Dungeon Siege III: Treasure of the Sun (PC, Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PS3)
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: October 26, 2011
MSRP: $9.99, 800 Microsoft Points
Given that Dungeon Siege III more or less made you run a linear line from locale to locale, Treasures of the Sun fits right in with its new Aranoi Desert environment. If you have already finished the game before, you can just load up the Endgame autosave and get to Aranoi from a new path on the Causeway Hub that would normally lead you to the Chapterhouse and the final battle. If you haven't finished it, you'll be able to access it via the same Causeway Hub after you regain control of the Grand Chapterhouse and complete the Spire levels.
You won't be able to just jump into the DLC from the start of the game and for good reason; it can be damn hard! The last time I played Dungeon Siege III was sometime in July and of course I had completely forgotten Reinhart's (my main) 3x3 array of abilities. Since the game was also still set on Hardcore from the campaign playthrough, suffice it to say that I died horrible at the hands of the most meager of skeletons that you first encounter on the Aranoi wasteland. After familiarizing yourself with the controls and remembering how to play Dungeon Siege III, though, it quickly becomes second nature again.
As DLC goes, Treasures of the Sun will give you plenty of meat to dive into. There's a good five hours or more worth of sieging dungeons in here -- at least if you listen to the conversations -- and as Dungeon Siege III goes it's actually rather good. The Aranoi Desert environment itself can be compared to one of the larger campaign areas in terms of scope, with plenty of sidequests, cave systems, temples and dungeons to crawl through.
The main game may not be one that is remembered fondly because of its story, but Treasures of the Sun offers a surprisingly much better story than you'd expect. Now that the goal is no longer to just go through the motions to gather allies against Jeyne Kassinder, there's somewhat of a lull in the storyline to allow you to explore other parts of the Dungeon Siege universe. In this case, it sheds some more light on the background of the Azunai religion and a lost temple where former Azunites have turned to heresy.
Some twists should offer some good fun for Dungeon Siege fans and there is plenty of lore to go around and to help you delve into the wider universe. Compared to the regular game with its snippets of unrelated information here and there, I found it refreshing to read so much lore focused on the single topic of the Agallan giants' adoption of the Azunite religion, what happened to Ehb's patron saint Hiram, and the subsequent heresy that has tainted Aranoi. Of course, if you ignore all of that there's still some plenty of the regular hack & slash experience to go around.
In Aranoi you'll come across three shrines that will each unlock a new ultimate ability. These powers will consume all your power orbs and the more orbs you have the stronger the effect will be. Hathra'unok's Embrace gives you an instant super heal, Xeria's Wrath gives you a large area-of-effect damage explosion, and Elisheva's Shield offers a very nice barrier for those harder fights. The caveat is that you can only wield one of these super powers at the same time, although you can swap them around at the Aranoi shrines as long as you have unlocked them.
However, these powers are activated by clicking and holding the thumbsticks, which can lead to some frustration. Since clicking the right thumbstick also changes the camera perspective on the controller, you'll find yourself changing the camera to its useless up-close position instead of giving you an instant heal when you are down to double digits of health. Because you can already heal yourself with every character anyway and most characters have some sort of protection ability as well, the area-of-attack ultimate is the one you'll want. Once fully powered by the five power orbs you can now wield, it can even wipe the floor with the majority of a boss form's health.
By the time you're in Aranoi, your character should be powerful enough to fill these power orbs quickly enough, so as long as you remember to use the ultimate ability it will make playing through the game on Hardcore a lot less frustrating in the later stages. Aranoi also provides you with a special shrine to respec all of your character's abilities and talents for 20,000 gold -- easily gathered within an hour -- which is an option that should've been in the main game in the first place, but it's still nice to have.
The final big addition Treasures of the Sun offers is Essences. An Essence is an item (it doesn't take up a slot in the inventory) that you can use to enchant any piece of equipment with one of five statistics; Chaos: Vampire (drain life), Doom (extra damage with critical hits), Retribution (counter damage), Stagger (stun on attack), and Warding (stun on being attacked). Larger foes will sometimes drop an Essence, but you can also randomly gain one by transmuting an expensive piece of equipment that contains one of these five statistics.
You can't overpower an item too much, as you can't enchant an item with a new Essence if that item already has six different kinds of other stats, but your main weapon will still benefit a lot from consistently adding the same types of Essences. However, adding an Essence will bankrupt you in no time due to the high cost of enchanting, so it's not likely to break the game in the areas before the DLC. I did encounter Essence drops in the final stage of the regular game, so it seems this system permeates all of Dungeon Siege III as long as you own the DLC.
This new Essence system makes it a bit more interesting to go through the entire game with a new character, and the option to respec when you reach Aranoi means you no longer have to be afraid you'll mess up your build for the end of the game. If you had trouble with the final boss, a side trip to Aranoi will provide you with enough XP to gain a few levels, with Level 35 now being the new level cap. Some new and super powerful legendary weapons you can find for each of your four characters are also certain to help you out in the late game -- especially if you enchant them with all your Essences.
If you didn't care much for Dungeon Siege III in the first place, Treasures of the Sun is not going to change your mind. It doesn't offer anything mind-blowing that magically turns Dungeon Siege III into a masterpiece. But if you thought it was great or even just alright game, this DLC offers a pretty neat package with additional features and some new powers to toy with. The story is far more interesting than anything Dungeon Siege III had to offer, even if most of it is easily overlooked in favor of just mashing those buttons. One choice at the end of the game hints at a larger impact beyond the storyline of Dungeon Siege III, which makes you wonder if Obsidian has plans for a future title that will be affected by this choice.
Treasures of the Sun is definitely one for the fans and it offers plenty of new content with its new locale, while simultaneously giving you a new reason to play through the full game again. If Dungeon Siege III was not quite Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance but similar enough for you to enjoy, then Treasures of the Sun is best compared to Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast; it's a well-shaped and mostly unrelated side-story that offers more of the same fun in a slightly tighter jacket.
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