PSP gamers have been waiting eons for a great system-exclusive RPG. The Untold Legends series did a fair job of satisfying my hack and slash needs, but didn't bring anything new, inventive, or exciting to the table. Enter Dungeon Siege. This beloved RPG series has been considered one of the PC's best. While the original games were developed by Gas Powered Games, this PSP-exclusive sequel is taken care of by newbie team SuperVillian Studios. And unfortunately, it appears this team simply wasn't ready to handle such a large game: although many elements of the game are excellent, numerous bugs, general sluggishness, and a repetitive formula, make it just another game to pass the time.
The Basics, Done Right
Dungeon Siege handles the basics of a dungeon crawler very well. You begin the game with a choice between three very distinct characters, each with a focus on a different style of combat. As you progress through the game, you'll see that the customization options are quite plentiful, allowing you to have a character personalized to your playing style. Me? I prefer fast melee characters that can run in a battle, and then quickly escape (quick regeneration of health makes me a pretty tricky player to defeat!). Although you can't change the appearance of your avatar, you can assign very different movesets, and develop abilities that others may choose to ignore. It's very satisfying.
When the story begins, you'll be treated to a cutscene, and you'll find that all the dialog and events have been tweaked to reflect your character class. Although the core gameplay is identical for all the characters, it's a very immersive touch. There's voice acting for all the major dialog, making characters come to life even further. As you progress through the game, you'll find a very vast world to travel through, and slowly, as you complete your missions, you'll discover that this world has a ton of secrets, and will give you tons of gameplay time, at least 20 hours or more. The major points of the story are linear, but the order that you tackle missions is not, allowing you to completely miss certain quests. Completists will have a blast trying to unlock every single sequence.
Entering dungeons and other battle areas will reveal the incredible variety of enemies and equippable items there are in the game. It's actually somewhat overwhelming how many rings, cloaks, hats, shoes, and pieces of armor you'll find, all with very different benefits. It's nice that the developers reflect what equipment your character has on the in-game character model. In fact, the game features many visual niceties. Although not the prettiest game on the handheld, it certainly looks very good. With great visuals, great customization, great sound and an excellent orchestrated soundtrack, this game handles the basics very well.
The Unfortunate Flaws
With so much going right in Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony, one can't help but want to like this game. However, there are some crucial game-crippling flaws that prevent this from being the excellent game it deserves to be. Firstly, there are a few technical issues with the game that really hinder the experience. Firstly, it's the most common complaint for many PSP games: the load times. They are awful, and they are everywhere. The initial loading of the game takes way too much time, as the game must load the 2K games logo, and then load the game menu screen and then load the loading screen (I'm serious about this), and then finally, your game starts loading. Waiting for the game to start is even less fun than reading that previous sentence.
The load times extend into other areas as well, too. For example, calling up your map brings a 30 second delay that makes the feature undesirable. The convenient warp points that are scattered throughout the world no longer serve their purpose because of the wait you must endure to get the teleporting map to load. Even more frightful, there's a delay in accessing your menu, where the game's crucial gameplay mechanics occur. While the developers map important functions to the D-Pad, and the shoulder buttons, it still doesn't alleviate the sluggish feel that the game features.
There are other glitches in the game as well. For example, enemy AI can be exploited quite easily with projectile weapons. As long as you stay slightly beyond an enemy's field of vision, you can fire away at your enemies, as they stand still, waiting to die. Dying in the game produces another unfortunate glitch where the in-game HUD map disappears after death, and will not reappear without exiting the game entirely (using the HOME button). The framerate is very unstable, usually choking when the screen is crowded, but at random times as well. Overall, these glitches make for a game that feels unfinished.
But is it Fun?
Even with all the flaws the game features, Dungeon Siege is still a strangely enjoyable and addictive game. If you're into dungeon crawlers, then you'll most likely enjoy this game thoroughly. However, long play sessions will reveal the simplistic, repetitive, nature of the combat (which seems to be more of a problem of the genre than this game specifically). It's unfortunate that there's no Infrastructure mode to the game as human companionship through this world may have been quite pleasant. With twenty hours of gameplay and great customization options, this isn't necessarily a bad purchase. However, like Untold Legends, don't expect the game to do more than any other average dungeon crawler.
PSP Fanboy Score: 6.5