With its fall release drawing nearer, 2K Games recently brought by the latest work-in-progress version of Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony, to show this action role-playing game for the PSP. Throne of Agony is, of course, based on the Dungeon Siege series found on the PC, and series creator Gas Powered Games is serving in a consulting role with Supervillain, which is handling the development duties on the PSP game. As you'd expect, Throne of Agony will feature plenty of hack-and-slash dungeon-crawling, but we were able to learn more about the character class system and get a look at the beautiful locales you'll battle through.
Throne of Agony is actually set in the same time period as the recently-released Broken World expansion for the PC game Dungeon Siege II. This is a very bleak setting, given that the end of Dungeon Siege II featured a gigantic cataclysm that shattered the world. Once-verdant lands turned into blighted ones, and evil new monsters now roam around. Into this you'll take control of one of two premade characters in the form of a warlord or a battlemage (it's unclear whether there will be a third at this point.) Each character has his reasons for wandering the blighted lands. In the warlord's case, it's due to a mystical rune on his shoulder that tugs him to an unknown destination. Meanwhile, the battlemage is in pursuit of his lost love. In either case, your job will be to adventure about, killing monsters, collecting loot, and keeping evil down.
Though it doesn't sound like there are a lot of character classes to choose from, that's not quite the case in Throne of Agony. The warlord and the battlemage each has prestige classes. When your character reaches a certain level, you can specialize by choosing one of two hero classes, each with its own special abilities and powers. For example, the warlord might become a berserker. Then at an even higher level, you can specialize further by choosing between two legendary classes. That should amount to a fair bit of replayability, as you can go through the game multiple times and experiment with different classes.
Skills and abilities will range from passive to active. Your character might gain the dual-wield ability, allowing him to use a sword in each hand. Or you might unlock a special attack, such as cleave, which can inflict a lot more damage than regular attacks, though at the cost of mana points. Not only can you unlock new abilities and attacks throughout the game, but you can also choose to invest points into existing skills, increasing their potency. Not surprisingly, the character-customization aspects of the game are very similar to those in the PC Dungeon Sieges, so there's quite a bit of flexibility as to how to customize your character.
You'll be able to adventure with a non-player character (a number of familiar faces from the PC game also make an appearance in the PSP game), or with a pet. Even though you can have only one follower onscreen at a time, you'll be able to swap out that party member quickly using the D-pad. So if you need healing, you might want the medic, but if you want more frontline firepower, you may select a warrior instead. You'll have only up to two party members onscreen at the same time. The exception to this rule is in the game's cooperative multiplayer mode, which allows two players, each with his or her companion, to play together.
Since the PSP version can't render the seamless and gigantic world of the PC version, Throne of Agony will have two layers to it. An overland map will let you run around the larger world, which will be a good way for the designers to section off portions of the game until you're ready for them. For instance, if you make it to a coast, you'll need to earn or unlock the ship in order to set sail and explore different lands. Once you get to a location, such as a dungeon, you'll be dropped into the level, and this is where you'll spend most of the game, running around and killing everything in your way.
Actually, you won't be slaying quite everything. For instance, you might drop into a town where you can interact with the NPCs in order to get the latest quest or info that you might need. Dialogue is handled in standard role-playing style, so you'll have multiple dialogue options to choose from during the conversation. It'll be easy to know which NPCs to talk to, as well, thanks to the obligatory exclamation point or question mark floating over the story-critical characters.
The loot system in Throne of Agony adheres closely to that of Dungeon Siege on the PC, as well as of comparable games such as Diablo. Monsters can drop randomly generated pieces of loot, so you don't just pick up a helmet, you pick up something like the "luminous studded helm of destiny." The game features paper doll-style inventory, so if you equip a piece of armor, it'll appear on your character in the game. And the inventory system features a handy compare function that lets you easily compare what you've currently got equipped with what you're thinking about replacing it with.
Since the primary action in the game is hacking-and-slashing, it's encouraging that the game looks so good at this point. Particularly impressive are the smooth visuals and animation, especially as your character romps along the countryside. And, in some cases, the PSP version has better lighting effects than those seen in the PC version. 2K senses that there's an opening in the action role-playing genre on the PSP, and from what we've seen, Throne of Agony could fill that gap quite nicely. The game is scheduled for release this fall.