Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony


Review by · November 5, 2009

Taking a series from one platform to another can be a risky proposition. In this case, Dungeon Siege started on the PC and eventually moved to the PSP. Actually, the developers planned to take it to the Xbox, but that version got cancelled, and Throne of Agony was made instead. Something like that generally spells bad news, but the results this time around aren’t half bad, although they are a bit dated as of this review, three years after the game’s release.

Throne of Agony follows many years after the events of Dungeon Siege 2, although if you didn’t play that game, you won’t realize it. If you did, though, you’ll see quite a few callbacks, especially in the “lore” behind the game world. Interestingly, given the span of years between the games, they get some of the details wrong, just like we do in real life.

You play as one of three pre-made characters: a mage, a barbarian, or a rogue (who you can play as a melee or a ranged character). Each character has their own story, although they follow the same path to complete it. The story is very linear, although if you happen to check your quest log just before the very end, you’ll see that you have a choice of actions that gives you either a good or bad ending. Sadly, if you don’t happen to look at the quest log, the most likely outcome is that you’ll get the bad ending. Regardless of ending, the story is lackluster and oddly paced. The first act is quite long, the second act is noticeably shorter, and the third act consists almost entirely of the final boss battle. It’s not terrible, but I stopped paying attention long before the end. It just wasn’t compelling enough to keep my interest.

Having played Dungeon Siege on the PC, the gameplay feels very familiar on the PSP, and I really have to give the developers credit for that. It’s not identical, but it feels right. Throne of Agony is a hack & slash game, but it’s heavier on the RPG elements than more recent PSP games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Killing enemies earns you XP, and each time you level up, you get points to improve your stats and your skills. In addition to the points you assign, your stats go up by preset amounts that depend on which character you’re playing. Your mage will probably never have more strength than magic attack power, but you have the ability to really beef up your strong spots or to shore up weaknesses. New levels come fairly quickly through most of the game, but become very sporadic as you near the end, which is a bit frustrating.

Skills are not obtained through a tree – they are unlocked automatically as you level up, and you even get a free point in each skill. If you have skill-boosting equipment, this can give you a great chance to try out a skill without ever wasting a point. Unfortunately, I found it easy to move through the game without spending many of my skill points. In fact, I concentrated almost exclusively on passive skills and rarely cast spells except for one that imbued my weapon with elemental damage. That said, I unlocked a skill late in the game that gave a 10% chance to summon a minion when I killed an enemy with a skill, and that changed my playing style. I mention it mostly because I thought it was hilarious that the 10% chance even extended to smashing barrels for loot; I got more minions from barrels than I did from anyone who was actually attacking me. I played for several hours each as the barbarian and the rogue, and it appeared that the experience would be relatively similar in their cases.

The two other negatives that I really feel I need to mention are long load times – a common problem on the PSP – and that your followers are frequently useless. Throughout the game, various NPCs join your party, although only one of them can be with you at any time. They’re all designed for one support role or another, and I tended to stick with the healer. The problem is that they always seem to follow you, even if they’re intended to be a tank and keep you from getting nailed. Furthermore, since all enemy ranged attacks have area damage, if you have a healer with you, who is physically weak, she frequently stands too close to you and gets killed by the splash of ranged shots hitting you.

Enough griping, though. The game is fun, and that’s what really matters to me. The controls all make sense, and if an enemy is in the general direction of where you’re aiming when you swing/fire your weapon, the game automatically points you right at them. Hold down the attack button and you dish out slow, more powerful shots, or mash it for quicker (but lesser) damage. You can equip ranged and melee weapons simultaneously, and a button press is all it takes to switch between the two. Enemies respawn over time, which means you rarely run through long areas without anything to do. In addition, the game rewards thorough investigation of each area with secret spots and treasure chests, and we all know how crucial loot is to any hack & slash game.

Throne of Agony isn’t the prettiest game on the PSP, but it does look good. There is a wide range of enemies, although it doesn’t entirely avoid the perils of creating new enemies through pallet-swapping. The overworld is fully rendered, on which your character appears much larger than normal and place names float above the ground as though you were running on a map. I thought that part looked great. Weapons with elemental effects give off sparks/flames/etc. as appropriate, and any spells that you cast have nice effects. There were a few times where I ran into slowdown, and even a few times where the game crashed while trying to load a level, but I don’t remember these problems when I played the game on earlier firmware. Save before entering each new area (a good idea regardless) and you’ll be fine.

The game sounds OK as well, but there was nothing there that made me want to keep my headphones in all the time. You get standard fantasy music, clashing weapons and twanging bowstrings, with nothing to surprise. There’s some voice acting, mostly in the cut scenes (but no option for subtitles), although any NPC you talk to says a brief line related to the topic of their onscreen dialogue. They don’t say exactly what’s on the screen, except for a crazed homage to Gollum, who is obsessed with “fish bits.”

When all’s said and done, I can see why I played through this game once before, and why I never picked it up to play it again until now. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but there’s very little that’s special about it either. If you’re looking for a hack & slash game, you’ll like this more than some of the others on the PSP, but if you’re just getting into the genre on this platform, leave Throne of Agony until after you’ve played its betters.

Overall Score 76
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John Tucker

John Tucker

John officially retired from RPGFan as Managing Editor in 2017, but he still popped in from time to time with new reviews until Retirement II in late 2021. He finds just about everything interesting and spends most of his free time these days reading fiction, listening to podcasts, and coming up with new things to 3D print.