I know not if ye heard, but thar be a third siegin’ takin’ place soon. And ye can partake in a bit o’ it now!
Squeenix and Obsidian decided to take over the reins of Dungeon Siege from Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor (though Taylor still served as a development advisor), and the results show it. Now, considering Obsidian’s track record, you might be wary. Their products are consistently bug-ridden, but beneath the vermin typically lies a very, very good game. Fallout: New Vegas being a prime example, or even Neverwinter Nights 2. And Square Enix needs no introduction. Just thinking of the name brings to mind vast fantasy worlds with developed characters and beautiful environs. And all of this (well, most of it) can be found in the Dungeon Siege III demo.
OK, so in my 90 minutes of playing around with the demo I found no real game-stopping or even annoying bugs to speak of. Really, I just found a good ol’ fashioned hack n’ slash adventure with some interesting story elements that was pretty enjoyable for an hour and a half.
You begin by selecting one of two characters, either Lucas Montbaron or Anjali. With Lucas, you can expect the typical warrior tropes, using either a sword and shield or a two-handed blade setup. And with Anjali, you find a warrior-sorceress-fire-thing that uses either a human form (wielding a spear) or the elemental form, which throws fireballs. The other playable characters include Katarina, a gun-toting rogueish type, and Reinhart Manx, a wizardy type, but you’ll have to wait until release for them. I played through the game as both characters, and really the only thing that changes is the short vignette you receive immediately after choosing your character, and some dialogue throughout the demo. I hope for bigger changes in the full game!
The controls are kind of clunky on a PC keyboard. You hover over enemies and right click them to select them…except only when standing still. This tends to be a major problem when facing large numbers of enemies and you don’t have enough focus (mana, energy, what have you) to use an area of effect ability to give yourself a moment to select a new enemy. Right click is also your movement key on the PC, which makes it a little more frustrating when you don’t click directly on an enemy. I tended to just point myself in a direction and left-click (attack) until I hit something. WASD also serve as simply movement buttons, but honestly? I think you’d be better off playing with a controller. The game plays like it was designed around that, and you’d be better off just plugging in a 360 controller and dealing with it. It works, and it works well.
Graphically, the game is fairly impressive. Characters don’t have an extreme level of detail, but they are damn well designed. Environments are pretty too, though only a small cross-section of what will be in the full game was shown. Caverns, forests, and interiors can be seen, but nothing that blows your mind. The real detail is given to the player characters and the various armor and weapons you can equip on them, filled with shininess and attention. And of course, a majority of the female characters in the game (as has been commented by numerous media outlets so far) are quite well-endowed. So take that as you will.
Game play, however, is what you’re looking for in this type of title. Combat is fairly simple, left click until dead sort of stuff. But you obviously can’t get by on just that, so there are two basic offensive forms for your character to switch between, as well as the block/defensive form. While blocking, you gain access to different abilities, just as if you had switched forms, with each form having a maximum of three abilities (though only a maximum on two in the demo). From the demo, offensive forms are placed in either the melee or ranged, single or multiple target categories, and that will likely be the case with the two remaining characters that have yet to be seen. Enemies can generally be taken out in 5-6 basic strikes, or one hit of a special ability, with bosses being significantly more difficult (and fun).
I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed when I discovered how few abilities each character gets. There are only nine in total, and I would imagine that you will have access to all of them by the end of the game. Each one can be customized a bit, adding damage or defense in some way or another (generally a 10% boost for each point). And you also get generic, passive points that add to your basic damage or defense in some way. All well and good, but the big problem is that there are basically four different characters that will always be the same characters when it comes down to it. There are little to no variations, beyond slight statistical ones, and that is really a damn shame. But I was able to look past the lacking RPG options, and still enjoyed the short little hack n’ slash adventure Obsidian had crafted for me.
Overall, the demo gives a pretty decent taste of what the game will be, but certainly not enough. The story has barely begun, and I would like to know how Obsidian handles a very different sequel to this series with a new face.