|System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Obsidian Entertainment|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: June 21, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by James Trujillo
It's been almost five years since Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games released a Dungeon Siege title. Sure, there was a small divergence with a different developer on the PSP, which received positive reviews overall, but it just wasn't the same. Now, with Taylor's guidance, Obsidian will take the helm and bring this beloved franchise back to its PC roots, while showing the consoles a little love too.
Fans of the original Dungeon Siege will be familiar with The Kingdom of Ehb and the 10th Legion. Dungeon Siege III returns to tell the story of how the 10th Legion fell, and why The Kingdom of Ehb crumbled against a revolt led by the charismatic Jeyne Kassynder. At the start of the game, almost thirty years have passed since the legionnaires were decimated, and the last surviving member sends out a call for Legion descendants to gather into northern Ehb. This is where our hands-on time with the game began.
During the demo, we were only allowed access to two of the four main characters: Lucas Montbarron and Anjali. Although each character is diverse they still hold a somewhat stereotypical class in role-playing game standards. Lucas seemed to be your average melee warrior class, while Anjali had a larger focus on her magical fire-based abilities. However, a closer look into their ability trees revealed a much broader scope in their tactics.
Each character will be able to execute nine abilities, in addition to their standard melee attacks. Since consoles are now in the mix, they have made everything easily accessible by appropriately mapping them to the top, left, and right face buttons. These abilities are grouped into sets of three, according to the appropriate battle stance you have taken with your character. Lucas, for example, can change quickly between using a two-handed sword, using a short sword with shield, or simply holding a defensive stance. This might give him a chance to carry out a devastating area attack, a quick blade dash, or simply regenerate his health at the expense of his focus meter.
Of course, it wouldn't be a role-playing game if you couldn't upgrade these abilities. After every level progression comma players will be granted proficiency points to hone their skills in two possible directions. These changes might be focused on either the offensive or defensive side, and you may invest only a total of five points within any given ability. In addition to abilities and proficiencies, there are also more passive bonuses in the form of talents. These upgrades can also be chosen at every level, and may improve things like critical hit chance, agility, or grant players a better chance to stun or knockdown opponents.
Also, much like previous Dungeon Siege games, there is a system in place that rewards a player for using abilities repeatedly. This grants mastery to your most commonly used abilities over time, which will unlock more powerful versions throughout the game. This will certainly come in handy when you need that extra boost against higher tiered enemies. However, your companions could also do the trick.
Any of the four playable characters can accompany you on your journey after they have joined your fellowship during the main campaign. Companions will then be controlled by the game apostrophe s AI, and will use abilities according to how you've handled their leveling. If Anjali is more adept at her acrobatic skills and you've boosted her melee damage, then she may use that more often against her foes than transforming into her fire-spirit form for magical attacks. Unfortunately, players are only allowed one companion at any given time, but there will be free swapping between party members when no enemies or negative status effects are present.
The combat seems simple at first glance, but it can be quite satisfying once you realize how deeply tactical it can be. Every melee attack has a three-combo setup before you reach your heavy attack on the last strike, and when you block, you can execute a dodging maneuver to get you out of tough situations. Now, throw in unique character abilities and their multitude of enhancements, and you'll have a blast butchering any enemy. Not to mention, it will look great doing it too.
Dungeon Siege III, even when in motion, looks gorgeous. There are many subtle details in the art design; things like cultural influence in character models and background environments, beautiful hand-painted textures, vivid effects, smooth animations, and, of course, incredible transitional areas where lighting, shadows, and color blend so well, it could make a grown, bearded man cry. All of this is possible thanks to Obsidian's new Onyx engine, which was built specifically for Dungeon Siege III.
After everything we saw during our time with the game, it's hard not to count down the days until the North American release on May 31st (May 27th in Europe). The thing that's got me most excited is the inclusion of local and online cooperative multiplayer. Everything was very hush-hush about the online side of things, but local co-op will feature a drop-in/drop-out capability, shared inventory, and, sorry folks, no split-screen. Normally, shared inventory might sound like a bad thing. However, items, with the exception of rings and amulets, are unique to each character.
There is still time to work out all the kinks, of which there weren't many: I did run into a small bug during my hands-on time where Lucas (as a companion) got stuck in a rock. Otherwise, if you're a fan of the Dungeon Siege series, or action role-playing games in general, then you'd be wise to take notice of this potential sleeper hit of 2011.
CCC Freelance Writer