Dungeon Siege began in 2002 under Gas Powered Game's watch, largely keeping in the style of the Ultima series, and to a lesser degree Diablo. But this is Obsidian Entertainment's first crack at the franchise, and the new studio's focus has moved to other areas.
Depending on which genre you normally identify with, Dungeon Siege 3 is either a diet RPG for loot enthusiasts, or a refurbished dungeon crawler catering to RPG-lovers. On the surface it delivers a sustained rumination on what the world would look like had BioWare radial systems been implanted everywhere, regardless of genre. But underneath this is an ambitious attempt to add narrative substance to what's typically a single-minded lootfest.
Encounters with NPCs can trigger multiple cutscenes, while interaction with quest-givers results in branching dialogue trees, and sometimes these dialogues will have an effect on the plot itself. Occasionally you can decide the fate of bosses you've defeated, although generally speaking the chatter merely exists to add exposition. Compared to fantasy outings that throws themselves at narrative full-force, Dungeon Siege 3's aims are slightly lower, but it still develops a presence that distinguishes it from the line-up of the genre's usual suspects.
Still, it's not quite perfect. Even after years of modern fantasy games trying to develop a darker, moody twang, Dungeon Siege generally remains stoically dry.
A brief in-game history lesson explains the gist of Dungeon Siege's story: The Tenth Legion is in a right mess. The ancient army of legionnaires has been hunted down across the Kingdom of Ehb by Jeyne Kassynder, and all that remains are a few surviving offspring who have inherited the necessary genes for fighting reams of enemy scum.
This setup introduces you to the four playable Legion survivors, each with their particular abilities and set classes. Lucas is the classic sword-and-shield warrior class; Anjali has the ability to switch between melee-oriented human and ranged fire-based Archon forms; Katarina is a ranged shooter, specialising in rifles and handguns; and Reinhart is your mage. In single-player you will collect each of the remaining three as you work your way through the quests, choosing one as your AI sidekick – a sidekick who fights alongside you, resurrects you, and can be swapped for any of the other characters at any point.