Fresh off its successful run with Fallout: New Vegas, Obsidian Entertainment has teamed up with Square Enix to bring another chapter to an established franchise in the form of Dungeon Siege 3. A series with a storied past and large following amongst PC gamers, Obsidian and Square Enix now look to bring this sequel to the consoles for the the very first time.

For those not acquainted with the Dungeon Siege series, the setting of the conflict takes place in The Kingdom of Ehb, an independent nation formed by the mighty 10th Legion and located on the continent of Aranna.  In Dungeon Siege 3, the 10th Legion has suffered massive casualties either due to the monarchs who hold the legionnaires responsible for the murder of the country’s king or by Jeyne Kassynder, leader of the Church of Ehb, who has taken control of the eastern portion of the kingdom. Dungeon Siege 3 has players choosing one of four surviving legionnaires in order to reform the 10th Legion and bring peace back to the nation.

During my playthrough on a mighty fine Alienware PC notebook, two legionnaires were available and I chose who appeared to be the more interesting of the two, Anjali the Archon, a fire creature. Anjali’s heritage allows her to fight in human or, ahem, “Human Torch” form. In the demo, her fighting style relied upon long-range attacks, but she also could lay down a ring of flame called the “Aura of Immolation,” which did damage to all those who came close to her.

Speaking of the Human Torch, the first thing that is readily noticeable about Dungeon Siege 3 is just how similar the gameplay is to Raven Software’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for the consoles. Powers or combat moves are mapped to a button on the Xbox 360 controller and pressing the same resulted in an immediate response. This is not a point and click affair like the previous Dungeon Siege games. Dungeon Siege 3 has evolved, for the better, into an action-adventure RPG. Mastering the controls was a quick process, but by no means was the combat simple. I attempted to spam my way through one conflict, which resulted in Anjali meeting her untimely doom.

The leveling system is also reminiscent of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, but here you will not be able to fully level up your power options over the course of the game, making each choice that much more important. An isometric overhead camera view frames the action, but players can easily switch to a conventional third-person view with a click of the right analog stick. This camera change is done on the fly without any slow down in the action and is extremely helpful when the isometric camera is partially blocked by structures. Of course, Dungeon Siege 3 visuals are much improved over Marvel: Ultimate Alliance in that the environments are heavily detailed and the creatures that oppose your progress are much more intimidating. Combat animations were smooth and showed no signs of stutter, which was impressive in lieu of how many enemies were onscreen.

Dungeon Siege 3 Preview Hands-On Impressions PAX East

The loot and inventory system allows for the equipping of items just like you would typically do in any other RPG game. However, the equipment management screen in particular is a joy to behold. Fast and easy to navigate menus keep the focus on the action rather than loading screens. You’ll be able to quickly determine whether new loot is more desirable than your currently equipped items, as the inventory screen will immediately display the differences. Pick up equipment that you can’t use? You’ll have the traditional option of holding the item until you can sell it to a shopkeeper or you can immediately transmute the item into a lesser amount of gold, preventing you from having to drop items due to an overloaded inventory.

Other features that separate Dungeon Siege 3 from the typical hack and slash game are its quest and conversation components. The influence of Obsidian Entertainment is readily apparent here as there are branching conversation trees with NPCs and a quest log that will remind you what you still need to accomplish. While I did not play long enough to really engage the narrative, presenting a compelling story has long been a strength of Obsidian’s and from my limited time with the game, I had no reason to believe that will not be the case with Dungeon Siege 3.

Co-op fans will definitely want to keep this title on their radar as Dungeon Siege 3 features four-player co-op where players can drop-in and drop-out without causing a break in the action. However, co-op mode is limited to two people locally so you’ll still need to go online if you want to play with a full complement of players.

Dungeon Siege 3 has been a title that has flown under the radar somewhat, but if the demo is any indication, this may be a game you’ll want to keep an eye on. Console owners who were put off by the tactical fighting of the Dragon Age series may find a lot to like here.

Dungeon Siege 3 releases on May 31, 2011, for Windows PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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