Dungeon Siege 3 review: An Id's paradise

Freud tells us that humans cannot escape their id. At our most basic level, we desire nothing more than to satisfy our drive for pleasure. The id has no morals, it simply wants what it wants with no regard for the implications of the actions that could result. Whether that pleasure is derived through the gain of material goods or through schadenfreude (that's German for laughing when your buddy slams into a pole), all it wants to be satisfied.

Action RPGs exist for this very reason: They're engineered to satisfy your id. You slash and slice your way through thousands of enemies on your way to the loot at the end of the tunnel. You're overly powerful, unable to be taken down by armies of soldiers, spiders, or demons. You fulfill all sorts of power fantasies this way, and only fulfill more and more as your characters level up. So, really, Dungeon Siege 3's measure of success is whether or not it is capable of pleasing your id.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go ahead and ask my id how it enjoyed the dozen or so hours it spent in the Kingdom of Ehb. He's prone to mood swings and occasionally contradictory opinions, so hang with me.
Here goes. How you doing in there, buddy? Glad you could show up without me drinking large amounts of alcohol first. How's Ehb treating you?

I love it here, man! There's tons of dudes to kill, tons of treasure and armor and weapons to steal. People don't even get mad when I break all their stuff. It's awesome! They keep throwing thousands of enemies at me, and I keep taking them out! It's the best!

Do you have any issues with the game? How do you feel about the lackluster story? What little there is doesn't amount to much more than a basic revenge quest with no real choice in where your character will take the story. Don't you think that's a little bit of an outdated structure in a Western RPG?

Man, who cares? Instant gratification is what it's all about. Get a quest, go kill some demons, get their loot, come back, get some experience, and get more loot. Dungeon Siege 3 doesn't need any of this immersion business. Stuff, my friend, stuff!

Well, aren't there issues with the game that stop you from getting "stuff"? I couldn't help but notice little bubbles of rage seeping up and taking over the more reasonable parts of my brain whenever I wasn't in combat.

Well, for starters, the dialog trees are the worst. I don't care about all your problems, widow who's giving me a quest. All I want to know is how to get to where the bandit that killed your husband is so I can kill him and take all his gear.

But you get experience from those people! Have some respect.

Nope. We don't need every single bit of information about whatever little town we're in, but even if we did, the horrible voice acting makes it nearly unbearable to listen to. Even with that background info, the total lack of a map or real objective markers makes it awfully difficult to find my way to the loot. More often than not, more time was spent wandering around looking for the right path, than actual combat time.

It gets rather frustrating when, after wandering down a long path for a while, you get turned away by a monster that's far too tough for you to take down, or worse, finding out that you can't go down that path until later in the story. Sure, if you wait long enough a little glowing path will appear briefly, but why not give that to us from the start?"

The leveling system seems quite stripped down. Each of the four characters only has nine abilities to choose from, which are upgradable each level through one of two enhancement choices. On top of that, they've all got ten passive skills to upgrade as they progress. It's very streamlined and isn't for those looking to make each character their own through heavy amounts of min/maxing and stat manipulation.

I'm your id, dude. I don't like thinking about all that math or doing research on character builds or any of that garbage. I'm repeating myself, but I just wanna kill everything. Restricting your skill choices may be seen as a poor choice for more high-minded individuals, but when one simply wants to go out and use skills, eliminating the guesswork of more complex skill trees is the way to go. Learning to summon a fire wolf is bad ass, and Dungeon Siege 3 lets you do that, upgrade its health, and unleash it upon unsuspecting bandits without having to worry about getting a bunch of arbitrary prerequisite skills. There's very few things cooler than fire wolves.

So, basically, what you're saying is that regardless of the simplification of the leveling system, the questionable story, and the total lack of map, you had a good time?

I did -- until I tried the game's co-op component. Immediately, the camera, which was already hit-or-miss in the single player, pulled back to a really awkward spot, which made seeing where we were going pretty difficult. Not being able to see where we're going doesn't exactly help the already goofy pathfinding.

To make matters worse, other player's characters can't even come into our world! They simply have to take over a prefabricated AI companion, using all the stats that we bestowed on them. What's the point of having four-player co-op in an action RPG if you can't steal the loot from another player's world? It's an unforgivable offense which other games in the genre fixed years ago.

It sounds like my Id's enjoyment of the plentiful loot and monsters was matched by his dislike of the measures required to bring you to said loot and monsters. I couldn't agree more: If you're looking to satisfy the most primal of urges, you could do worse than Dungeon Siege 3. It's unapologetically simple, revels in throwing huge amounts of collectibles at the player, and lets you sift through the mess it creates. It's just a shame the co-op isn't better implemented -- without a compelling multiplayer component, Dungeon Siege 3 lags behind its role-playing competitors.

Don't forget to mention the fire wolves.

Oh, right. There are also totally rad fire wolves.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Dungeon Siege 3 provided by Square Enix.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.