Dungeon Siege III Previews

Four more Dungeon Siege III previews have popped up online from various websites invited to the Obsidian press event.  Joystiq.
Each character has three stances, two offensive stances and one defensive stance, which you can switch between at any moment. Anjali, for example, is a polearm wielding amazon in her first stance, and then bursts into a fire-wreathed floating caster in her second stance. Each stance has three abilities (mapped to the three face buttons on the controller), and each ability has two paths to put points into when you level. Anjali's caster stance, for example, has an area of effect attack which drops a ring of fire on the ground, hurting enemies within it, and you can either level that into "Firey Presence," which increases the fire damage, or "Cauterize" which heals allies in the same area.

On top of all that, each character also has proficiency points, which can boost passive traits like crit chance or even a heal-on-hit proc. This allows for a lot of customization: Lucas can go for crit in his two-hand stance and knock enemies down quickly, or boost Will in his sword-and-shield stance and heal, more like a paladin. There's more, too -- maxed out spells get "empowered," which change their attributes, and you can grow "influence" with other party members, which also changes the spells they cast. "We're still working on the tutorial pass at this point," says Taylor, who hopes that the combat still works even for those who just pick up and play the game, despite all of the complexity.
The transition from mouse-based point-and-click to console controllers (even the PC versions on display were hooked up to Xbox 360 gamepads) works very well, in practice. Each attack type is mapped to its own button, stances can be easily switched with the top-left shoulder button, and the camera is rotated using the right stick. Special abilities (and healing) are also easily used by pressing a combination of an attack with a trigger modifier. All in all, it's a natural fit that does a better job of placing players in the middle of the action. At the same time, strategic control of AI companions goes by the wayside. It's clear that some inspiration was taken from other console-based hack-and-slashers, like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. From a gameplay standpoint, Dungeon Siege 3 seems to have as much in common with BG:DA as it does with the previous Dungeon Siege entries.

Loot is still king in Dungeon Siege 3, and you'll constantly be picking up new goodies from chests and fallen enemies. Inventory management is quick and easy, though with the amount of treasure to be gathered, you may find yourself popping in and out of the menus (where gear is compared and equipped) more often than you'd like. That said, once inside your inventory screen, it's very easy to spot and select your best equipment (based on color coding and price).
Planet Xbox 360.
This also gave me a chance to explore how the game's dialogue trees work, which are somewhat limited in comparison to games like Alpha Protocol or Dragon Age, but it can still have an impact on how fellow characters view you over the course of your journey. In this one instance, I could take the meager man's money, or accept the drops as my reward and opt to turn down a reward. Exploring dialogue with various NPCs looks to be a worthwhile venture as a means of gaining side quests. If you feel the need to delve even deeper into the world, there is a grip of (lore) to find and read that fleshes out Ehb, its history as well as those who inhabit it. It's the kind of stuff that DS fans will no doubt gobble up. From similar games I've played in DS III's unique genre, I wasn't expecting much from the various locales. What I didn't expect was that in my three-hour block of time spent in the land of Ehb, is that I would be treated to such vastly varying environments. Each environment, including the village and the first dungeon was wonderfully articulate in design. Lighting seemed to be a key detail in each area, whether it was beneath the warm sun or in the blue-glow of a cave. As I noted earlier, the menus are extremely easy on the eyes, decorated in some wonderful stained-glass art. It was offsetting that the menus were so easily navigated, especially when I was diving in and out to check out newfound gear. An oft-soothing and occasionally rising soundtrack also compliments the presentation when everything hits the fan. Again, the cast and voice-overs were above my expectations for a game so focused on exploration and combat.
Game Revolution.
By the time I faced off with the witch, I had learned how to string together melee and magic attacks with ease. Being able to switch to a second form extends those combat strings even further. I kicked that witch's ass!

DS3 really sunk its hooks in me. I wanted so much more! I immediately started the game over after the preview finished to play again as the other character. After I finished that, there was time left, so I started it over again! It finds that action RPG sweet spot where the gameplay makes you ask what's around the next corner for hours on end. With a load of quests, multiple characters to play, and, you know, all those neat touches the art guys were talking about, Dungeon Siege 3 looks to be a massive time sink when it's released in May.