(Still Not A) Dungeon Siege III

By Richard Cobbett on January 28th, 2011 at 5:00 pm.

PHYSICS DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT!
RPS Best Friend For Life Richard Cobbett went freelance last week, abandoning his “Ma-gasine” (which I gather is like an overweight pamphlet) to live off nothing but his charm, wit and contacts. As we’d hate to see Richard starve, we offered him the chance to go and play the latest build of Dungeon Siege III for us. Has this franchise been changed for the console-devices after all? The truth follows.

One question kept coming to mind while playing the first section of Dungeon Siege III. Who gets to name all the loot? Seriously. Can any rubbish old blacksmith hiccup while forging a sword, end up with some distorted, twisted piece of metal, and still happily sell it to the nearest adventurer as the Rapier of Transcendental Virtue or the Bastard Sword of Maihrse? It would explain why most of it just ends up being dumped in unlocked chests for any passer-by to get their hands on.

But Dungeon Siege III isn’t judgemental. It loves treasure. Any treasure. All treasure, from the overambitious swords to the deeply unflattering pauldrons. Its treasure chests don’t so much hold gold and trinkets and all the other RPG trappings as belch them out, ready for you to hoover them all up into a big sack and hurl them at the nearest shopkeeper.

What? Heroes don’t count. They LOOT.

Being a Dungeon Siege game, this obsession for anything that can be sold, equipped, or used to stab people won’t be a surprise. The first game gave you a sturdy pack-mule companion for a reason, and it wasn’t in case felt peckish in the middle of your quest. Oddly though, that’s about the only connection I really saw to the original games while playing a taster slice of the sequel. Here’s the other. The action is still set in Ehb, the fantasy kingdom named after an apathetic sigh, but takes place long, long after both the original games and that dreadful Uwe Boll movie have faded into history. And actually besieging a dungeon played no part in things. Again.

Careful, you’ll have someone’s soul out with that

Everything else though? Changed. The characters are new. The look is new, with a new engine, and some strikingly strong and omnipresent depth of field that makes the new heroes look like they need a trip to Specsavers before they even think about heading out to save the world. Even the developers are new, with those RPG heroes and plucky entomologists at Obsidian now handling the franchise for Square-Enix, and original creator Chris Taylor only consulting.

The most noticeable change though is that while this isn’t the first Dungeon Siege on consoles (there was Throne of Agony on the PSP, which I’ve never played because I don’t even want the smell of that thing in my house), Dungeon Siege III really, really borrows from the Xbox and PS3 arcade-RPG playbooks. Where the old ones were like Diablo, this feels closer to Fable.

The result is a completely different game – or to be more exact, about four or five different games, thrown into a blender and pureed. From every other console hack-and-slash, we get the new camera and control systems – now up close (with the option to pull back a bit) to better follow your hero as you mash buttons to swing your sword and unleash the fury. Talk to a character and the Mass Effect conversation wheel pops up. Facing multiple enemies? You can switch between multiple combat styles, just like The Witcher. Get lost? Fable’s golden breadcrumb trail will point you in the right direction – although unlike Fable, it only appears on command, so you shouldn’t have that same sense of being dragged by the nose from encounter to encounter. Etc.

No dungeons were sieged in the writing of this preview. Stupid bloody name anyway.

None of this was bad in itself. Really, it all seemed fine, I thought, as I picked up green health orbs and slammed my shield into enemies hard enough to leave an imprint of the crest on their ghosts. Still, it felt underwhelming. I wanted something new. Something… more.

I didn’t really see it in the bit of the game I got to play, nor was Square talking anything they weren’t directly showing, but there were a couple of hints at things that might be coming later on when I got to the first proper town. Its name is Raven’s Rill, and it’s your entirely generic fantasy village with a slight Slavic flavour, surrounded by a terrifying army of walking experience points called the Lescanzi. A good starting point for an quest, at least, and when you’re a hero, you go where you’re needed. My will was strong, my sword was true. And my bags were empty.

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.

Co-op mode. It’s in, but I give it five seconds before you’re fighting over THE LOOT.

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.

Selecting this option purely in the name of scientific investigation, the conversation ended with my hero brushing off my act of heroism on the grounds that maybe the person I was talking to would speak well of the noble 10th Legion he was trying to rebuild to challenge Ehb’s current Big Bad. It may be nothing. It may just the Lawful Stupid option, and whenever you choose it, a little red light may flash in Obsidian’s office so that everyone to laugh at the pathetic little boy-scout. But let’s hope not. The way it was presented least smacked of the possibility of some kind of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood type metagame involving building the Legion later on, if only to grow it to the point that it can’t fit in the back of a Ford Cortina and still give everyone a window seat.

