control of their own camera angle. This means player movement needs to be in sync, and with four players it feels similar to that carnival game where they tie two people’s legs together and force them to walk as one. In shared screen its not as big of a deal since there are only two players, but the camera does change a little bit.
So all those gripes aside, there’s still a lot of fun to be had in the game’s co-op play. I had no problem leaving my game open to the public and having people pop in and out to help me through quests. My game quickly filled with a full party of players on numerous occasions. Even the quest dialog is fun with four players as the game utilizes a voting like system as to what option is chosen in the dialog trees - you can see which players choose which dialog option.
Despite my quarrels with the game’s co-op mode, Dungeon Siege 3 is an excellent Action/RPG. It’s a departure from previous games in the series, but it’s not afraid to admit that - fans of the previous two games will enjoy the several donkey jokes located throughout the game. As long as you understand the co-op features of Dungeon Siege 3 before buying it, and are ok with that, you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of it.