After six years stumbling through the shadows, no-nonsense PC RPG Dungeon Siege crawls back onto our screens this month, sporting console versions, a new publisher, a new developer and, crucially, a new take on its decade-old gameplay formula.
Fallout: New Vegas studio Obsidian Entertainment's decision to ditch the series' menu-heavy focus on strategy and team management in favour of flamboyant, uninhibited blood-letting was a brave move, but one that has paid off rather nicely, recently securing it a healthy 8/10 from Quintin Smith in Eurogamer's Dungeon Siege III review.
With the finished game barely out of the door, we caught up with lead designer Nathaniel Chapman to discuss how the fans have responded to its take on the franchise, how it went about striking a balance between the old and new, and what it has done to ensure a bug-free experience in the wake of last year's infamously creaky Fallout: New Vegas.
Eurogamer: The game is out and early scores are in – are you happy with how it has been received?
Nathaniel Chapman: We've got a lot of good feedback on the story and the combat. The reaction to multiplayer is a bit mixed, but we're really happy that people seem to be enjoying what we choose to focus on.
Eurogamer: It's a more combat-focused experience than previous Dungeon Siege titles. Did you have your sights set on the Diablo crowd? Or are they impossible to please?
Nathaniel Chapman: We didn't want to be 'Diablo minus minus'. We wanted to be a different kind of game... It's not that they're impossible to please, but it's impossible to please them and be happy with what we were trying to do.
Eurogamer: What aspect of the game are you most proud of?
Nathaniel Chapman: Personally, the combat system. I'm really happy that people seem to be getting into and enjoying the core mechanics, like the blocking, dodging, the power meters and all the abilities. That's really satisfying to me personally.
Eurogamer: Is there any aspect of the game that you'd like to have spent a little more time on, given the opportunity? Not everybody seems to be happy with the loot system...
Nathaniel Chapman: I think our loot system has a lot of strengths but one of the weaknesses is that it's not very clearly communicated what each of the stats does... I think having a more fleshed-out tutorial system for the stats and what they do and how they function would be a nice thing. Having more unique armour variants too. It's always good sequel or DLC material.
Eurogamer: That decision to put combat front and centre was potentially a risky one. What was the thinking behind it?
Nathaniel Chapman: There were two main things that motivated it. One was, in bringing the game over to consoles, we really needed it to play in an exciting way on a console controller. It was very difficult to take the party management aspect of the earlier games and... it just didn't mesh well with the console controls.
In general, one of the criticisms of the first Dungeon Siege was that it kind of played itself. We wanted to make a really active experience and put a lot of emphasis on the 'action' in 'action RPG'. We wanted to ensure you never felt like the game was too automated. We really wanted it to feel like you were always directly controlling your character, and how you controlled your character really mattered and affected the outcome of combat.
Eurogamer: You weren't worried about a backlash from the series' core PC fanbase?
Nathaniel Chapman: Honestly, we were less worried about that aspect of it. Actually this is one thing I would have liked to have spent more time on, and we are actually spending time on now. Basically, I think as long as PC gamers have a good way to control the combat they will enjoy it. One review - I can't remember which - said if you play with a game pad the combat is great, so right now we're working on improving the PC controls through an update.
I think if there are PC gamers who are having a negative reaction it's less about what the combat is, it's more how the combat controls.