What with the filthy Krugs devastating your farm and chickens, the town in shambles, and just having a bad day in general there's probably one thing on your mind right about now. Revenge! Dungeon Siege combines two genres, RPG and RTS, to create a sum greater than the parts. Combat in Dungeon Siege is an excellent demonstration of how this combination can be a powerful and exciting mix.
Dungeon Siege will provide large-scale battles between your party (which can be up to eight in number) and at times many more evil creatures. Keeping track of all of the action for each of your party members one at a time can be tricky, and you will have that option, but the addition of proven Real Time Strategy (RTS) elements can keep you in control of the action.
Chris Taylor describes it this way:
Players can control as much of the action or as little as they engage in combat. For example, they can take the party into the presence of the enemy characters and simply allow them to fight it out, or explicitly give commands.
If there's any point in time that a party member is not actively selected the computer AI takes over for you and controls the party member according to the behavior settings you have specified. And don't worry about certain members of your party just standing around dumbly in the midst of a battle...they will attack creatures that come into range automatically.
Chris further expands on this in an interview with GameSpot:
The elements of RTS we have adopted into our design are mostly in the area of character management and control. Things like how we issue commands and create formations. We have taken a bunch of other design concepts like setting waypoints and getting characters to automatically engage enemies. We have mostly taken the concept of large conflicts where the two sides clash in an explosive onscreen battle.
If you decide to take control and give specific orders you will have many options. Waypoints can be set for traversing a tricky section. There is the standard option of selecting several party members and clicking on the enemy to engage them in combat. Their attack stance can be set to defend, stand ground, attack the creature which is nearest, farthest, strongest, weakest, and most likely others.
PC IGN also mentions other advanced options available:
You can set certain characters to guard other characters, or order them (if they have the appropriate magical skills) to heal anyone in the party who's damaged automatically
Adding the concept of formations to an RPG is pure genius in my opinion. Here's an example of how much fun this will be from a GameStock 2001 article from GameSpot:
"Once in battle, players can assign specific tasks to each of the characters individually or as a group. For example, players can choose to send three members of a five-member party to attack the enemy directly, while the remaining two team members can be told to circle around and attack from the flank. In one sequence, we had our warriors perform a direct attack on a group of skeletons, while the mages were able to sit back, create a wedge, and cast spells, all in real-time"
Line, wedge, arc, and other time-tested formations can be easily set. In addition there's the ability to create custom formations and have them be immediately accessible via a hot-key. The formations can even be scaled to adjust to the creatures at hand.
In addition to the tactical advantages of party formations, the player will also reap an advantage when approaching enemies from higher ground. One tactical advantage lost, however, is the ability to run out of a "level" thinking that a monster couldn't pursue. Well in DS there are no levels, thanks to the seamless world, so the monster will follow you right into what you may have perceived as a safe spot in other RPGs.
How many times have you been playing other games and your ranged attack unit gets too close to a melee enemy and all of a sudden you're burying another comrade? Or how about constantly switching back and forth between a ranged and a melee weapon and being caught trying to use your bow to chop down a baddy who's all up in your face? Well DS solves both of those problems magnificently:
As the group moved through rooms with spiders and skeletons, the warriors charged into melee as the archers and spell-casters hung back and attacked from afar. As a spider approached an archer, he drew a sword to use in place of his bow. - DS Vault, E3 2000
Dungeon Siege will support single keystrokes that can change the way an entire group of ten characters is equipped by switching easily from an offensive posture to a defensive one.
Taylor explains the effect of this streamlining: "In traditional RPGs, something simple like switching from a bow to sword [is so tedious] that typically you wouldn't bother, and you'd just rush [an enemy] with your sword. Now we have a way of switching quickly so you'll play better and have more fun. - Daily Radar DS Preview
Even the best of adventurers occasionally meets his maker. Gas Powered Games has innovated in this area too:
Death is handled a little differently than in most games. Death is not the first thing that happens to your character when they suffer from too much damage. First they fall to the ground unconscious. They might have been killed if the blow was too big, but in most cases they effectively fall to the ground and cannot continue to fight. This alleviated the save/load problem most of the time, because in a typical battle with multiple characters, as long as one survives the battle and emerges victorious, the others can simply be healed and not the lengthy resurrection process that has much costlier implications. - Chris Taylor
If resurrection does become a necessity then Chris tells us:
In the single player campaign they must be resurrected where they died by casting a resurrection spell on them with one of the surviving characters in the party (a benefit to having more than one character in your party). - Chris Taylor at the DS Vault.
But there are even worse deaths you can find yourself in. If all the party members die then the game is over!
The good news in all this talk of death lies in the fact that upon resurrection you can automatically pick up all the possessions you had and they will re-equip on your body exactly as they were before. Thank you GPG!
That should cover most of what we know about combat at this point in time. Head on over to the forums to discuss any questions you may have and we'll send them to GPG.