This week Quinns managed to get some hands-on time with Dungeon Siege III, leaving the poor boy equal parts confused and excited. He quickly hunted down the only other RPS contributor to have played DS3 - one Richard Cobbett - for a chat. Their ruminations on combat, consolisation, breasts and coca-cola follow, and at some point or other they talk about the game, too.
Quinns: Why, it's RPS contributor Richard Cobbett! You'll never guess what game I have been playing with my fingers recently.
Richard: If so, you're doing it Wrong.
Quinns: Oh. Really?
Quinns: Well, I've also been playing Obsidian's Dungeon Siege 3.
Richard: What a coincidence!
Quinns: Yes! Making us the only two members of the RPS conglomerate who's had the chance to sample it. And I was... surprised.
Richard: Me too. Nothing I've seen of it would have shouted 'Dungeon Siege' to me, had I not seen the title screen. It has loot. It has monster killing. Everything else... it's clearly it's own thing. For my money though, that's not necessarily a problem.
Richard: Bluntly, I don't care about Dungeon Siege even a little. The first game was pretty dull, the second made as much impact on me as a meringue splattering against the Moon, and as for the movie... oh god. What interests me about Dungeon Siege 3 is that it's coming from Obsidian.
Quinns: I forgot about the movie!
Richard: Once seen, it's never forgotten, trust me. I AM YOUR KING!
Richard: Sequel on the way, minus the Dungeon Siege name. Hurrah?
Richard: Actually, yes. If it's not officially based on a game, I don't have to watch it! (Though I probably will, because I'm an idiot like that. I've even seen Far Cry.)
Quinns: Funny you mention Obsidian, though. I don't know how much I care about Obsidian, but what blew me away is how Dungeon Siege 3 is, if you squint, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance.
Richard: It totally is. Cue lots of screaming about consolisation.
Quinns: I've been asking some questions of sinister men in dark alleys since then, and have discovered that some of the original Dark Alliance devs are even on the team making DS3.
Richard: It's definitely a more console-style RPG. Direct control, a lower camera...
Quinns: And yet! And yet, Dark Alliance was great fun.
Richard: Agreed. I didn't play much of it - I don't like to get that console stuff on my hands - but it seemed entertaining enough.
Quinns: The trick is to wear marigolds and sit right up to the TV.
Richard: Obsidian has earned my interest whatever it is, really. Their games are rough while often not being ready, but I almost always enjoy them. If they think this is the right thing for Dungeon Siege, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Quinns: Yeah. There's also the matter of the first two Dungeon Siege titles being PC games from their cast-iron boots right the way up to their pointy wizard hat, but... well let's not waste too much more time on this. It is what it is.
Quinns: But on the subject of what we played, I suspect I got the better deal. (HA!)
Richard: Yes. I got to play the traditional RPG Bit In A Generic Village Before The Game Starts. Note to RPG designers: For the love of god, stop making those! Beyond a slight Slavic twist to it, it was just regular running around and hitting stuff with a sword, doing odd-jobs, and having a plot hinted at.
Quinns: While I got to check out the co-op monster thrashing, which very much felt like what the game was made for. The nearest I got to a conversation was deciding what to say to the Big Bad at the end before staving his head in with a flying kick.
Richard: What did you say to him?
Quinns: I think I chose "TODAY IS THE DAY YOU DIE" instead of "DAY YOU DIE TODAY IS THE DAY" or something.
Richard: Well, as long as you were polite. No need to add insult to injury.
Richard: Or decapitation.
Quinns: One cute thing is that it has the Mass Effect 2/Dragon Age 2 style conversation wheel, where each direction on the wheel points to a different response.
Richard: Yes, I liked that. I also liked that it's really obvious which is the 'Shut up and just give me the gold' option. There's lore and story and stuff if you want, but you can skip it all.
Quinns: Except when you're playing co-op, the 2-4 other people you're playing with can point their own little arrows in different directions. Responses become a tug-of-war.
Richard: That's cool. I like the IDEA of co-op in the game, though I'll be honest, it gives me the fear. A bit like Hunted, I just don't see myself wanting to play the campaign more than once.
Quinns: One excellent part of my demonstration was how we spent slightly too much time on the feature that if your co-op partner abandons his controls, the AI takes over, so if he "goes to the toilet" for an exceptionally long time or something then you don't have to wait. Which makes me wonder about the developers' gaming habits/partners.
Richard: "It wasn't me! It was the AI! The AI stole your gold!" If everyone leaves the controls, does the game play itself? Might be a nostalgic kick for fans of the first Dungeon Siege...
Quinns: Haha. That would be amazing.
Richard: Especially if it didn't give the controls back. "NO, WEAK ORGANICS. YOU ARE INFERIOR. I SHALL HAVE ALL THE LOOT."
