Previews// Dungeon Siege III

Posted 28 Jan 2011 17:14 by
Obsidian Entertainment, we really should stop bumping into each other like this. First you pleased the Star Wars fanbase with Knights of the Old Republic II, then you moved on to the Neverwinter Nights fans, and just last year you were appeasing countless Fallout followers. Now I see you tackling the classic Dungeon Siege franchise as well? What will people say?

Fortunately, the Californian studio seems to understand the franchises it takes on rather well - so it?s the kind of fanbase-slut I approve of. For Dungeon Siege III Obsidian is taking some advice from series creator Chris Taylor to ensure that the fantasy action RPG retains the same magic as the original did in 2002. And from what I played, it?s quite addictive stuff.

This new adventure tells a tale of the 10th Legion, a band of warriors who look after the Kingdom of Ehb and keep it from harm. Unfortunately, at some point in time the king of the land cops it, leading to a civil war led by nasty bastard Jeyne Kassynder. She?s in cahoots with the Russian-sounding Lescanzi race and has plans to control the kingdom for her own ends.

I began my story as a beefy Guardian warrior called Lucas, called from the forest to rendezvous with Legion leader the Venerable Odo. He doesn?t look like the shape-shifting chap from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which is a shame because he?s in exile, his head wanted by Kassynder. Lucas stands as one of the few remaining Legionnaires ready to fight off the evil threat.

The brand new Onyx engine still needed a bit of performance tweaking in the pre-alpha state that I experienced the game in, but even then it ran quite nicely with little slowdown, especially when you?re in a bitchfight with around fifteen pirate-looking Lescanzi bandits. It also allowed for some fantastic detail and rather radiant colour palettes - exploring caves doesn?t have to be a dull and grey experience when you can highlight the rocky interior with vibrant dark blue lighting.

This will be the first time Dungeon Siege has appeared on a home console before, but if you were a bit of a PC nut a decade ago and are thus familiar with the series then you?ll feel right at home with the camera and various HUD panels. Clicking the right thumbstick will toggle between two viewpoints - an overhead wide shot overlooking a lot of the scenery around you, or a closer third-person perspective. Whichever you choose, you?ll still have the camera pointing towards the ground, allowing you to see your surroundings more clearly and plan a strategy.

As Lucas journeyed through a dark forest and into a burning building (not the brightest idea) he?s told that the rendezvous point had been made known to Kassynder. As Lucas can work things out himself (luckily he has Intelligence +5 or something) he realises that he?s in danger of being attacked by invading Lescanzi.

I don?t get far before facing my first gang of bad guys. Beating down your foes will reward you with green and blue orbs - for health and magic (Will) respectively. But while I was facing just a few grunts with swords and shields at first, soon I would be seeing gangs that included archers, sorcerers and even mutant fishmen. This is where the strategy comes in - the shoulder buttons allow you to dodge, block and cycle through fighting stances. I saw two stances in this preview, but each one gives you a different weapon combination.

Along with this, you can map special abilities to the face buttons to make your combat life a little bit easier - and many of these are stance-specific too. Using a sword and shield stance, I was quicker on the draw and could use an ability called Shield Bash, that will concuss opponents for a short time. With a two-handed weapon stance, I had to time my combos more accurately and was slower, but that could be countered with a Blade Dash ability that allowed me to cover ground quickly and cut through any enemies in the way.

More abilities will be unlocked for you as you level up. In fact, levelling up is pretty fun as you?re presented with three different power-up screens. The first will show you any core abilities you have unlocked, the second will allow you to spend points on additional skills to stack on top of those abilities, and the third lets you unleash general character perks.

There are also plenty of side-quests to accept and earn rewards from. You?re a Legionnaire after all, you have to look after the remaining populace of Ehb, surely. The missions I played ranged from going to a fishing lake to eradicate mutant? things, avenging a widow by killing her husband?s murderer and being coerced by Lescanzi defectors to rescue fellow prisoners. When the deed is done you can either ask for a monetary reward (dude?s gotta eat) or refuse any cash and get honour points instead. I wasn?t told what these will be used for, but they apparently become important later on in the story mode.

So, it?s looking like a faithful step forward for the Dungeon Siege series then. I was only able to play a segment of the single-player - just around the point where I was able to meet with Odo only to be told that fellow Legionnaires may be in hiding, waiting for the call to arms. Of course, Odo himself can?t do anything about it - he?s got a bad back or something. But it doesn?t have to be just you on your lonesome.

I?m told there?s a heavy multi-player element in Dungeon Siege III?s co-op functionality - this will be something I?m going to tackle soon. For now, another fanbase can rest easy tonight.

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