SQUARE-ENIX DUNGEON SIEGE III OBSIDIAN
The story begins some 30 years after the 10th Legion was defeated, virtually destroyed. You are one of the very few survivors and are looking for others who, like you are heroes who live to fight on. Despite the name, the first few hours of gameplay set you nowhere near an actual "dungeon" though the dark woods and dingy towns and villages are synonymous with the claustrophobic compounds of stone-walled confined corridors and evil-creature filled chambers.
The "you" in the story is one of the four characters available when you first begin:
Lucas Montbarron, a warrior in plate armour and with the heart of a lion (no, not literally). He is the son of the former Grand-Master and the last in the respected noble line and the character to select if you like the hard nosed fighter type with a chip on his shoulder and pure righteousness on his side.
Anjali - she is an Archon, a spirit of fire who once served the gods who are long gone and all but forgotten. She has the power of sweeping flame and thunderous earthquake-style ground pounding. She is also pretty decent with a spear too.
Reinhart Manx, a mage, possibly a techno-mage, and Katarina a Lesconzi witch, are the other two characters, neither of whom have I personally played yet. My problem is that I try one character to get the feel of the game, in this case Lucas, and then I swap characters, fully intending to go through the whole selection, and then I get deeply involved, solve puzzles, gain levels and begin to build the character I am using and then I really haven't the inclination to push myself to begin again with another character; so Anjali is currently the character I am most affiliated with .. for now!
There are three choices of play, Casual - for new players (easy - but don't think the adversaries are going to just lie down and die at your feet when you arrive on the scene); Normal - challenging (you are experienced at fantasy games and know your way around when it comes to building up your character with the points awarded to expand your abilities; and Hardcore - challenging and brutal (basically for nutters) - nothing the game throws at you is a surprise or a problem as you can handle it all or die trying - ready to rise again straight into the fray. As I needed to review the game I chose the best option to see as much of it as I could so I selected the Easy/Casual option, only to find that having 90 hit points, a spear and very little else, when you come up against one of the early main antagonists and his four buddies is nowhere near enough; luckily I remembered to save just down the path and can pop back in seconds, fully refreshed and ready to go again.
There are beacons of light, clearly shown as wings on your mini map, where you can SAVE your progression and it is worth taking advantage of these whenever you can.The good thing about SAVING at a beacon is that all of your lost hit points are restored and you begin again as fully healed. The bad thing is that when you SAVE you also reset what's in front of you, thus any enemies/mercenaries you met on the road prior to saving your game will be back again and ready to fight just as they did before. You can probably take them on and defeat them with a loss of only 10-20 hit points but then you need to heal and healing doesn't come in handy red flasks as it does in other fantasy adventure games. If you are lucky you might find a healing bubble during a fight but if you aren't quick enough to maneuver yourself so that you touch it and get its immediate charge the chances are it will have dissipated before the combat ends.
Combat often ends with you scurrying around to collect the mostly pitiful loot dropped by the now dead adversaries. A few coins in a pile is the main loot found, though pieces of armour and the odd weapon also drop. You can check how good they are compared to what you are equipped with by pressing the "F" button and opening your inventory (weird that F is for Inventory). All pieces of equipment, clothing or weapons can be examined when held and a reasonably detailed description of the abilities or powers of each is made clear. Other control Keys are "E" for Action WASD for camera angles, Right Mouse Button for Movement and Left Mouse Button for combat. You can smash barrels and boxes with your weapon (LHMB) and "E" on chests to open them. This isn't a game about grabbing lots of fun loot though, even if you can sell it in stores found in the villages and towns - I have always thought it amusing that villages and towns pillaged, raped and ravaged by mercenaries or whoever, still manages to maintain a well stocked weapons store. Despite your willingness to put your life on the line to save and rescue them they still want to charge you premium rate for every piece of equipment you need for the job ahead.
The characters are story driven with many NPCs available to either set mini quests and tasks or pass on reliable and useful information. The now regular "!" floats above anyone who has a quest for you and a Hand appears when something can be operated, opened, picked up etc.Coins are automatically collected as you move over them but items and equipment lay there waiting for you to press "E" and grab them. Main characters and adversaries have their name over their heads and characters in combat against you have a circle of life around them which changes from Green to Red/Dead as you hit them. I found that in the early fights it was best to run straight for anyone with a ranged attack and dispose of them first as they are likely to be the most weakly armoured yet the most painful as they can and do cause damage from a distance.
This is a game to return to on occasion. It didn't hold my attention as well as some games of this ilk do, but it didn't turn me off either. I haven't got too far into it as yet and believe I will have to start again because I am dying every time I try to combat one of the many named enemies and his crew. I can't think of anything I have missed but either I haven't built my character correctly with the awarded bonus construction points or I have missed out on something that I need to defeat five opponents in a single fight.Please note I am not criticising the game, only my own ability to get the best out of my character (at this point in time it is Anjali I am playing). If I get to this point (or similar) with another character and am still stuck then maybe I will think the game is at fault, but I really do think it is me who has failed the game rather than the game that has failed me.
As an action based fantasy game DUNGEON SIEGE III is okay, not particularly exciting or riveting but okay. It's strength lies in the fact that it is supported by a good storyline and characters that are part of the tale, not just some heroic figure who happens to have been passing or has been hired to clean up the town. Visually it is good and audibly it passes muster, reaching neither heights or lows in either. The onscreen map and character sheet are not intrusive and the question and answer style of intercourse between characters and NPCs is clear and concise, doing, as the man once said, "exactly what it says on the tin".
I cannot comment on its multi-player possibilities but I can imagine it being more enjoyable having someone to talk to and fight alongside. Whether the game ups the values and numbers of the enemies when you are in multi-player mode I don't know, hopefully not as some of the fights are tough enough as they are, and remember I am only playing the "easy" mode.
There is a button for download content which tends to suggest that there is more DUNGEON SIEGE III to be added at a later date. If there is I am pretty sure GGO will hear of it and you will find directions about any DLC on the news pages of the GGO website when they appear.