Quinns: No, I think the main player has to be present. Still, I want that game. So, they've swapped out tactical positioning for arcade combat. Leaving us with the tricky question of whether the combat's any good.
Richard: Unfortunately, I didn't get to play enough of it to really say. I hit things and they died, but there was nothing special about it. It didn't seem BAD, just... yeah. This is how combat works in these games. Whack, whack. Magic magic. XP XP. Loot.
Quinns: Right. I think the most noteworthy part of the combat was, for me, the animation when you kill a monster who happens to be carrying gold. It's an actual fountain.
Richard: My favourite bit in my demo was being told that there was an army outside the gates waiting to kill me. Really? You know what I call an army of darkness in a hack-and-slash game? My pension plan. I do love the way that every chest - literal and otherwise - just showers you in gold and loot.
Quinns: A vertical spray of gold, almost clean out of their torn aeosophogus
Quinns: Let's see if I spelled that right
Richard: Think it starts with an 'e'
Richard: I never could stomach biology.
Richard: Thank you, thank you...
Quinns: But yes, golden showers. Um. Showers of gold. Uh. Bosses! Did you fight a boss?
Richard: Almost. There was a witch monster, but half way through the battle, she decided that taking half my health was good enough and declared victory.
Quinns: I fought a couple, and they were the peak of my time with the game. Slowly, slowly whittling away at a huge creature with an absurdly dense health bar, learning attack patterns, making use of all of our characters' abilities. Then finally killing the thing and enjoying an eruption of xp and loot.
Richard: I hit her in the face with a sword. Seemed effective.
Quinns: Ah, you've been studying swordface technique.
Quinns: Almost unbeatable, I hear.
Richard: It's the highest level of that martial art known as Kung F.U.
Quinns: So, wait- did you not get to play with all the abilities? Multiple stances? The power gem things that let you do super attacks?
Richard: Not really. I got to stab things in the face, and hit them with a shield, but not much more than that. The rest of the demo seemed to be more interested in highlighting its ability to render ladies with breasts. Large ones. Oh, and a very slightly Slavic villages.
Richard: It was all very by the numbers stuff - a rookie character fighting the local equivalents of kobolds, and at one point, a giant fish thing, I think.
Richard: The gems and attacks were there, but not that relevant.
Quinns: Man! The combat opens up like a gory flower. The woman I controlled had melee attacks, a healing regen power, and could swap stances to become a mysterious floating burning lady who threw fireballs and placed deadly sigils on the ground. But it wasn't needless. I was chopping and changing tactics as situations changed.
Richard: Me too. Sometimes I hit someone with my sword. Sometimes I had a swig of coke and then hit them with my sword. These are important tactical considerations, especially with a controller!
Quinns: There was NO TIME FOR COKE in my demo. That's how we rolled. With our coke slowly warming to one side, deemed an acceptable loss.
Richard: Man. Sounds like I had a much less interesting demo. Lots of free coke though. I can feel the corruption already ripping through my veins. I'm interested to see how the wider game plays out though. In my demo, there were lots of things hinting at something a bit grander than just smacking monsters, like the option to - gasp - turn down loot, and trying to get people to think nicely of the Legion you're rebuilding to save the world. I'm hoping that's not just Obsidian paying lip-service to 'real' RPG fans, and actually plays a proper part in things.
Richard: I'm not expecting much, but something a bit like Assassin's Creed Brotherhood's building up of the guild would be nice, or raising an army to branch the Quintin Smith:storyline in a couple of different ways... something so that the 10th Legion isn't just 2-4 guys ambling around smacking stuff to get their gold.
Quinns: The dungeon in my demo was actually an enormous mansion, and by the time I'd meticulously shanked my way through it there was some talk at the end as to whether the 10th Legion would need it. Interesting stuff. I was also given the choice whether to destroy an ominous magical crystal in the basement or leave it alone, and the repercussions of that were unclear, too.
Richard: Speaking as a mage, you never destroy the magic crystal. At best, artefact of power that lets you crush the universe. At worst, best paperweight ever.
Richard: I can't see Obsidian making a game without that kind of RPG stuff. Even if they don't mean to, I suspect it would just slip in without anyone noticing. "Look, we've got the large breasted girls for the teenage boys! Pay no attention to the epic branching quest behind the curtain!"
Quinns: Ooh, I think I'm a good deal more cynical that that. But speaking of things slipping in, we have to do something about that coke inside you. The RPS Code of Conduct is clear about these things. If you could just remove your pants and step into the RPS extraction chamber, we'll have you nice and clean in no time.
Richard: Great. It's Kieron's wedding all over again.
Obsidian's re-imagining of Dungeon Siege will be hitting shelves, both real and electric, or May 27th.