Uh, guys? Think you’re adventuring in the wrong direction…

The rest of the demo area stuck to pure hack-and-slash though, kicking off by getting directions from one of Katarina’s friends, another girl who apparently put all her talent points in Dual Weapon Specialisation, and then taking on a few of the Lescanzi witches and paid goons in traditional one-on-twenty combat. This being an action RPG, this was still lousy odds for them, and it didn’t take long to get to their leader – an evil-eyed crone who was willing to chat for a quite a while, even if attempts to defuse the situation with words instead of swords didn’t quite work out. We fought. I lost. I blamed it on a bug. And that was the end of the demo. I may not have saved the world, but at least I died with lots and lots of its gold in my pocket.

So overall, I think I’m calling it a win.

__________________

« | »

, , .

118 Comments »

  1. qrter says:

    It’s Richard Cobbett! Hope to see more of your wonderful writings at RPS. Welcome! :)

  2. Njordsk says:

    I’m going to starve, can I please go to the planned BF3 representation? Please.

    On topic, I liked DS 1 & 2 a lot, I hope obsidian will succeed doing something great.

  3. Fox1 says:

    Wha? “RPG Heroes and plucky entomolog-”

    Oh, wait. I see what you did there.

  4. sneetch says:

    Cough.

    Forget starving, I have a rare form of tuberculosis that can only be cured by being sent to preview Dragon Age 2.

    Cough-cough.

    I loved the first two and I have high hopes for this.

    Cough.

    Cough.

  5. Captain Hijinx says:

    This will have to be seriously impressive if it wants a purchasing. At the moment Grim Dawn and Diablo 3 are ahead of it.

  6. Ergates_Antius says:

    ther girl who apparently put all her talent points in Dual Weapon Specialisation,”
    I take it that means she had large breasts?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      She did. Two of them. They were beige.

    • Chris D says:

      And yet I only see pictures of men with swords?

    • Bhazor says:

      Well if they live in a world with orcs and stuff they may as well write in some lore about magic breast enlargement. Actually I heard the Witcher books have that, at least I know they have magic sex toys.

    • disperse says:

      “the girl who apparently put all her talent points in Dual Weapon Specialization”

      I clearly have a much dirtier mind than the lot of you…

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Tsk. No need to sully a perfectly innocent boob joke with such filth.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Excuse me, waiter? There is some some filth in our smut.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      So you’re saying ALL the women in DS3 have HUGE…. tracts of land?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Unlikely. It seems like a traditional feudal system, where the peasants would be lucky for a few square feet to call their own. Possibly the luckier ones might have between one and two rooms, although likely shared with younger siblings or relatives. There is of course the perpetual hope of social reform to equalise the obvious imbalance between their state and that of the ruling classes, but I doubt that Dungeon Siege III will go into that in any great detail. As far as I can tell, its poor characters have yet to become enlightened enough to realise that there are giant treasure chests full of gold roughly twenty steps from their hovels with which they might enforce the social reform denied them by their so-called ‘betters’. One day, gods of Ehb willing, they shall.

      And that will be a Very Interesting Day.

    • qrter says:

      A long way from “Help, we’re being repressed!”, then. Not even close, actually.

  7. WindowsGamer says:

    “incredibly hardworking +2 Corset of Holding”

    A more vivid description there ain’t. Welcome to RPS, Richard!

  8. RedViv says:

    You had me at ‘Corset of Holding’. Both you and the game.

  9. Freud says:

    Hunting and gathering combined. Tickles my reptile brain.

  10. The Tupper says:

    Is anybody left at PCG? I feel sorry for it.

    Not sorry enough to, like, buy a copy or anything.

  11. Blinck says:

    I’ve been reading this fantastic site for some time now, but I only just registered to comment in here, and say that this article is awesomely awesome !

  12. Dave says:

    “As we’d hate to see Richard starve, we offered…”

    If you’d hate to see a man starve, I don’t recommend offering him a job in journalism.

  13. DrugCrazed says:

    Yay! The master of puns has arrived! This makes me happy.

    Now to talk about DS3. I am not convinced. I still don’t like the top down RPG combat, I don’t feel in control enough.

