Dungeon Siege 3 Co-Op Multiplayer Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Mar 18, 2011
What We Already Know: Last week, Obsidian Entertainment unveiled the first co-op multiplayer details for its upcoming fantasy RPG threequel Dungeon Siege 3. In our video preview (seen below), we walked through some of the new features and introduced two of the four characters that will be available in the final game.
What We’re Seeing Now: On the heels of last week’s reveal, Obsidian stopped by our offices to give us a more detailed and hands-on look at co-op, and, tangentially, our first look at the game running on Xbox 360. While the game supports drop in/drop out support for up to four players (two-player locally, four-player online), we were limited to two players.
For the demo, we played as Lucas Montbarron, a master swordsman of noble lineage whose skill with a blade is outmatched only by his dashing good looks. Lucas is primarily a melee character, so up close and personal encounters using his sword and shield combo will make up the majority of his combat. Mixing things up are his two combat stances, one of which has him hacking and slashing quickly with a lighter sword, while the other, the two-handed stance, has him swinging a heavier, deadlier instrument of death.
Our co-op partner, Anjali is a ranged character who also happens to be a fire spirit who can switch between a human form and a fire form at will, both of which have unique combat opportunities, since she wields a staff as a human and hurls fireballs in her elemental form (and can summon a fire jackal to help out in combat as well).
Each character has standard attacks, but by pulling the left trigger, players can access charged attacks that can be leveled up and swapped out depending on what type of player you are (i.e. offensive, defensive, healer, etc.). For Lucas, we had a healing buff and devastating dash attack that not only lets him quickly close large distances between himself and enemies but also unleashed a powerful slash upon arrival, which can oftentimes lead to one hit kills, especially if you fully upgrade the attack, since it will then automatically target enemies with the lowest health first.
Our playthrough kicked off in the baroque, haunted house-inspired Gunderic Manor. Even though this was the first time we were seeing the game on the 360 (it’s also being released for the PC and PlayStation 3), the game looked solid. There were few framerate hiccups here and there, but for the most part, it ran smoothly, even when there were tons of enemies on screen. As Obsidian developer Nathaniel Chapman explained, this stability is one of the most appreciated benefits of having built the game from the ground up with a proprietary engine, as opposed to using the old BioWare engine they used for the previous game.
When the combat kicks in, it’s fast, fierce, and satisfying. This particular setting is inhabited by skeletons and other ghostly figures, some of which wielded melee weapons while others, specifically giant bat-like creatures, favored long ranged attacks. Luckily, because Anjali and Lucas favor similar tactics, the battles have a great sense of flow and variety and really push you to work together. Since Lucas doesn’t have a ranged attack, dodging is vital, especially because it, like the dash attack, it lets him get to enemies quickly.
There were a couple special abilities on display in our demo, for example, one that makes Lucas spin violently and deal mucho damage on anyone in his path, but the standouts was Anjali’s Aura of Immolation. This ability creates a deadly circle of fire that not only damages enemies but can also be upgraded to allow it to heal your teammates as well. It definitely felt counterintuitive to run towards fire to heal, but it kept us from death quite a bit, so we learned to accept it with haste.
Speaking of death, players can revive one another, Left 4 Dead style, but doing so also leaves you vulnerable to attack, so there’s a nice balance of risk involved. And as long as one player is alive, the game continues, but once everyone is felled, it’s reload checkpoint time.
As with any dungeon crawling RPG, loot will be featured prominently in Dungeon Siege 3. In co-op, all of the collected loot is pooled into one giant inventory, allowing team members to pick and choose the items (some of which can only be used by certain characters) they want. There are some items that can only be used by one teammate at a time, which will force players to coordinate and negotiate who is able to use what when.
Our demo ended with a boss battle involving a giant beastie surrounded by a gang of evil minions. While Anjali rained down fiery hell on the biggun from afar, I pinballed between enemies (not literally, although there is a power up later on that will allow you to actually do this) and took two-handed swipes at the boss whenever his attention turned towards Anjali. Eventually (after the boss resurrected himself following his first death), we stood victorious over the giant’s lifeless body and rejoiced in our victory.
Fantasy RPG fans won’t be hurting for games to play this year, but the Dungeon Siege 3's co-op definitely gives it a certain special something that has us eagerly awaiting the game’s May 31 release date even more now.