Games of the Diablo ilk, to which Dungeon Siege 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) squarely belongs, really only need to get one thing right: loot. They might have other positive attributes, too, but what really matters is the loot. Lots of loot. Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full, sir. Swords and bucklers and amulets and boots and helms and rings and everything else that might possibly be used to nudge a stat in one direction or another. Loooooot. In this respect, Dungeon Siege 3 does not disappoint, offering up scads of randomly-generated goodies that will keep you happily obsessing over your inventory. Take your eyes off the pile of gold that just popped out of that dead spider, however, and you'll notice that not only is the game surprisingly beautiful, but looks to be shaping up into a very satisfying RPG experience.
It's about 150 years after the events of the first two Dungeon Siege games, and Jeyne Kassynder, whose uprising tore the Kingdom of Ehb to pieces, is at war with the Royal Family. You play as one of four characters with ties to The 10th Legion, the warriors who originally opposed Jeyne. As the game begins, the venerable Odo (no, not the guy from Deep Space Nine), is hoping to get the descendants of the Legion together to make one last push against Kassynder, but mercenaries attack and lay waste to the Chapterhouse. Your tardy nature means you missed out on the slaughter; it also means it's up to you to gather what help you can in order to defeat Kassynder once and for all.
We only had access to two players during our hands-on time at Obsidian's studio last week: Lucas, the son of the Legion's former Grand Master, and Anjali, an "archon" fire spirit who was raised by friends of the Legion. The game mixes and matches the story to fit whichever character you choose as your primary protagonist; if you play as Lucas, your first mission will be to rescue Anjali, but if you play as Anjali, you set out to find Lucas instead. The other two playable characters integrate into the story in similar ways, though Obsidian wasn't sharing details about them just yet.
There is a story, but it's kept largely to the background so that it doesn't get in the way of the fast-paced combat and loot-collecting. Finding a balance between Obisidian's traditional story-heavy RPG approach - these are the folks who made Fallout: New Vegas, after all - and the hack-and-slash vibe of the original Dungeon Siege games was tricky, explains the game's Creative Lead, George Ziets. The solution was to keep much of the game's lore on the sidelines, in books, and allow players to zip through the dialog as quickly as possible. Most conversations have an option along the lines of "Whatever, let's just go do this thing," that boil down the dialog to the bare minimum, but if you're interested in discovering how Ehb has changed over the past century and a half (hint: there are guns now!), or simply learning more about the people you encounter, the information is there.