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4 Reviews

Dungeon Siege 3

They all come crawling back

The Tenth Legion are in a bit of a state. Betrayed and slandered by the public they served, and hunted across the Kingdom of Ehb by Jeyne Kassynder, the legionnaires are all but extinct - only scattered offspring survive. Luckily, this is a fantasy adventure, so the identity of your parents isn't just a matter of athletic genes and intelligence - it's a matter of skill trees and destiny. The four varied descendants of the Legion must team up, and battle together through the world's long corridors, discovering gold in unlikely places and ever more powerful weapons.

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So, that's how the story starts - no looming infinite darkness poised to strike, just a struggle to survive. It's a pleasant surprise not to be motivated by a vision of the apocalypse. You're just rising up against the woman who blames you for her dad's death, and has nurtured a three-decade long boner for wiping out everyone you know.

From the four characters on offer, it's important to choose one you enjoy playing as you'll be playing that character throughout the whole adventure, which is a shame. Your co-op partner can hop among the other three characters, and if you're playing alone, you can choose the identity of your AI companion. This wouldn't be so bad, but you have to manually level up the other characters - so you're investing all the time in their powers without feeling any direct benefit.

Combat is simpler to play than it is to explain: each character has two attack stances. You can switch instantly between these stances, at no cost, with a tap of the left bumper. In theory, this changes everything: your equipped weapon, your stats, and the attacks you have access to.

The magician Rheinhart has the most extreme example - in his Dynamic stance, his basic attack is a zero-range and pretty weak buzz of electricity. In his Entropy stance, the attack is a circular swipe of darkness that only connects with enemies who are over a certain distance away. There's a whole mid-range blind spot in his basic attacks.

However, using these attacks is the way you'll build focus, and focus is what you spend on special abilities. Dynamic stance powers include a lightning bolt, a mirror image of yourself who'll join the fight, and a constant beam of electricity that's extremely effective against machinery. Switch to Entropy Stance, and you can access traps and a large glyph that drains the health of enemies standing on it. Using these earns you power orbs - which can be spent on your third, defensive stance.

If it feels complicated, that's mainly because Dungeon Siege doesn't explain itself very well. Clues come from loading screen text, but you're left to work out or research what stats like 'Momentum' and 'Warding' actually mean. If you don't care, just follow this basic rule: you should be using an ability as soon as your focus bar is full. Otherwise it's all going to waste.

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The stance system works best with Anjali, where the transformation is extremely visual - her stances are Spear-Human and Fire-Chucking Demon. Rheinhart's transformation is subtle and counter-intuitive, meaning you'll have to check your character in the HUD to remember what stance you're in.

Combat is a good 75 per cent of what Dungeon Siege III is. And while it's not what anyone would call stylish or elegant, developing winning strategies with your character - especially in co-op - is part of the archaic fun. If you're playing alone, AI partners are unusually resilient, but if you die, they can be maddeningly slow to revive you - you'll frequently watch them stubbornly slog on until they die, too. If you enjoy screaming at AI, this is a real treat.

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