Bugs. That's what's unfortunately defined Obsidian's titles of late, with blokes' heads spinning 360 degrees in Fallout: New Vegas and save files corrupting left, right and centre in ill-fated Alpha Protocol. But it still knows the elements to make a good RPG - and Dungeon Siege 3's saving grace is co-op.
Every game is better in co-op. Because nothing spices up a digital world like a jerk. A jerk who spoils the moment when the story gets too emotional. A jerk who scoffs up all the loot. A jerk who dances around your fainted body, refusing to cast a healing spell. AI? AI's just too... polite.
So it's no surprise Dungeon Siege III works best with pals. Alone it's a merry hack-and-slash; well written enough to hold one person's attention and rammed with juicy experimental loot (vampiric shotguns, anyone?).
Only the gormless AI companion holds you back, refusing to employ the awesome magics you so carefully levelled up for them.
Adding a local player to the battle injects the moronic aide with some smarts. They can snipe as you pummel the enemy or conjure flames to cauterise your wounds. Developer Obsidian's ability tree champions individual taste - focusing on adding perks to nine foundation moves - so it takes an individual to appreciate them. On the downside, this TV ain't big enough for the both of us, and the camera can struggle to frame two players at times.
The move to consoles means that Obsidian has had to move away from the traditional dungeon-crawling approach of the previous games - click on an enemy's head until it dies - and so this is very much more an action-orientated affair. So, you'll have dodge rolls, and can flip instantly between three combat stances here.
For Lucas Montbarren, the game's Warrior-class hero, those stances are the single-handed weapon and shield, a damage-dealing two-handed weapon, and a healing stance for when you need to lick your wounds.
Although he's built for up-close damage, he'll develop special powers that let him deal with the different enemies. Shield Bash stuns a nearby foe, letting him Dash Attack half-way across the screen to take out an archer, before popping back over to kill the first guy, just as he becomes unstunned.
Other heroes have different ways of playing, which means they're also on the lookout for different kinds of loot. So if you play Lucas while your mate plays magic-user Anjali, you won't be squabbling over the contents of a chest.
Combat is an athletic affair. You'd better make friends with the evasive dodge or your teeth will soon make friends with the cold, hard floor - or lodged in a boss character's fist.
And Dungeon Siege knows its way around a boss fight. That way just happens to be "run for your life!" Big monsters owe more to action games than RPGs; these brutes don't politely wait for a turn to come around, they come at you fast and furious. Identifying attack patterns and timing dodges is as important as keeping an eye on the stats.
But again it's all far less painless with friends; what can be gruelling wars of attrition in single- player become easier with pals. It's like a particularly stabby game of piggy in the middle.
Four-player online play offers the complete picture. Not just in the camera sense - one TV to yourself - but in bringing all four character classes together.
The roles - noble knight, sultry gun nut, fire-flinger and trap tinkerer - complement each other perfectly. If you want to master the mechanics, struggle through alone. Want to feel like a badass? Sound the friendship horn!
Alas, no matter how many friends you corral you still can't escape Obsidian's trademark: the bugs. Graphically stable for the developer - Fallout: New Vegas filled our entire 'I-Spy Glitches' book - Dungeon Siege still chugs during frantic battles. And the game loves a frantic battle. The targeting also sucks, aiming your epic dark magic at a poxy house spider when a 20-foot-tall demon stands besides it.
Our main quibble is that there's not much variety here: a whole lot of sieging in a whole lot of dungeons. If you've fought tooth-and-nail through one dungeon, you've fought tooth-and-nail through them all.
Take a break. Go brush those teeth. Get a pedicure. Reconvene in a day's time and get bored afresh. Oh, and invite the three biggest jerks you know. You'll thank us for it.
This pleasant, if samey, stuff really benefits from the human touch. The more the merrier!
- Fun co-op
- Lots of loot
- Balanced character classes
- Confusing camera
- Not enough variety
- More bugs