    YES. I AM BROKEN. DEAL WITH IT.

  14. amandachen says:

    Divine Divinity is one of the best RPGs ever, but it got a mauling from Richard Cobbett. Never trusted him since.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Sorry. If it helps, I really wanted to like Divine Divinity.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      It would help if you skipped the first dungeon and the end game which were indeed rather poor. Going out in Rivellon though is the same eye-opener as getting out of that first Oblivion cave.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      The first town was dire (I was deeply unimpressed when the shopkeeper asked me to find something for him, I picked it up to have a better idea of what it was and he promptly called me a thief and kicked me out), but the game as a whole just didn’t do it for me. If I remember correctly, the big problems for me were the combat, which I just didn’t enjoy at all, and the overblown scale of everything. It felt like a game that just didn’t know when to stop, which is great if you’re enjoying it. But in that case, I wasn’t. So, well, y’know. Sorry!

      (I had a very similar problem with the start of Beyond Divinity, where a relatively simple escape kept being interrupted by everything from trips to a pocket dimension to constant backtracking. I’m sure I remember one bit from that where you have a choice of corridors, and if you go down the wrong one, the game has a sign that says – pretty much – ‘Ha-Ha!’ and spawns some tough monsters behind you. I never even made it out of the starting dungeon in that one because it just never seemed to be ending, and eventually I just decided “Oh, to hell with this…” That game sorely needed an editor.)

      Maybe I’ll download DD from GOG at some point and give it another shot. I’ve meant to for a while, but just not had the time. I know that lots of people like it, and while you can’t write a review based how people are likely to respond, anything with so many people hailing it as one of the best RPGs ever usually warrants at least a second look, especially so many years on.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      Combat had some kind of slugginess to it yeah which I blame on the animations and the fact the developers wanted a mix between Diablo II (direct attack) and BG (pause). Though I was intrigued by the first town too many stuff went on underground in the beginning, there are some ways I think to skip some of that. There is a reason DD is compared to Ultima though, it allowed for plenty of puzzles and item combinations (you can indeed pick up everything) and going out out of the starting town opens up that addictive feeling of exploring the huge area until the last blacked out part of your map is gone (again, à la BG). You can break quests with such freedom of course, the game isn’t prepared for that. The odd stuff of attacking a critter making all critters in the world hostile is something I could stand.

      Don’t bother with BD I’d say, I know I didn’t (too many bugs, not enough freedom, poor randomised battlefields). DD2 with its addon (Dragon Knight Saga) is relatively decent stuff, though not as open as the first game.

    • amandachen says:

      It’s like Ultima only in terms of inventory management; you have to learn to keep a tidy pack.

      Certainly worth replaying. Divine Divinity is one of those games that’s hard to find fault with, even eight years on.

  15. Stompywitch says:

    I like the sound of a DS game with some actual, you know, OOMPH to it. The series always seemed like it was having more fun playing itself than I was. I’m looking forward to this one.

    The PSP game was shit. It’s difficulty curve actually went downwards due to the passives being so strong, it was buggy – at one point I was gaining an entire experience level per kill! – with very slow loading times, and the loot was… insanely good. I one-shotted the final boss, and I hadn’t been trying to optimise my character at all.

  16. The Tupper says:

    I used to love PCG. Now I love RPS. That’s the way I swing.

  17. Vinraith says:

    abandoing his “Ma-gasine”

    Ma-gasine? What happon?

    OK, I’ve played far too much Fallout 3…

  18. Danarchist says:

    It’s fairly easy to tell if someone is British when they speak (or not in the case of Madonna), you may be the first person that actually sounds British in their writing style =P

    (super extra fun points if you aren’t actually)

    My lil brothers a major dungeon siege fan for some odd reason, im blaming eating paint chips as a kid when I told him they were candy. Can’t wait to see his input on this new version ;)

  19. outoffeelinsobad says:

    Hacking and slashing? Mr. Cobbett! What happened to always rolling a wizard?

  20. Kryopsis says:

    “[...] Rapier of Transcendental Virtue [...]”
    “I doubt we’ll see the villain of the piece delivering lectures on Hegelian dialetics like in New Vegas[...]”

    This has to be the best article on RPS I’ve read in a long, long time. Thank you very much for the entertainment, Mr. Cobbett.

  21. jaheira says:

    Wow! Not only am I having egg and chips for tea, but Richard Cobbett is writing on RPS! Epic win.

