Preview | 2/22/2011 at 8:29 AM

Dungeon Siege 3 Hands-On Preview

Lucas and Anjali are about to throw down.

A few weeks ago Co-Optimus received an e-mail concerning a press event for Obsidian Entertainment's Dungeon Siege 3.  There would be hands-on time with the title and a presentation on the local co-op specifications of the game.  Obsidian's studio is located in Irvine, California, and after a quick check of Google maps I realized that Irvine was just inches from where I live, which is also in Southern California.  It seems that there have been some pretty interesting rumors concerning the co-op portion of Dungeon Siege 3.  I threw a voice recorder into my back pack, got on the I-10, and started the 93 mile trip to the new home of the Kingdom of Ehb.

The hands-on event took place at Obsidian's swanky new studios.  CEO Feargus Urquhart greeted everyone and offered to answer any questions.  I stifled the urge to ask him how he felt about having quite possibly the most awesome name of any CEO ever.  Feargus Urquhart?  If that was my name I would demand a throne, wear a cape, and all my beverages would be served in skulls.  Unfortunately, he was very down-to-earth and cordial.  He didn't even have an evil accent.  After a brief tour my fellow journalists were split into groups to focus on different aspects of the game.  It was here we could ask questions, see the game in action, and get to know some of the developers.  I asked questions.  A lot of questions.  Probably too many.  You can read the answers to some of those questions tomorrow when I post the interviews.   Right now, it's game time.

Lucas' sword cannot be contained by pathetic 16:9 ratios.

The first thing you'll notice when you start up a game of Dungeon Siege 3 is that you will choose between two characters.  The first is Lucas Montbarron, a traditional sword-wielding warrior.  The second is Anjali, an Archon, who deals destruction with fire-based spells.  Two more characters will be available, bringing the total to four.  Obsidian is being tight lipped about their identities, so we will have to wait and see.

From what I gathered from my time with the game, each character is locked into their class or role.  Lucas and Anjali each have their own skill trees and abilities.  You won't be creating a character from the ground up.  The four available characters are classes unto themselves.

We were given the chance to play on the PC, Xbox 360, or PS3.  I went with my comfort level and grabbed a 360 spot.  Once I got my hands on the controller I was given the choice between Lucas or Anjali, along with a brief description of the character's back story and combat capabilities.  I have an old rule when it comes to games with different classes, and that is: "I tank, that way I don't have to think."  That's right.  I'm just going to pound the "destroy" button and keep walking forward.  Someone else can keep me alive.  

Gameplay was simple, push "A" to melee, the other face buttons were special moves, a shoulder button changed stances, a trigger acted as a Shift key.  Pounding baddies with melee charged up your special attacks.  Charge those up enough to get a special-er attack.  I should note the game looked very good on the 360, but it looked remarkably better on the PC.  Hand-drawn weapon effects added vibrant colors to an already colorful game.  At one point in time I saw a high level player-character with a weapon that absolutely dripped with poison.

Lucas was the man for me.  He has two different battle stances which change his attack patterns.  One is a sword and shield affair, which I'm sure is good at defense.  I never found out, because he also has a two-handed stance, which one journalist accurately dubbed: "Win mode."  You can change between these stances on the fly, and each one has it's own weapon type.  You get weapons like rapiers and bucklers for the defensive stance, and claymores and broadswords for the two-handed stance.

I was a few minutes into the game when a NPC was shot.  What the deuce? Yep, there's guns.  Whether or not we'll get to use firearms remains to be determined, but the AI sure uses the crap out of them against you.

The HUD is very similar to this, but it has been tweaked, slightly.

As the game progressed I eventually made it to a small town.  NPCs were more than willing to advance the plot and dish out side quests, mostly of the "go hither/kill this" type.  Once again, the game looked very good. All of the NPC's seemed polished for a game that has about three and a half months left until its release. Character interaction took place via a conversation wheel, where different responses could gain influence with NPCs.  I did not get to see how this influence impacted the game.  On a side note, most of the female NPCs had an Angelina Jolie/Megan Fox hybrid look to them.  This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. 

After a somewhat challenging boss fight I was introduced to Anjali, who acted as an AI controlled companion character.  She used her fire spells well and even healed me when I was downed.  The build we were playing allowed for instant respawning, otherwise it would be back to a checkpoint if you were K.O.'d.   The checkpoints did seem few and far between, but since they weren't affecting my play style, I took little notice of them.  In the final version of the game, the whole party will have to be K.O.'d for you to be sent back to a checkpoint.  Therefore, if you go down, you have to nervously wait and see if your AI companion will heal you. In the build I played, Anjali always seemed to prioritize saving me. Revival isn't item or class based, so anyone can revive anyone else at any point in time.

I leveled-up a few times in my play through.  I added skill points to Lucas's Talents and Abilities.  Talents are actual special moves that require button presses, while abilities are latent powers, such as 5% to critical damage, etc.  So what happened when Anjali joined the party?  Her level-up screen opened, and I distributed points to her Talents and Abilities to sync her with my level.  I also managed her inventory.  Each character has their own weapon and armor types.  You can switch between character menu screens with the push of a button.  It was very fluid and easy to navigate.  You cannot, however, switch control between characters.  If you chose Lucas, you control only Lucas.  AI, (or a co-op buddy.  I promise, I'm getting to the co-op!) controls your companion.

Here's Anjali at Super Sayain Level FIRE.

I had a  chance to play through the build twice.  The second time I played as Anjali.  Her melee weapon was a spear, and her battle stances changed between a human form and a fire elemental. When she was in her Archon form her hair was ablaze and she used fire magic.   I noticed the game seemed much more difficult with her, as enemies quickly closed the distance, making her ranged attacks ineffective. Her area of effect spell seemed underpowered.  I mentioned it to one of the producers, providing the caveat that magic users often seem overwhelmed in the early stages of RPGs, only to become forces of nature in later levels. He smiled knowingly.  

Okay - so here's a bit about co-op, at least, the bit we can talk about so far.  In the first break out session I watched as two developers played through a cave level as Lucas and Anjali.  They were only showing local co-op, one dev played as Lucas while the other jumped in and out of the game as Anjali.  He said that he could choose any of the three characters, even if the host player had not unlocked them yet.  He could not choose another Lucas, so there would be no clones running around.  Two players can play locally on a shared screen.  But what about experience, story progression, and loot?  How, exactly, does co-op work? All those questions will be answered soon.



Editor's Note:  We've removed some details on co-op for now as it seems we've jumped the gun a bit on the multiplayer info.  Coming in early March we'll have a brand new feature highlighting co-op gameplay in Dungeon Siege 3 along with interviews and quotes from various members of the Obsidian staff regarding the game and its multiplayer features.

Dungeon Siege 3 is shaping up to be a very beautiful and incredibly accessible game.  The game itself has a more arcade-style feel, something very different from its predecessors.  Whether this type of dungeon crawler makes gamers happy, sad, or sends them into a fit of rage remains to be seen - but we'll find out this May when Dungeon Siege 3 is released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PS3.