Dungeon Siege III Previews

Now that the embargo on co-op multiplayer details has passed, a significant number of new Dungeon Siege III previews made their way to the 'net this weekend.

PC Gamer:
At the core of it, Dungeon Siege 3 is about juggling two extremes. High damage or high defense. Long range or close range. Fight or flight, it's all about tradeoffs. The stances can be switched instantly at any point, letting you lay down healing flames in Anjela's fire form, before switching back to human and fending off some skeletons as they close in on you. After that, you swap back to your fire elemental and blast some long range casters. It's about managing the combat and reacting to it, rather than just pumping the same skills over and over again. This isn't the type of dungeon-crawling Diablo-alike where you smash the baddies with one hand and chug potions with the left.

Obsidian is also proud to tell people that same-console/screen co-op is included. Definitely a dying art, you and a friend can crawl your way through the adventure together (up to four on a PC or over Xbox Live/PSN) without such fads as the internet*. Obviously you're restricted to a certain play area one person can't just waddle off on their own but individuals who subscribe to this kind of layout will find it both comfortable and satisfying. Considering our last memory of doing this within the genre was Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and it's definitely an idea more developers should be keen to exploit and take on.

Co-Optimus (with a short Q&A included):
CO: Greg's hosting the game, and now you've joined in. Does everything stay in his game, or will anything carry back to your own game?

RT: Everything that happens in this game, in local co-op, is in his game. The quest states, the XP, and the items, all that is staying in his game. The target we're looking at, we looked at games like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, and other local co-op games like Lego Star Wars, something where players can jump in, play together. This is intended to be played with your friends, someone you're able to play the game with frequently.

Thanks to a difficulty level that automatically scales itself depending on whether or not you're playing with a human companion, Gunderic Manor is a rather more difficult proposition than the game's opening moments that we'd played prior to this. The '˜manor' is essentially a glorified dungeon complete with winding corridors, multiple floors (the newly implemented '˜mini-map' is very handy for navigation) and a near constant stream of enemies; including skeleton knights, oversized bats, spell-casting mages and a couple of boss fights.

The multiplayer experience feels less co-operative once we hit the narrative. This is multiplayer squeezed into what's essentially still a single-player game, with co-op partners functioning as guests within your game, rather than importing their own single-player character and experience. While group combat works well, Dungeon Siege III is very much designed to cater to one individual at a time, specifically because of a story that's driven by Mass Effect-style conversation wheels, morality decisions, and interactions with NPCs. Obsidian's solution is a voting system that lets the other player highlight the dialogue option they want to go for. It's a clever work-around, but it remains to be seen whether this stab at democracy will actually work.

Goozer Nation:
Dungeon Siege III offers single player action, two-player local co-op and up to four-players online. When you set up the multiplayer, one person will be the host and that person will make the ultimate decisions on how the game is played. This includes dialogue choices and what decisions are made, which effects how the game is played. However, your friends are not along simply for the ride. They will be able to influence the conversation choices by voting on which answers they want the host to pick. The host can then either go along with the votes or override their friends. Playing in this manner will unlock special co-op Achievements.

You can revive fallen comrades, Left 4 Dead style. If you both (or all) die, you'll be taken back to the last save point.

There are certain achievements and trophies that can only be unlocked in multiplayer mode.

As we progress deeper into the keep, enemies become more challenging and diverse, requiring constant dodging of spells and the exploitation of larger area attacks. When we reach our goal a glowing object that must be the artifact the ghost was talking about we find ourselves forced to make a decision. We can destroy the orb and save the daughter in purgatory, or be selfish and take the artifact for our own. Feeling generous, we destroy the artifact and set the woman free. Obsidian tells us that there are ramifications to both actions, and the outcome of ours is immediately apparent.

Accumulate enough experience by dispatching enemies and you'll level-up, gaining a Proficiency point in the process; these are spent on upgrading your special moves in one of two possible directions: Anjali's Aura of Immolation can be tweaked to heal party members within its radius for example, or simply upgraded to deal more damage to enemies. The former upgrade really showcases the co-op potential of the game, allowing you to lay down a healing area for Lucas as he hacks away at enemies on the front lines; this strategy proves particularly effective in dispatching the Manor's final boss, Lord Gunderic, who summons a horde of skeletal warriors to support him in battle. Later levels see you unlocking additional Proficiencies; there are eventually three for each stance, making for a total of 9 unique special moves per character.

Platform Nation:
One of the aspects I did find that were appealing was you don't play in split screen as you will have the whole screen to utilize as the camera will track you and it does a great job and kudos to Obsidian for making such a great feature that is actually functional. But with any camera tracking gameplay you will not be able to go ahead, which makes this not only a co-op game but this feature makes it a team game as you will be side by side facing your foes and progressing the games story.

Combat was quick and brutal and makes for a fun dungeon-slashing time. The game is jam-packed with loot and over 15,000 items. Side quests pull players in one direction or the other and there is a ton to do. In the middle of quests, you'll be presented with choices to kill certain characters, steal certain treasures, and generally make decisions to your liking. These choices will have consequences that reverberate through the rest of the experience.

Anjali's increased Will power in her spirit mode allows you to do some pretty nifty things in a pinch - the first of these being a '˜ring of fire' that can be cast to boost you and your friend's attack and defence stats for a short while. As you level up, you can choose to add the Fire of Immolation proficiency, which brings the power of burnination to your foes if they enter the circle.

While this is an Obsidian game, Dungeon Siege III does not get into Alpha Protocol or Fallout: New Vegas levels of reactivity with the story progression. But if you can imagine a Mass Effect 2-type of conversation interface with similar repercussions for progression, influence gains with characters, and awards, you'll have a good idea of what to expect. The previous games provided enough lore for Obsidian to build upon with its trademark storytelling, and given that my play session would've taken about a third longer if I hadn't skipped through most of the dialogue while reading the subtitles, there seems to be plenty of it.

And Blistered Thumbs:
Regardless of the control scheme used, however, the combat system itself for the game will be familiar for action RPG fans, with an emphasis on being able to rapidly change tactics with ease. Each of the four heroes you can chose to play as (only two of which were shown during the demo) has three stances they can take on during combat. One stance is for defensive or healing purposes, while the other two provide different offensive options. For example, the sword wielding Lucas has a stance where he holds his two handed great sword, making him able to sweep out and strike multiple enemies more easily, and another where he holds a long sword and shield, enabling him to more effectively damage a single enemy, while having a solid defense at the same time.