Review by munkay

"Dungeons: check. Sieges: check. Thrones: check. Agony: none. Whatsoever."

ToA is the latest in the Dungeon Siege line of action RPG's. The basic gameplay is explained in the title: there are dungeons, and you go into them and beat up the inhabitants until you have ran out of space to carry their stuff, at which point you go to town, sell it all, and go back for another go. Along the way, you put points into various special abilities, equip yourself with ever more powerful magical artifacts, and probably defeat some ancient evil. It's a formula that has been using up people's spare time since almost the dawn of videogames.

Throne of Evil starts off with a choice of three character types: the physically powerful Morgrim, the athletic Serin, and the magic-user Allister, each with their own skill sets. While this is a small amount compared to most games of the genre, each character can change in class twice through the game, resulting in four different endgame paths for each one. Each class change adds skills to the character (Six for the first, three for the second), in addition to the fifteen that you get from your first class, resulting in a list 24 skills available eventually, depending on your class choices.

As is usual in games of this kind, every time you level up, you will earn attribute points (For your mundane Strength, Agility, Stamina, Willpower and Luck, which affect what equipment you can use and how much damage you can do with various types of attack) and skill points. Skill points are less scarce in this game than in some others: while you cannot unassign points, you do get lots of them, and when you reach the level that lets you use a new skill, you automatically get a point into it for free. By the end of the game, you'll have plenty of points for all the skills you like. Skills are limited to level 20, but by equipping items with bonuses to skill levels, they can reach level 30 maximum.

Each character also has an assistant, an NPC who will fight by your side. You begin with a choice of two, of which you can pick only one, but as you progress through the game, you will eventually meet four more - and if you're a Dungeon Siege veteran, then yes, the one you expect is here. Each minion provides a low-level effect just for being active, and they also possess skills that can be raised by paying a trainer in town.

In the actual game, everything is pretty straight forward. NPC's scattered around the world give you quests (Generally to go somewhere, and either find or kill something, then go back to them for a reward). Controls are pretty simple: you've got an analogue nub to move around with, X for a regular attack, and Square to use things and collect loot (Items: you get coins automatically when you run over them). The L shoulder button uses healing potions, and the dpad lets you toggle the minimap on/off, use potions and portal scrolls, switch between your ranged and melee weapon sets, and - for the mage - change the active element of your spells. The R button acts as a shift key of sorts - R and a face button uses one of your special skills (Giving you six slots for these, as you can also use Triangle and Circle on their own), and R and L together use a mana potion. R and a face button acts as a shortcut to various pages of your status screens, as does Select. Start allows you to save the game (Anywhere, although you will begin back at the entrance to the area you saved in).

Every area around the world is, of course, infested with various monsters, and various higher-level bosses as well. In each of the game's main areas, you are free to wander around at will, and take on the dungeons in any order: if you follow the quest path, then you should be going through them at the right pace and always at roughly the right level, but you can also charge straight into the hardest dungeon if you like, and you can make a lot of XP if you do and you can handle the monsters there. As expected, you'll find masses of magical artifacts that you can sell or keep depending on your own needs. Defeating bosses lets you proceed on to the next area, with new quest givers and somewhat new challenges. One particularly nice quirk is that, instead of just showing you the expected damage per hit, it also shows you your damage per second rating, so you can see if a weapon really is better than yours or not.

There is offline multiplayer, but sadly I don't know anyone else with the game. I believe it supports up to four players, each with their own NPC minion as well.

Graphically, yes. It is very pretty. All the monsters and spells and characters look very nice indeed, and the story is presented through comic-style short animated scenes. It does chug in a few of the later areas, however, but not unplayably so. Load times are slow, about 15-20 seconds when changing areas. There is voice acting, it is not as bad as some games still are. Sound is about average, and yes it does have the Dungeon Siege theme in it.

All of this together is a proven winning formula for games, and it comes together as well as ever here. The problem with the game, though, is that it's just too easy. It is incredibly simple to optimise a character for your fighting style: my Serin Sniper, for example, relies extensively on all of her passive skills (For extra damage and attack speed), and a buff giving her added elemental damage to every attack. While her defense ratings are terrible, that's fine because nothing survives long enough to hit her: it isn't a joke to say that the first batch of zombies in, say, Diablo 2, took longer to kill than this game's final boss. If you have any experience with games of this kind, you should easily be able to find a similar uberbuild for the other classes too.

So, there you have it: if you're looking for a good, solid, PSP dungeon crawler, Throne of Agony is far from the worst choice out there, but it's just not much of a challenge. It's more of a relaxing stroll. But if you're already played Marvel: Ultimate Alliance or X-Men Legends 2, this is basically your best alternative. Not worth full price, by any stretch, but if you can get it cheap then you would be a fool not to.

In summary:
+ Good character development system
+ Pretty
+ Solidly entertaining dungeon bashing
- No challenge
- A little short

I will give it a seven out of ten. It shows a lot of promise, and I hope there will be a sequel to fix it's faults, but as it stands it is merely a distraction between larger games.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/22/07

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