I love old school RPGs and can happily spend hours tinkering with character creation and other fiddly bits, but itâ€™s not everyoneâ€™s cup of tea. Three cheers, then, for Obsidian. The sequel kings have pulled out all the stops to mainstream the latest Dungeon Siege title, bringing its RPG goodness to the console-playing masses into the bargain.
Dungeon Siege III has been touted as an action RPG â€“ one which basically entails the use of simplified and streamlined (I definitely wouldnâ€™t say â€˜dumbed downâ€™) game mechanics, to improve the flow of play and make it more accessible to a wider audience. We get to revisit the kingdom of Ehb, this time as a descendant of the reknowned 10th Legion, which was obliterated by a nasty woman with a bad attitude and a chip on her shoulder. After the obligatory dramatic intro, you are offered a choice of four predetermined characters (although you can customise their abilities later), and youâ€™re launched into the business of saving the kingdom. Thereâ€™s no mucking about, which sets the tone â€“ and the pace for the rest of the game.
A bit of initial fumbling around with the controller ensues. To someone more accustomed to a mouse & keyboard interface, itâ€™s like trying to run in a pair of oversized hobnailed boots, with the laces tied together. Iâ€™m not a huge fan of the multi layered system for character and inventory menus â€“ especially when youâ€™re trying to manage several characters, but without a mouse thereâ€™s really no other option, and you do get used to itâ€¦ eventually.
When it comes to combat, the game becomes quite challenging early on in the piece. Some of the bosses are tough, and tactics tend to go out the window when youâ€™re surrounded by enemies. It soon became apparent that button mashing â€“ while initially effective, ainâ€™t gonna cut it later on. Itâ€™s good to see you still need some basic combat strategy to succeed. Dodging is no longer merely a passive ability; you can execute stylish forward rolls to evade enemy attacks, and take up a defensive stance to block incoming damage. Gone is the option to pause combat while you ponder party strategyâ€¦ but thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing for a game that aims to keep the adrenaline pumping while you slice and dice your way through the map.
I tried out all four characters, but ended up favouring the warrior. The other three have more flash, dash and panache, but when it comes to the crunch you canâ€™t beat a good tank! Each character can be tailored to suit your preferred playing style, by applying points to skills and proficiencies when leveling up (and you must do so on the spot; no hoarding the points for later). Character stats and skill trees are definitely more streamlined. Whether this is too restrictive for some of us remains to be seenâ€¦
Graphics on the whole are excellent, with lavish, beautiful environments and some subtle but stylish FX. Thereâ€™s a seamless transition between areas, too. Also seamless is the option to jump in and play (local) co-op multiplayer, with your chosen character taking over from an AI controlled one. The AI is pretty darn good, but you canâ€™t beat a fellow human being for camaraderie and entertainment value. One drawback of riding shotgun in someone elseâ€™s game, is that they control the camera, which can be a little disorienting and even nausea inducing. Sadly, I didnâ€™t get to test online multiplayer due to the ongoing PSN debacle.
At this stage, Dungeon Siege III is due for a mid June release. It will be interesting to compare the various nuances between the PC and console versionsâ€¦ and to see whether it manages to satisfy the appetites of RPG fans and mainstream gamers alike.