Jeremy Jastrzab
28 Feb, 2007

Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony Review

PSP Review | No mules this time.
If you are a PC gamer, there is a high chance that you are a fan of Americanised action-RPGs. And why not? There are plenty of different ones to go around, though after a while they might start feeling the same. One of the higher profile ones of the post-Diablo era, Dungeon Siege and Dungeon Siege II were never considered to be among the all-time greats but they were decent games with their own twists and followings. Strangely, the license has managed to find its way to the PSP. While the pickings on the PSP aren’t all that great, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony still needs to do something right for it to be considered.

Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony considerably resembles its PC forefathers but has been simplified a great deal. At the start of such RPG titles, you usually have the option of customising your own character. Unfortunately, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony foregoes this in favour of three preset characters. However, each of these three are vastly different from one another. They basically represent a magician, a warrior and a dark spy/thief-type character. Each character also gets a choice between two different familiars, who tag along to your journey but can be replaced later on.

In terms of story, the game sticks to the same universe as the rest of the Dungeon Siege games and a fairly basic “the world is going to hell” story that involves your character saving it. However, each of the three characters has slightly differing stories. That is, each will have their own back-story and motivations for saving the world. This is an interesting little twist that tries to add some replay value to an otherwise linear and standard progression.

Are we in the right alternate universe?

Are we in the right alternate universe?
In terms of gameplay, a lot of the depth and features that would’ve been commonplace on a PC have been simplified as well. Firstly, the game is divided up into a series of levels, towns and of course, dungeons. These are all accessed via an overworld, where the character roams around a zoomed out map of the land and is free from any harm. Once you enter a level or a dungeon, that’s when the fighting starts. This structure is much more suitable for a handheld title and helps speed up things a little, especially when you need to backtrack. Unfortunately, this also means that you encounter a fair few load times as well.

Combat is much simpler as well. You have a basic attack that is controlled by the X-button and it will be utilised for the majority of the game. You can then map a further six of the character’s special abilities using a combination of the R, Triangle and Circle buttons. The Square button is saved for context actions such as picking up loot, opening chests and entering/exiting areas. The d-pad can switch weapons and command your familiar and the L button is a shortcut for potions. You can learn and acquire new attacks and abilities as you play but the bottom line is that the combat remains very simple and facilitates a lot of button-mashing. Hack-and-slash RPG fans are sure to come to accept this but the game can wear thin as time passes.

The game is divided up into three acts and each of these acts consists of a series of side and story missions. The whole game would take most players around about 15 hours to complete, as most of the progression is fairly linear. Add to that, the fact that each character has a different story and you have the potential for a fairly lengthy experience. Even though each of the characters is noticeably different, so much so that each plays differently, the overall experience and progression will be almost identical for each. There is a multiplayer mode where players can go through co-op and it’s actually quite decent, if you’ve got someone to play against.

Plunder his worthless rear-end.

Plunder his worthless rear-end.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do a great job of guiding the player on their journeys. Often, you are left to search cluelessly for the next person who’ll give you an objective. Sometimes, you’ll wonder off through an area, only to come back to find your objective was to conquer that area. So, you have to go through it again. Later in the game, this becomes more of an issue, as you're often left to wander even longer. Furthermore, the objectives are very simple, so much so that you will need you to go to the location, collect/find/kill X and return, several times throughout the course of the game. Some twists would have been nice.

As simple as the game is, it’s actually fairly well suited to the portable format. The combat is solid and there is a decent adventure to be had. However, the simplicity has caused a few issues outside of potential wear and boredom. A couple of design flaws ensue, such as a limited inventory system. You can only carry a small amount of items. This would have been fine if when you found an item worth picking up, you didn’t have to go through a series of menus to first drop an item, then pick up the new one. Not only would this be a downer for item hoarders, it’s small issues like these that hold the game back from being the top hacker for the PSP.

Technically, the game is generally a solid effort but we cannot help but feel that a little more time in the cooker would have helped. There were reports of glitches where characters got stuck in the scenery forcing a restart but we never came across this. However, there were instances of 1-2 second pauses as we walked through levels and the menus were slow to respond. This is something that plagues a lot of PSP titles but at this time in the console’s lifecycle, developers should be finding ways to get around this. Still, you can save the game pretty much any time on the run.

Super happy fun purple wave attack... used on no one.

Super happy fun purple wave attack... used on no one.
Graphically, the game is obviously inferior to PC standards but in terms of PSP standards, it would have been much better if not for the nagging tech issues. In terms of the style, the game retains the Dungeon Siege style but the move to make the appearance more animated comes off nicely, especially during the animated cut scenes. However, the rest of the graphics come off as a mixed bag. While not as well detailed as they could be, most models are well animated and varied. The environments appear to be low detailed as well but fit in well, until there are more than three enemies on screen or you come across a river - the framerate takes some big hits once this happens.

The biggest surprise from the game comes from the sound department. The game’s soundtrack is comprised of well-orchestrated tracks that shine through over the powerful handheld hardware. It fits the mood and style of the series very well and above all, sounds great. Furthermore, the sound effects are all where they should be, with enemies being sliced and boxes cracking as they should and though there is limited voicing, the quality and delivery is quite good.

Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is a decent hack-and-slash RPG. Even though it’s much simpler and lacks the depth of its PC predecessor, it actually suits the handheld format. However, it’s some of the thoughtless design choices, the lack of good direction and tech issues that hold it back from standing out against, say Untold Legends. Given the lack of these kinds of titles on the PSP, it will suffice for the most part, but players are probably better off sticking to their PC counterparts.
The Score
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is another solid but somewhat middling RPG for the PSP.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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