  22. Tom Camfield says:

    I liked this. Lively and charming. Good work.

  23. Lars Westergren says:

    Welcome Richard! My favourite games site just got better, and I didn’t have to pay or anything. It’s like coming home and discovering someone broke into your house to upgrade your graphics card.

    Seeing as how it is Obsidian, I have no doubts the story and the dialogue is going to be top notch. But how was the gameplay? Was it balanced, exciting, visceral, cerebral? Did any superlatives apply? And, dare I mention it, how was the stability? Perhaps too early to tell?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Too early to say on the stability. For the rest, as I said above, it seemed like a pretty standard hack-and-slash in terms of mechanics. Quite a few skills to unlock, each with multiple levels and a couple of branching paths for specialisation, a few passives and so on, but for the purposes of the demo, I was a low-level character and so more or less just whacking stuff with a sword and occasionally hitting them with a shield. Can’t really comment on balance or scale – I didn’t have enough time with it.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Lars, your simile feels odd to me, as I came home to find someone had broken into my house, nothing had been taken and Richard Cobbett was on RPS. I can only assume they planted him there.

  24. Maykael says:

    Rock Paper Shotgun is becoming the Super Meat Boy of new games journalism.

  25. Cat Hackforth says:

    An excellent debut, Mr Cobbett! I’ll have to get used to enjoying your puns remotely, but enjoy them I shall!

  26. Jad says:

    Since Mr. Cobbett seems to be replying to everyone on this thread, maybe he’ll reply to me! I’ll get a salmon-colored box below my post like all the cool kids!

    Edit: Oh, and I don’t necessarily see an issue with making DS3 with a more console-like direct-action form of combat, while I loved Diablo II and Torchlight, clicking everywhere was slightly more … detached from the combat experience. Of course, both of those games were not actually about “combat experience”, but LOOT, as you note.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Sorry, I don’t do requests.

      “Oh, and I don’t necessarily see an issue with making DS3 with a more console-like direct-action form of combat”

      I don’t have a problem with that either. To be honest, Obsidian’s involvement interests me far more than the fact that it’s a Dungeon Siege game. It’s more that the bits I played felt just a bit too generic for comfort, and I’m hoping there’s some twist or a bit of extra stuff later on that makes it more than just another nicely done hack-and-slash.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, if there’s a franchise that could use a spot of consolization, it’s Dungeon Siege, the ARPG that literally ran itself. And, hey, I liked the PSP Throne of Agony far better than the main franchise. As someone said above, it’s ridiculously unbalanced and towards the end of the game you are almost certainly capable of causing entire areas full of monsters to explode just by breathing on them (actually, I can’t remember if this was the game with the equipment effect that causes enemies to die just by entering visual range, if so, this would literally be possible). But it’s a lot more active and engaging than the main franchise, the art is actually kind of lovely, and the character classes are all potentially interesting in their own horribly unbalanced ways.

    • jeremypeel says:

      “I don’t have a problem with that either. To be honest, Obsidian’s involvement interests me far more than the fact that it’s a Dungeon Siege game.”

      Mmm, exactly. My favourite ARPGs by far have always been the Icewind Dale games, which featured impeccable atmosphere and scene-setting dialogue, without ever getting in the way of the combat (which had considerable depth, being 3rd Edition DnD). Come to think of it, a number of the folks on that team will be working on DS3 too.

      DS1 absolutely ‘ran itself’, to the point where I was actually thinking of other things whilst playing, at least in single player. Hmm, maybe I could get some washing-up done and just leave a paperweight on the left mouse button…

  27. Alex Bakke says:

    I for one welcome our new David Mitchell-resembling evil overlord.

  28. TheApologist says:

    This is the goodest of news. Richard Cobbett is one of only two or three games journos I could think of that could add something to the current RPS bunch.

  29. Urael says:

    Ah,Richard Cobbet. I once made models of all my favourite journalists out of plasticine. Yours had a bow tie.

    Welcome, sirrah!

  30. BathroomCitizen says:

    I like your writing style! Good job!

  31. DiamondDog says:

    Does this mean Quinns doesn’t have to make the tea anymore?

  32. WMain00 says:

    Nice to see you again Richard. :)

  33. Soon says:

    I admit I didn’t know who you were. But a brief search revealed all.

