Dungeon Siege III Previews

It seems a whole bunch of game websites recently got to sit down for a bit of hands-on time with Dungeon Siege III, and the embargo has just been lifted for a flood of previews of Obsidian's action-RPG. Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
The most noticeable change though is that while this isn't the first Dungeon Siege on consoles (there was Throne of Agony on the PSP, which I've never played because I don't even want the smell of that thing in my house), Dungeon Siege III really, really borrows from the Xbox and PS3 arcade-RPG playbooks. Where the old ones were like Diablo, this feels closer to Fable.

The result is a completely different game or to be more exact, about four or five different games, thrown into a blender and pureed. From every other console hack-and-slash, we get the new camera and control systems now up close (with the option to pull back a bit) to better follow your hero as you mash buttons to swing your sword and unleash the fury. Talk to a character and the Mass Effect conversation wheel pops up. Facing multiple enemies? You can switch between multiple combat styles, just like The Witcher. Get lost? Fable's golden breadcrumb trail will point you in the right direction although unlike Fable, it only appears on command, so you shouldn't have that same sense of being dragged by the nose from encounter to encounter. Etc.

None of this was bad in itself. Really, it all seemed fine, I thought, as I picked up green health orbs and slammed my shield into enemies hard enough to leave an imprint of the crest on their ghosts. Still, it felt underwhelming. I wanted something new. Something. more.
Strategy Informer.
Since this is the first Dungeon Siege coming to home consoles the controls have also been re-imagined for use on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 pads. Obsidian's solution to cramming all your typical hot bar abilities on to a controller is a pretty elegant one. Each character has several combat stances, each with three unique abilities linked to them. Each stance can be toggled through with the press of a button, effectively enabling quick access to all of your available skills yet keeping them grouped in a common sense manner.

As an example of what we mean, the Guardian class featured two distinct stances. The more defensive one had him wielding a one handed sword and a shield, accompanied by an equally defensive shield bash ability which stunned enemies. His more offensive stance had him wield a more powerful double handed sword but lacked a shield for defence, which was linked to a suitably aggressive charging stab skill.
Oddly the game doesn't include some of the more standard practices of the genre. Dead enemies drop orbs, but in order to pick them up you have to take part in a multi-step process of walking over to them and clicking near each independent orb. There's a similar level of tedium when looting treasure: One click to open a chest and watch as treasure spills out around it; another few clicks to stand over each piece of trinket and then add it to your inventory.
Alongside the engine, Obsidian's also picking its battles fairly smartly, backing away from a punishing comparison to the likes of Diablo III with a camera that's pulled in and tipped forward slightly more or less so depending on which of three viewpoints you choose. Nobody's going to mistake this for the Gears of War over-the-shoulder look, but it frames the action in a way that makes it feel more like a fast-paced brawler than an all-out number cruncher.

A recent trip through a side-quest riddled village and boss encounter suggests it's going to be a very decent number cruncher, too, however. Every one of the game's fights seems to result in a nice showering of loot to pick through, and the menus make equipping new kit and discarding the old stuff a very simple business. Comparisons show up via bright green and red arrows on the inventory screen, giving you a handful of attributes to keep in mind while making each decision, and 10 minutes into the game you can already expect to have a few workable swords to choose between, each with their own benefits.
The next stance substituted our current armaments for a massive, two-handed broadsword and a dash ability that was handy for nabbing pesky ranged units behind enemy lines. Finally, a defensive block stance allowed us to--you guessed it--block hostile attacks while conferring the ability to regenerate health. As the barrels crumpled beneath our blade, a few home invaders took notice and attacked. We quickly switched to the sword-and-shield stance, which excelled at cutting down individual foes, while the slower-hitting broadsword caught multiple enemies in its wide arc.

With flames licking our ankles, we cut through the smoke to find Martin Guisgard, a fellow Legionnaire. A dash of exposition later, and we were assigned to seek out Odo, the man in change of organizing this failed event, at the chapter house in the woodlands of Rukkenvahl. However, the path there was littered with bandits and other malcontents. But the one good thing about bandits is that they're always loaded with loot. As we hacked our way from one villain to the next, color-coded treasures spilled out at our feet--some in the form of currency, others as weapons and armor.