Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony PSP
Published by 2K Games
Developed by SuperVillain Studios
Release Date: Out Now
With the popularity of the Diablo games on the PC you might have thought that Diablo III would have arrived a few years after the release of the amazingly popular Diablo II. However the game never materialized and it's been almost seven years since Diablo II was released and there's still no sign of a third game being worked on, let alone released in the near future. Of course that huge gap has given other developers plenty of opportunity to establish their own hack n' slash RPG and there have been various attempts. We've had games such as Divine Divinity, Dungeon Lords, Titan Quest and also Dungeon Siege. One of the more enduring of these has been Dungeon Siege, which has since become a fully fledged series with not only a standalone expansion but also a sequel. Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony is the first game in the series to arrive on a handheld (or indeed any form of console) and it's actually quite good.
Set in the land of Aranna (although it's a completely different story from the PC games) Throne of Agony tells the tale of three strangers who are on a quest to reach the desolate northern wastelands. There's Allister the Battle Mage, Mogrim the Warlord and Serin the Shadow Stalker. Once you've picked one of the three characters to play as you'll also have to pick a companion. Each character has, initially, two possible companions. Picking Allister will give you a choice of either picking a Stone Golem or a Lap Dragon. Mogrim can have either a Shaelyn or Fire Elemental as a companion. Finally Serin has a choice of a Hooded Archer or War Hawk. The single player game offers around 20 hours of play and there's even a co-op multiplayer mod, although it only supports ad hoc play for two players.
I was actually surprised to find that SuperVillain Studios have actually managed to capture the feel of the PC Dungeon Siege games with Throne of Agony. Right from the beginning the game seemed to feel right, which is impressive given the limitations of the PSP. The combat feels pretty much like it does in the PC games with the game having the choice between two different forms of attack at any one time. There are some differences though. Between towns you'll move around on a world map. Some will like this and some will not because it makes travelling from location to locations very quick but this comes at the expense of being able to explore between locations. Still it does mean the story flows along at a rather nice pace and you never get the feeling that you're wandering around aimlessly. You can save anywhere you want to meaning you can play for as long or as little as you like, which is very important for a handheld game.
Some areas of the game could have been better. You can't create your own character and the only choice you get to make is which one of the three characters you play as. Your characters can't carry a great deal of items in their inventory and before you know it you'll be forced to leave a lot of stuff behind. Whilst the buttons are perfectly responsive during the main game this isn't the case when you going through the Character, Inventory, Abilities, Quests and Lore menus. Here you'll find the game rather sluggish and there's a definite lag between button presses and the action occurring. Load times can be a little on the long side too, although it's definitely nowhere near as bad as with some PSP games we've seen. The slow response time of the PSP screen also cause things to blur somewhat whilst you're roaming around. This is no fault of the game of course but it is another indication that the PSP screen just isn't good enough in some respects.
Graphically Throne of Agony actually looks quite good. The cutscenes are essentially a collection of still images but they look good and suit the mood of the game. The character models look and animate quite nicely. You never have too many enemies onscreen at once but even so the frame rate bears up quite nicely at all times. As we've already mentioned the load times can be quite long and on occasion you'll notice the game pause whilst the UMD is accessed although it's not as frequent as to ever become annoying. The general presentation of the game is rather pleasing and the menus are laid out in a well ordered fashion. The game even features day and night cycles, although this doesn't really have an impact on the game play. The general level design is simply OK. As we've already mentioned, between towns you'll move around on a world map that's reminiscent of those found in early console RPGs and this world map looks rather basic.
Throne of Agony isn't as deaf gamer friendly as it could have been. The game's cutscenes are not subtitled and whilst the game doesn't have the richest of storylines, it's still disappointing that deaf gamers will miss out on what's here. In-game dialogue is subtitled and you'll see a character portrait placed alongside the text and the speaker's name placed above the text. Whilst this is certainly an improvement it's worth mentioning that the text does not always match the speech even if the general gist of the conversation is the same. All quest information is shown in text and you can recall your quest information and journal notes etc., by pressing the select button. The mini-map shows the locations of nearby enemies and there are text descriptions for all items you'll find in the game.
The last action, hack n' slash RPG we played on the PSP was Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code and on the whole we quite enjoyed it. Whilst Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony does have its problems it's certainly our favourite game of its type on the PSP so far. It's not quite as good as the original Dungeon Siege that appeared on the PC but it's an enjoyable game, despite its problems, that definitely feels like a Dungeon Siege game. It's definitely worth a look if you want an enjoyable hack n' slash experience for the PSP.
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony has its fair share of problems but on the whole it manages to bring a good Dungeon Siege experience to PSP gamers. That said, it's a shame the storyline hadn't been better and also that the game doesn't allow you to create your own characters.