Previews

Dungeon Siege 3: A classic RPG from Obsidian?

Opening chests is how we roll...

Apart from a brief moment on PSP in 2006, Dungeon Siege has lived mainly on PC, so the world of Aranna may have passed you by.

It's a fantastical place in which giants forge magical shields, wizards attempt to resurrect demons and shops sell hats with increasing stat bonuses as you approach the final boss. Novel, eh?

Dungeon Siege III follows the story of several heroes. Obsidian are saying there's no class system, but that's a bit of a fib - what they mean is, there's no class selection screen, and character development isn't as flexible as it is in their most recent game, Fallout: New Vegas.

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If you choose to be Lucas, for example, you'll be playing a melee-focused warrior with a thing for swords and pauldrons. How you choose to develop him will change his role in battle but he won't be learning summons or fireballs.

Lucas is the guy we're allowed to take for a test drive. He's the son of a member of the tenth legion, a group of legendary soldiers who played a noble part in Aranna's history in previous games.

However, as they got involved in politics, they found themselves slightly out of their depth. Their actions led to the death of the king - at least, they did in the eyes of his daughter. And she's the one bearing the grudge and controlling the armies, so that's all that really matters.

FIGHTING CHANCES
So, the tenth legion have been hunted down, decimated and spread across the land. Lucas has lived as a fugitive, combat training in anticipation of the day when the army are needed again.

Luckily for our sense of drama, that day arrives at the beginning of the game, with the scattered descendants of the legion being summoned together by the mysterious Odo.

A close-range fighter, Lucas has a few skills to make him flexible. Every hero has three combat stances, but they're not all the same. For example, Lucas has the one-handed weapon position, which leaves a limb free to hold a shield, and the damage-dealing two-handed option.

Finally, he can focus on healing. You'll swap quickly between these in even the shortest battle, giving Dungeon Siege III a much more action-packed feel than the previous game.

It's no God Of War, but it's a happy mile away from the genre's 'click on a guy until he dies' roots.

Each of the stances has a set of special powers. Your range will grow, but early on, Lucas has access to a one-handed skill called Shield Bash, an instant attack that stuns an enemy and helps with tackling mobs.

In two-handed mode, he can use a charging attack to close the distance between himself and a ranged fighter. All these moves take up energy, which is quickly restored by landing non-special attacks on enemies. It's a system designed to keep you fighting, and the regular foes with magical auras are great at breaking up any routine you might find yourself falling into, forcing you to develop new strategies.

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Over the course of the game, you'll build a party who'll help out in combat and judge your moral decisions. It's more like a simplified version of Mass Effect's squad loyalty than Dragon Age's management.

Players won't leave the group in a huff if you start acting up, but loyalty does earn you character-related advantages. Dungeon Siege III doesn't have competitive multi-player, but Obsidian have confirmed a local sofa co-op mode for two players, in which a second player can piggy-back your storyline, help out and have access to your inventory for as long as they're there.

Squabbles over loot won't happen, thanks to the fact that different heroes use different sets of items. Anjali the mage isn't interested in axes, and if you asked Lucas to wear magical beads in his hair, he'd look at you like you were nuts. There'll be an online multi-player too, but Obsidian are tight-lipped on that for now.

TELLER TALES
This game is more about the story than other dungeon crawlers. The PC-only epitome of the genre, Diablo, puts such an emphasis on collecting that it's easy to forget there's a plot's going on at all.

But here, the heroes and their histories are up front, Obsidian's new Onyx engine putting them in a striking world that does everyone justice. It's pretty slim on comic relief, so if serious fantasy leaves you cold, you might want to move along.

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But for those who love opening chests, this has a metric shed-load of the bounty-bearing beauties waiting.

Order PSM3 here and have it delivered straight to your door

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