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Square-Enix’s newly acquired property, the Dungeon Siege series,
is getting an actual sequel this time around in the form of Dungeon Siege
III, an action-based RPG that returns to the classic dungeon crawler
gameplay with a vengeance. Indeed, as you navigate the shattered Kingdom of Ehb
in a quest to reassert control over the land, you’ll find that Obsidian
Entertainment has created a purer and more streamlined experience in terms of
interface as well as redirecting attention to the shifting tactical landscape that
has become the battlefield.
Dungeon Siege is generally not a plot-driven series, with more focus on the wholesale mass monster mashing through a myriad of caves and other cavernous areas. However, it seems that Obsidian (of Fallout: New Vegas fame) may have more plot than we bargained for. Obsidian Entertainment is a developer that earned recognition as a quality sequel generator (Neverwinter Nights 2, KOTOR 2) with special emphasis on deeper plots and character development.
Obsidian has so far released a short demo that introduces two characters that embody a melee type and ranged type fighter, respectively. A new tactic that has been implemented into gameplay is the use of stances; modes that are different for each character, but usually alternate between styles and movesets. So, for example, Lucas Montbarron is an upstanding knight that can alternate between a sword and shield for tanking duties, but can switch to a devastating two handed weapon to deal out damage. Anjali is a human mage that utilizes a staff, effective in close range encounters, but can switch stances to morph into a fire spirit, capable of throwing fireballs at range.
Beyond these changes, each character can be specialized with points allocating skills and strengths towards offensive abilities, defensive buffs, or healing duties. Players can customize their characters to support the method of combat they prefer; a mage character that prefers supporting melee players at close range can put points into a fire wave that damages enemies but also can be upgraded to heal allies in its radius.
There are several new features: One of these core features of Dungeon Siege is the ability for players to cooperatively play through the campaign and other maps as part of a single group, with two players per console or four players online. Players have the option to revive each other should one be killed, but doing so takes valuable time that could prove fatal. This plays into how loot is distributed, as loot is an important part of any dungeon crawler title. In Dungeon Siege it certainly is varied as loot drops from enemies or other sources; however it is collected into a communal pile for usually anyone to use. Some loot is unique, so negotiation must be factored in to properly assign gear. Group dynamics would eventually have to play a role, and I'm sure that is one of the primary drivers for enjoyment out of this game. Finally, the engine used is completely new and proprietary, allowing dozens of units onscreen with only minor framerate fluctuations.
Based on early reports, it appears that with Dungeon Siege under new management, RPG co-op gamers will be getting their Diablo-dose in spades. Obsidian Entertainment, with its reputation for revitalizing mediocre series, seems to be improving the framerate issues the earlier games had, along with innovations in party management. It remains to be called if the developer can really expand into a genre that it otherwise has minimal experience in, and still emerge with a cohesive, high-quality game. In any case, Dungeon Siege III is set to be released May 31 on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.