Dungeon Siege 3 E3 Impressions

It is nearing 4-years since the release of the last Dungeon Siege title, and fans of the series have been waiting patiently. Only weeks ago, Square Enix and Obsidian Entertainment announced a massive partnership for the next faithful addition to the series, Dungeon Siege 3. Obsidian have a strong track record with titles such as Neverwinter Nights 2 under their belt, so naturally RPG fans are excited to hear about what this fantasy dungeon crawler will entail. We had a chance to check out Dungeon Siege 3 at E3 last week behind closed doors, and I must say, I am impressed with its offerings.

My first impression with Dungeon Siege 3 was that the title resembles the last big title in the series, Dungeon Siege 2. While the graphics and overall presentation have been upgraded tremendously to meet the standards of today’s games, the same brute ironclad gameplay and adventurous dungeon environment were pleasing to see for the first time in a few years. Speaking of which, the graphics of Dungeon Siege 3 are outstanding. Combat animations, menus and environmental detail are all beautiful. Seeing as how the title is still roughly a year away from release, it is safe to say that it’ll be a marvelous game to look at once it finally debuts in 2011.

The game will also support 2 camera options, 1 of which is the classic dungeon crawler “above the player” camera, while the other is zoomed in a bit more. When I asked about why 2 camera options are being included, members of Obsidian explained that they are looking to make the game as approachable as possible from a variety of different consumers. They added that some gamers prefer a closer camera to be able to see the detail of the armor and weapons they have acquired. It is worth noting that the close camera is very intuitive and zooms in and out smoothly to make combat easier to manage while still providing a close-up detail view of the character.

The game contains some very exciting classes ranging from the melee-based Guardian class to the elemental Arcane class. Each class has its own unique look and feel, and the most surprising thing is the difference between weapons. Each weapon type has access to its own skills, strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Guardian class can equip a handful of different weapon types and while all of them are capable of damaging enemies effectively, each of them has different characteristics. It comes down to player preference to decide which weapon or magic type to use in the heat of battle, and since weapons can be switched on the fly, learning to adapt to situations gives the player a great advantage.

On top of the great RPG gameplay is what Obsidian Entertainment hope will be a compelling story. One important piece of information is that the story will contain dialogue trees (literally) which will allow you to steer the direction of encounters to suit your liking. The world map for Dungeon Siege 3 is the same as the previous title, so chances are we’ll be seeing some of the same fantasy areas and maybe some returning characters from the previous installment. Cinematic events are plentiful so you can expect to see some epic situations throughout the experience, and assuming the story is as great as the presentation, it should prove to be a memorable adventure. The world will also contain cities which serve as hubs for your adventures as well as shops to purchase gear from. As with most dungeon crawlers, monsters will drop ranging in quality and value, and thankfully Obsidian have implemented a value system to show you how much value an item is worth before looting it.

One of the greatest additions to Dungeon Siege 3 is co-op gameplay. At any time during the single-player story, a second player can hop in seemlessly and control a second character within the game world. In the case of the private demonstration, the primary character was playing a guardian while the secondary character jumped in as a healing-based cleric class. The mixture of co-operative gameplay and a handful of enjoyable classes yields tons of different class synergies which can yield powerful results. Using 2 powerful damage-dealing classes leads to tremendous damage capability, but using a tank or healing class can make the team much more resilient.

One thing I am worried about is how Obsidian will balance co-operative gameplay. When I asked Feargus Urquhart, CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, about how the game will adapt when you switch to 2-players, he replied that monster difficulty will likely stay the same. If true, this may mean that either single-player will be too difficult or co-operative play might be too easy at times. I also asked Feargus about whether or not the PlayStation 3 will be the lead platform for the game, to which he replied that the game is being developed on all 3 platforms simultaneously. Chances are we will be seeing a solid PlayStation 3 version of the game when it debuts in 2011.

Overall, Dungeon Siege 3 looks like a fantastic role-playing game and I look forward to playing it next year. The core gameplay and presentation reminds me of Dragon Age: Origins a bit, but the game has enough unique flair to command its own respect. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that D&D and dungeon crawler fans alike have a lot to look forward to with Dungeon Siege 3.