A well made but content lacking experience.
What the heck is DS3 ?
Dungeon Siege 3 can be technically classified as an Action RPG, but honestly that label is kind of too broad these days and can mean different things to different people. Lets get down to basics:
Take the hack’n’slash dungeon crawler like Diablo or Titan Quest.
Take a classic RPG like Never Winter Nights 2 or Dragon Age.
Dungeon Siege 3 is somewhere in the middle. It does not do what the above games do to the same depth as either geanre but does provide a decent mixture of the elements of both. What you have is a dungeon crawler experience that is not overly complex as Diablo 2 nor does it have the same amount of loot, but it does have an actual decent story with short dialogues and decisions/choices to make. The first thing that sprang to mind when I started playing this game was Silverfall (if any of you remember the title), well Dungeon Siege is pretty much exactly like that, except made for 2011 with way more spit and polish being overall a more pleasant experience. This isn’t exactly high praise as Silverafall was shall we say less then incredible. But hey if you liked Silverfall back in the day this is probably right up your alley.
There is a reason I am not comparing Dungeon Siege 3 to the earlier games of the franchise, namely Dungeon Siege 1 and 2. That’s because mechanically and presentation wise DS3 has almost nothing in common with the originals, BOOM. What is common is the basic premise of “yo it’s kind of a dungeon crawler “ the second common element is the setting and story. Dungeon Siege 3 picks up around 100-200 years after the end of the first game and there are many nods, names, references and general history lore that ties this game together to the main setting quite well.
You choose 1 of 4 characters each with their own styles of attacks and progression skills and abilities, the other 3 characters that you did not choose join you slowly over the course of the story and you can have 1 of them as an AI controlled companion at a time. The good part is that the 4 characters play quite differently from one another not just because they have different sets of abilities but because even their standard attacks function differently.
Each character has 2 main modes in each mode they have a different type of main attack and can use different skills (plus a defensive stance and skills) the some weapons and gear also switches between the 2 modes, this can range from basic stuff like the warrior dude using a 2 handed sword to a sword and shield to the “Amazonian” character straight up turning into a naked black lady with fire hair in the second mode. However each character’s individual character progression and set of skills feel limited compared to full on dungeon crawlers. The Warrior dude has an issue where some of his abilities feel straight up too similar to his other abilities (funnily enough he is probably the most OP character) I have completed the game twice with different characters and halfway with a third. The system where you choose how to upgrade your abilities looks cool at first but quickly boils down to deciding which of the 2 upgrade paths looks better and maxing that out (altho there are a few edge cases where mix and match might be beneficial). The skills system is alright but nothing to write home about.
The levelling and stats system ,might seem simplified at first but if one reads up a bit on the in game help tips available in the main menu there is quite a bit going on. I highly advise anyone who will pick this up to read these as they explain all the stats and effects in detail. Likewise the gear progression is there, functional and you can indeed try out different ways to equip your dude or dudette, it's not super deep, but relatively well done.
Dialogue is likewise not overly deep as this is not a full on RPG but compared to a more traditional dungeon crawler the dialogue system might as well be a revolution. Your choices do make a difference in several situations and the ending depends a lot on how you chose to handle the various situations throughout the game. There are plenty of grey areas where no one thing is clearly good or bad choice. The companion that you are traveling with currently will also sometimes chime in during the dialogues and depending on your choices might gain influence with you. You also get stat boosting perks for various actions or decisions throughout the world.
… are an issue. If you are the type of player that sticks with keyboard and mouse only, steer clear of DS3. The standard PC controls are unwieldy, with weird key binds and control choices. Seeing as how this has dungeon crawler roots this is VERY baffling as dungeon crawl controls have already been well done on PC many times over, there was really no reason to reinvent the wheel. This game has been made with a console controller in mind and it shows. Not only are the PC controls awkward but you cannot even rebind them, honestly for a PC release these days this is kind of shameful (even for a port). Plug in a gamepad to your PC and everything becomes instantly clear, easy to do and feels natural. So for the love of whatever deity if you will be playing this on PC use a gamepad. Playing with the gamepad is satisfactory, the characters control well, abilities are easy to execute, looting, dodging and blocking is alright.
Looks and sounds
On the PC at least the game looks quite good. The world is colourful and aesthetically pleasing, but not cartoonish. The areas where the action happens vary up nicely. The 4 playable characters however leave something to be desired, while the 2 females are slick and good looking the 2 dudes kinda look comical. Gear progression changes the characters appearance a bit over time, some more than others. From a technical point this is not a graphical wonder but neither is there anything bad about them, well done and serviceable overall.
The voice work is hit and miss with some being well done others a bit grating. There are a few choice lines in the game, mainly in the industrial city that might even make you chuckle. Otherwise sound design is well executed, nothing really stuck out as either lacking or bad or memorable in a good way.
As you might have heard from other sources the way multiplayer functions in Dungeon Siege 3 is questionable at best. You take control of the second character that is otherwise AI controlled and help out the main player, but get nothing from it in return. To further make it unappealing you will be stuck with the character levelling choices made by another player when you join in. I can’t go into the MP at great length having not experienced it myself properly. But if you are looking for a great MP experience this is not it. This however does not detract from a decent single player experience as the AI does a decent job of controlling the secondary party member, sometimes the AI does leave a bit to be desired but it mostly does alright, at least the game is balanced well enough that you don't feel the AI dragging you down.
Content and closing thoughts
So this is a serviceable and actually well put together product in my opinion, if you play with a gamepad and stick to single player. I would recommend this game if not for the elephant in the room. Dungeon Siege 3 is short on content. With a play-through on Normal difficulty that is somewhere between 10-15 hours this is just not enough, either looking at it as an RPG or as a dungeon crawler. With the short length, no newgame+ or any other content beyond the main campaign there really is just not enough here to justify a full price of $50-$60 depending on your platform. If I had to recommend this game and I want to recommend it, since it’s otherwise a pleasant experience, it would be to either rent it if you are on a console or wait for a price drop or Steam sale if you are on PC. Wait for $30 or under price tag and it will satisfy better.