  34. Bob says:

    Oooh! This great gaming site just got better with Richard’s arrival. After playing the somewhat glitchy Darksiders I’m prepared to play some decent hack and slash, hopefully Obsidian will make it so.

  35. Legionary says:

    Oh hurrah, it’s Richard Cobbett. Well played, Hivemind, well played.

  36. Flint says:

    I have no idea who you are because I’m not of a British descent but I like you! Hi!

  37. Navagon says:

    Nice article!

    I wasn’t that impressed with the first Dungeon Siege and I find Obsidian’s efforts a bit hit and miss to say the least. But this does sound like a game worth keeping an eye on.

  38. lhzr says:

    >>long after both the original games and that dreadful Uwe Boll movie have faded into history

    cough..

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      TECHNICALLY, I think that’s only In The Name Of The King 2, rather than officially being Dungeon Siege 2. Which makes sense. With a license as great as ITNOTK, why would you ever want to share it?

  39. Rinox says:

    Does this mean…Mr. Cobbett actually liked New Vegas? If so, he can fill the void of (minor) disappointment that was left when the Hivemind deemed New Vegas shoddy! YES FILL IT (or not)

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I loved New Vegas. I had issues with it, notably how empty a lot of it felt, and New Vegas itself being pretty crap (especially compared to New Reno), but still had a phenomenal time with it. I really like Obsidian’s work, even if it is often a little – cough – rough around the edges.

    • NotGodot says:

      I think that most people got disappointed by Vegas because they thought the strip was Vegas, whereas Vegas is actually made up of The Strip, Freeside, Westside, the northern farming area, and South Vegas. The Strip’s just one neighbourhood.

  40. triple omega says:

    After reading all Richard’s wonderful comments I totally forgot what the article was about. :D

    New headline: Richard “Pun-master” Cobbett kills DS3 news with puns.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I like to think of it as a thousand-and-a-bit words where I somehow managed to avoid calling it ‘Dungeon Seige’ even once.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      But can you play as a rouge in Dungeon Seige? Inquiering minds want to know.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yes, but don’t. It’d be a mascara.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      I had to reply to say at least I appreciated what you did there.. I know you’re waiting with bated breath! Though I think the funniest line in the review was about the little red light in the dev’s office.. it just gave me the giggles :D

      Still, a good foundation for your work here at RPS, I look forward to more I-liners…

      Hmm, more work required on that last pun methinks.

  41. SwiftRanger says:

    PCG UK said Obsidian haven’t let anyone play this with mouse+keyboard yet. Any worries there because I am not even thinking about buying a controller for a hack & slash game on PC.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Too early to say, really. If it’s the standard WASD to move, other keys for special attacks, and the mouse for camera controls and attacks, it should be fine. Although as with all of these games, I think rumble will be missed when it comes to making the attacks feel solid.

  42. SpaceAkers says:

    Calling Obsidian “entomologists” was pretty funny…

  43. gunnar says:

    You, sir, seem like a nice addition to my favorite games journerdlist type kinda blog stuff site thingy.

  44. Sidorovich says:

    Why the heck are Obsidian dispensing with DS’s USP – that of party-based combat? That was the only thing that was going to make it stand out from the crowd. And what a crowd: Skyrim, Dragon Age 2, Diablo 3, to name but er…three.

    Swear I’d never buy another Ob.game after the travesty that was New Vegas anyway. But replaying DS at the mo has got me hankering for a high-res party-based effort. But this decision to remove the franchises biggest selling point is just plain mad.

    • Jimbo says:

      Yeah I was confused about that after reading this article too, but according to Gamespot’s preview:

      “In the full release, you’ll be able to manage a party of up to four heroes, either in a single-player game where you control all four characters, or with a group of three other people in co-op mode. Two players may share the screen locally, and you can bring in two more players online. The other players will serve as assistants to one main player, and no progress will be carried over to their game. “

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yep. It’s not mentioned here because Square isn’t showing that part off yet.

  45. zipdrive says:

    Welcome Senor Cobbett.
    I anticipate any other words you may share and hope you help increase the words-to-videos ratio on RPS.

  46. MartinNr5 says:

    Yay!

  47. pakoito says:

    WHERES MY GENERIC HACK’N'SLASH!? Swap targets and multiconversations my ass. Or my mule.

    • pakoito says:

      I still remember DS2 where my party was a dual wielder musculus macho, a mule, a lynx and a ladybug. No other people was needed to get to the end and literally rape the last boss the first time around.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>