In true RPG style, the place was quiet, but combat clearly wasn’t going to be very far away. For starters, as soon as I showed up, I was met by a ridiculous looking girl called Katarina in an incredibly hardworking +2 Corset of Holding, who warned me of a nasty ambush just outside the town gates. Since ambushes in RPGs only ever mean “Yippee! More loot!”, that didn’t seem like a huge problem, but I figured heroic honour demanded at least chatting to the locals and doing their inevitable odd-jobs first. Needless to say, they had plenty – but the style was slightly unexpected. I was expecting quick and dirty mission briefings, like the ones most hack-and-slash games throw in to pad things out. Instead, the appearance of the dialogue wheel quickly reminded me that I was playing an Obsidian game, and that they like their talky bits.
Dungeon Siege III offers far, far more dialogue than most hack-and-slash games, with full conversations, optional subjects to chat about, and proper back-story. This is good. Most of it is clearly optional, but its presence hopefully means a bit more narrative weight behind the later hack and slashing, as well as a return of Obsidian staples like proper relationships with companion characters and maybe even some decent choices. I doubt we’ll see the villain of the piece delivering lectures on Hegelian dialetics like in New Vegas, but every little helps.
The most intriguing bit though came once I’d been given a mission, dutifully headed off to put my sword through its face and take its stuff, and returned. Now, in a game whose name is synonymous with ‘give me more stuff’, I had the option to… turn down a reward. How… odd.
Who knows, eh? It's certainly looking like a decent game, though. For one thing, Dungeon Siege III's driven by the team's own technology this time, with the all-new Onyx engine doing a very reasonable job of crafting shadowy caves with water trickling down the walls and sun-dappled forests where fireflies litter the afternoon air. Sword swings send out glitzy little flashes of light, crows erupt from trees when you pass, and while character models may not be over-burdened with charisma, the animation has a nice flourish and weight to it during combat, and the game manages to shove a decent number of enemies and particle effects on the screen at once without falling over when things get hectic.
To help curb potential living room fisticuffs, items and equipment you find during your travels are unique to the individual characters—meaning only one character may wear a particular pair of gloves or wield a specific staff. Inventory is also shared among the party members. Players may drop in and play and drop out when they're finished, with the computer retaking control of their discarded hero. In addition to co-op play, Obsidian is pouring a lot of effort into crafting a robust story. Creative writer Geroge Ziets, author of the moody Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer expansion, is penning this tale, with series' progenitor Chris Taylor serving as a project adviser. Be on the lookout for Dungeon Siege III this May.
In Dungeon Siege II you have your basic attacks and spells on the one tier, then on the others you have your powers, which take a while to charge up then allow you to unleash a high damage attack on one enemy, or a big area-of-effect attack. In Dungeon Siege III there’s an intermediate tier of abilities that don’t take long to charge up, aren’t that powerful, but do add a bit of variety and tactical choice to proceedings. It’s not revolutionary though, it’s just good. And that’s Dungeon Siege III all over.