What We Know:
Dungeon Siege 3 is the first numbered title in the franchise for five years and is being developed by Obsidian, in collaboration with Gas Powered Games. With solid drop-in/drop-out co-op play and impressive graphics, Dungeon Siege 3 looks to deliver classic dungeon crawling gameplay to HD consoles.
What We're Seeing Now:
Dungeon Siege 3 is a beautiful game. Between the varied color palette and the impressive depth of field effects when looking down through vertical layers of the level, it's a feast for the eyes. This vertical perspective is something the developers at Obsidian were keen to highlight during the eyes-on demonstration. The level that was being shown, along with others throughout the game, were built so that it has a tremendous feeling of vertical depth.
This means that you're looking down through a level and you feel like you're moving deeper into the world as you progress. The effect is so good that I had to ask the developers whether the areas I was looking at were really traversable, or whether they were background. They answered my question by winding their way down through the level to the areas that a few moments ago looked so far below.
On the way down they met up with another character who, after picking up a second controller, became fully playable. Dropping in and out is done with the touch of a button, so there are no menus to go through if your buddy needs to step away for whatever reason, and they can jump back in just as easily when they return. The developers weren't allowed to say yet whether online co-op would be included eventually, but for that reason alone it's probably a fairly safe bet.
Dungeon Siege 3 begs for comparisons with Diablo 3. Both seem to utilize a relatively large amount of color on screen, especially for dark, dungeon environments. Loot is also a big part of both games. In Dungeon Siege 3, they've tried to give loot as much of what they call "pow!" as possible. So, instead of opening a chest and being met with a pop up window showing you its contents, the items fly out of the chest one by one and land at your feet. Likewise, if monsters drop money or items, they'll appear to be knocked out of them as they die. It's a really great effect that adds a sense of dynamism to combat and exploration.
To make things simpler, there are no identify scrolls. You automatically know how powerful a weapon is and can even see its sell value before you pick it up, meaning you'll spend less time wondering whether to pick up that giant axe that takes up half your inventory and more time exploring dungeons and killing monsters.
Combat looks to be complex, yet accessible. The developers at Obsidian wanted to transfer the PC hotkey system to the console. In doing so, they've created a dual-stance system. Changing your combat stance from single to double-handed changes what skills are available through your hotkeys. As you kill enemies your skill globes will fill up, allowing you to spend them while using skills. Holding down the skill button will siphon more energy from the skill globes, making the skill much more powerful.
The story is set over a hundred years after Dungeon Siege 2 and sees the main character trying to return the 10th Legion to its former glory. The dialogue system seems fairly similar to Alpha Protocol, which was also developed by Obsidian. The main character is fully voiced and dialogue options will have far reaching impacts on your reputation, the overall story and the gameplay.
The Causeway, which was shown during this demonstration for the first time, is the game's method of fast travel. It's quite similar to the Serpent Holes in Darksiders; a pocket dimension that bridges two distant points. Whereas the Serpent Holes were fairly uneventful places, the Causeway looks like it will be infested with monsters which you will need to battle as you make your way through.
Dungeon Siege 3 is shaping up to be an excellent game. Graphically it looks great and the gameplay appears to be pretty solid so far, with a nice mix of arcadey combat and deep customization. Being able to play through the entire game in co-op is always a nice plus, too. I can't wait to see more of this title before its release in 2011.