Obsidian's Dungeon Siege sequel rebuffs the series with improved combat and character customization.
There is nothing unexpected about Obsidian Entertainment making an RPG sequel within another developer's franchise (Gas Powered Games). However, this time Obsidian are working within a new engine and making a hack-n-slash where story takes a backseat. Despite the developer not playing to its strengths, Dungeon Siege III is a promising dungeon crawl that sets itself apart from contemporaries, such as Torchlight and Sacred 2.
E3 isn't the ideal place to explore a lengthy RPG, so I'm not going to pretend that I fully understood the story. Regardless, I had a lot of fun with the game's combat which is surprisingly versatile. The game gives you two combat stances and a defensive stance to switch between during fights.
The controls felt great and never got in the way of juggling between long-distance magic against enemies and short-range combat. I appreciated the focus on fewer, powerful enemies rather than hordes of weak ones - it went a long way in complimenting the combat system. It's hard to comment on how deep the combat will become as you unlock abilities, but the introductory options offer a lot more than the single-button spamming of similar titles.
The customization and leveling in Dungeon Siege III contains many routes presented in an accessible way, recalling straight-forward action titles (think God of War) rather than an RPG. None of the complexity you expect of the series seems to be sacrificed, however. As you level up you can broaden your play style with Talents, Proficiencies and Abilities. Talents are buffs that increase your health, stun rate and other combat traits. You receive a bonus for maxing out a talent, which makes it a tough call to spread the points across multiple talents.
Abilities are special moves that can be mapped to a button. Playing as Anjali, I had immediate access to a damaging circle of fire ability that swiftly knocked out enemies when positioned to my advantage. Proficiencies modify and add extra damage to your abilities, as you level up. Even two players with the same character will have many options to keep their version of Anjali unique.
As much fun as I had with the game's combat, I found the world to be uninspired. Dungeon Seige never had the most unique setting, but even a makeover in art direction could help this sequel stand-out. The UI also could have done a better job of conveying information. Finding missions and navigating through the many pages of the character screen were problematic.
A breadcrumb trail does exist, but I expect a more informative mini-map for those who chose to play without the trail. Otherwise, the game sticks to what has worked before in console hack-n-slashes. I only played the Xbox 360 version, so I can't say if the same is true of its PC counterpart.
Although the final-build was being shown on the show floor, I haven't learned anymore about Dungeon Siege III's world and characters. That being said, all I want out of a dungeon hack-n-slash is a good combat and leveling system paired with a steady stream of loot. Obsidian's latest delivers on that note.
Exploring the game's story and world will have to wait until the game's June 21 release.