Dungeon Siege 3 - first look

As a franchise, Dungeon Siege has seen better days. Besides a fairly well-reviewed PSP spinoff, the PC-born RPG series has lain dormant since the second game hit in 2005. Oh yes, there was a %26ldquo;film%26rdquo; called In the Name of the King that emerged from the fetid orifice of one Dr. Uwe Boll, but we%26rsquo;re all better off trying to dis-remember that thing out of existence. So perhaps it comes as a bit of a surprise that Dungeon Siege is coming back %26ndash; and under Square-Enix, of all publishers, making this the company%26rsquo;s very first Western-styled RPG. That might make fans uneasy, but what we%26rsquo;ve seen and heard about Dungeon Siege 3 should help put any of your concerns to rest.

The crew behind the development of Dungeon Siege 3 is Obsidian Entertainment %26ndash; a team with a solid track record of titles like KotOR 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, and the recent Alpha Protocol (hey, everyone has an off day), as well as the upcoming Fallout: New Vegas. While original creator Chris Taylor himself isn%26rsquo;t engaged in the day-to-day development of the title, he has been in constant contact with Obsidian, giving valuable input on the game%26rsquo;s development.

There are plenty of new features this time around, too. For starters, Dungeon Siege 3 will be the first game in the series to hit home consoles (not counting the portable PSP spinoff), and will release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 day and date with the PC version. Multiplayer has also become a more prominent focus of the game, with easy drop-in/drop-out cooperative play that lets players join and leave a game with a simple button press. Story will be given additional emphasis, and branching conversation trees will be utilized for important dialogue exchange sequences.

Perhaps the most striking new feature was the one that showcased the game%26rsquo;s stunning graphics. You%26rsquo;ll be able to survey your surroundings more effectively by using vistas %26ndash; vantage points in areas that let you see far out into the distance, giving a better glimpse of the areas and goals that lie in wait. This has allowed the developers at Obsidian to remove the unsightly mini-map that mucks up the view in most Action RPGs from Dungeon Siege 3%26rsquo;s HUD. It might seem like a terrible design choice at first, but once you see the beautiful landscapes stretching before you from a vista point, we doubt you%26rsquo;ll miss that ugly thing.

Underneath everything, however, lies the awesome action/RPG gameplay that fans have come to know and love. Gameplay still emphasizes killing lots and lots of monsters and collecting piles and piles of awesome loot. During our demo, our Guardian class character was able to quickly change stances to handle his blade in different ways, making him a more effective opponent against certain situations: a one handed style for precise, single enemy combat and a two-handed form for sweeping, crowd control moves.

The Guardian is a melee-focused character, but other unique classes, such as the element-wielding Arcane, will also be playable. Each class is very distinct, down to individualized effects and animation for every possible activity they can perform. More variety has been added to the action-based gameplay, making the setups and button commands utilized in combat more akin to a typical action game than the oft-criticized %26ldquo;mash the A button%26rdquo; fighting seen in many games of this genre. Co-op mode adds additional depth by providing new ways to assist your partner: we saw a fallen warrior being aided back to health by his companion in a manner not unlike Left 4 Dead or Gears of War.

Dungeon Siege 3 is slated for release in early 2011, which begs the question: might the game%26rsquo;s release date pit it against the Diablo 3 juggernaut on the PC side? The two games fall into similar genres, and putting anything on the PC out against Diablo would be almost suicidal. But it%26rsquo;s not looking terribly likely %26ndash; with Blizzard%26rsquo;s track record of releasing games %26ldquo;when they%26rsquo;re done%26rdquo; rather than committing to solid dates, we suspect fans will have plenty of time to savor the beautiful sights of Dungeon Siege 3 before jumping headlong into Blizzard%26rsquo;s latest epic.

Jul 19, 2010