At E3 2010, I saw a demo of the PC version of the game from Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart and Nathaniel Chapman, lead designer on the game.
The game's visuals, even at this early stage in development, are already looking good. Obsidian's engine is especially good at producing a vista effect, that is, having terrain or other levels of a dungeon appear in the background with a nice out-of-focus effect. As the player crests a hill, they might look out over the city they will eventually travel to. In a dungeon, a ledge with a treasure chest might be seen. To be clear, these are actual places in the game world, not just generic backgrounds. The game also transitions from outdoors to indoors without any loading and the lighting engine can accommodate both with ease. It looks great.
The game, however, appears to be much more of an action-RPG than previous entries in the series. The isometric view is still available for those that prefer to play that way, but the default camera is placed closer to the character as in many third-person games. Obsidian is aiming for a large amount of diversity between all of the player classes. In fact, no skills are shared between any of the classes, though only two have been revealed: the melee-focused Guardian and the melee-spellcasting hybrid Archon. The Guardian can even played in two different ways. The player may opt to use a sword and shield to take focus on single-target attacks or use a two-handed sword for powerful, sweeping attacks that hit multiple enemies. What is nice, however, is that each style will remain valid through the end of the game. Skills will enhance one over the other, but it won't lock you into a particular style.
Co-operative play is a big part of Dungeon Siege III and for that, Obsidian is including true drop-in and drop-out play for players on the same PC or console. With this, a second player can merely pick up a second controller, press start, and jump right into the action. If they don't want to play anymore, they can drop-out and the AI will reclaim the role of driving. Online co-op will also be available. With the AI controlled characters, companions will accompany the player and will make comments or have conversations to give some insight into their character.
In co-op, each class will have skill synergies. For example, the Arhcon has an attack that takes a few seconds to hit in an area. The Guardian can stun enemies temporarily to keep them in place until the Archon's attack lands. Obsidian promises more of these relationships with other skills and classes. Loot will be dropped by enemies and Obsidian expects you to get a lot of it. So much so, that the item's value is displayed before you even pick it up to help reduce the time spent in inventory screens and menus. If it isn't worth your time, don't even pick it up. While loot will be front and center, the game's narrative is focused and driven along a path so this isn't a game to do endless boss runs in to try and get that one item you've been looking for.
The demo was very impressive. Combat looked flashy and loot is always a good thing. Different classes with unique skill trees are a great addition. The only issue I had with the game is that it didn't feel like a Dungeon Siege game. Sure, some of the names and places are the same, but this is most certainly a new direction for the franchise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but fans should be aware that this is going to be a departure from what they may know. Publisher Square Enix purchased the rights to the franchise from Gas Powered Games, but Chris Taylor offers some guidance and criticism after he receives "every milestone build." Obsidian "gets great comments from Chris," explains Feargus. "He's involved with all the different steps of [development with] the game. He helps a lot with the lore."
Dungeon Siege III is in development for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 and is due to be released in 2011.
[Watch the Shacknews E3 2010 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.]