Some games are sadly lacking in numbers on the PSP, and on portable systems in general, along with FPS games and RPGs, Hack and slash games are surprisingly absent from Sony’s portable. This has always seemed rather odd, considering that they would be better suited to a hand-held pick up and play environment, than to a console one. Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony however is set to change that perception, as a sequel to the Dungeon Siege games previously on the PC, it already has a relatively large fan base.
The game style has been largely changed for the PSP, but fans of the original series will still see it as the natural progression the game required to be successfully put on a portable system. The main difference is that instead of simply clicking where you want your character to go, and allowing them to do the attacking, you now move with the d-pad and attack with the control buttons. The game certainly manages to keep its high quality of presentation the old games in the series had, which should make PC gamers feel right at home.
On start-up the player gets to make a choice between three characters; Allister the battle mage, Mogrim the Warlord and Serin the shadow Stalker, all three have different abilities and attributes which make them play entirely differently, adding to the re-play value of the game. Each also has their own separate reason for going on the quest. You also have to select a follower as well, these might seem pretty insignificant when picking them, and indeed I picked the one I liked the look of best, they can however help tremendously in a battle. Picking a magic follower will help out Mogrim, who himself is a strong large character.
The game features a lot of what is key to many RPG’s; customisation. Players collect points along the way to attribute to their character as they see fit. You can either build up the strength of that characters main characteristic, such as building up a mage’s strength, or branch out into other characteristics to have a well varied character. This adds a whole element of strategy to a game, which could have become repetitive if left simply to the hack and slash elements. It is most certainly true however that it would have been nice to have a selection of more than three main characters, or a method to customize the appearance of them more heavily.
Although the game does not have that immersive a story, it is not a bad one, and it is helpful that they implement a different one for all three characters. The story itself is presented in a cartoon slideshow, which has become a favourite of many developers for hand-held systems. It relies on cartoon pictures overdubbed with sound, and good voice acting. This is a nice clean way of presenting the story. This quality presentation is seen throughout the game, along with the menus and options screens, it gives a genuine quality to the game. The gameplay itself offers very little in terms of new gameplay mechanics that would suit the hack and slash genre, but what it does, it does very well. Enemies use a mixture of short range attacks, and melee close range ones, which means you can’t simply run around trying to avoid them, as they will eventually get you. The action is good fun; they have managed to vary it so fighting off hordes of enemies does not get repetitive. Of course magic spells and combos mapped to buttons also help to add variety to the gameplay.
The graphics themselves can’t be faulted. Character animations are very well presented and detailed, and the graphics of areas and NPC’s look crisp. Fans of the PC versions will not disappointed as effectively the game looks very similar to earlier iterations, the only change being that some of the textures are slightly more blunt than they appear on the PC. The soundtrack is also excellent for a hand-held system. Classically composed pieces are complemented perfectly by the addition of clean sound effects such as birds tweeting, and excellent voice acting.
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony does not offer anything particularly new to the genre; however it does successfully make it on a hand-held system, a task previously failed in the case of such games as ‘Untold Legends’. What we get emerging, is a twist on the old games, which would make their PC counterparts, and their fans, proud. Dungeon Siege: Thrown of Agony is one of the finest examples of its genre on the PSP system, it is a wholly fun experience, which manages to keep the hack and slash formula fun without being overly repetitive.