Jayne Kassynder. Bloody Jayne Kassynder. It's a name you'll learn to hate immediately in Dungeon Siege III, such is the weighty emphasis given to this unseen villain by everyone, be they story narrator or muscled warrior.
Jayne bloody Kassynder. She's the reason behind the world's woes, and every time her name is mentioned, every time with that slight pause before that booming intonation that splits her surname into two thunderous syllables, it's easy to picture kneeing her in the crotch. Four pages of notes from our visit to Square-Enix today and that name is scrawled at least once on each of them, pen indentations growing deeper on each page with each repetition.
The gravitas afforded this dark queen is typical of the game as a whole. We're in action-RPG territory, Western RPG at that, and everyone's playing their roles to such a heightened degree of fantasy excellence you'd imagine a Hobbit talent scout is listening in just off-camera.
Dungeon Siege III knows its audience and you'll be damned if it's going to make any concessions to you, person who is sneering at the thought of several evenings worth of swords and sorcery.
Obisdian Entertainment, who's geiger counter is still tremoring slightly after its post-apocalyptic dealings with Fallout: New Vegas last year, is once again happily diving into a world of extensive equipment menus, branching conversations and multiple quest options, but exchanging guns and destroyed wildernesses for magic-enabled power attacks and monster-ridden forests.
What can we talk about? The project is being overseen by Dungeon Siege's original designer Chris Taylor, who is advising while he dabbles with his own work with Gas Powered Games. We can't talk about multiplayer. Not yet anyway. While it wouldn't be Dungeon Siege without it, that particular text quest will have to wait for another day.
So, for now we're lumped with Lucas. Not that we mind the muscled warrior garbed in rather fetching armour. He's a good swordsman, one of the last members of the Legion, and wields the sort of chin that sings "grizzled hero" with confidence.
But he's also the fellow that's got as much luck as a wingless fly in a toad hole, stumbling as he does into a secret meet of the last surviving Legionnaires who are suddenly struck down with the same disease - death. The meet up has been ambushed and the place burnt to a crisp. Who's to blame? That's right. Jayne "Better be all she's being built up to be" Kassynder. So off Lucas goes to his father's estate of Montbarrow to seek any survivors and get himself whisked up in a globe-trotting adventure like any self-respecting hero of a fantasy tale does.
Alright, that's the broad strokes of the story over. How about gameplay? You're looking at hack 'n slash fighting with a side-order of magic tricks to empower your strikes. We're sure there'll be plenty more options for other characters as they're revealed, but for Lucas, its all about strengthening his sword arm.
So along with timing three-hit combos correctly, or rolling out of the way of fired arrows, you can cash in on Abilities and Proficiencies as you go. The first will bump up your statistics in such a way that you can almost hear the sound of the dice rolling: +3 of this, -5 of that, all rolling off each action and reaction. Even on a first glance there's enough to give the D&D nuts easy conversation starters at the next meet 'n greet.
The latter is were those that want to prove their might with actions rather than backend tinkering will get their kicks. Unlocking new move sets as you go (and being able to upgrade them further as well with time) you can uses the likes of Shield Pummel to dizzy opponents, which proves excellent for knocking out a spell-casting witch later on.
Victory Rush earns our respect immediately. You can set and alternate between Proficiencies with a button press, and VR proves great for covering ground quickly, flinging you forward, sword-first, at an far-away foe you've targetted. Our first attempt not only knocks out a troublesome archer with the sword tip, but the energy wave blasted out as we charge wipes out the his surrounding gang of bounty hunters.
Long range attackers prove to be a burden when coupled with the default camera angles. As you'd expect of the dungeon-crawler design, the overhead view is used, with a couple of clicks zooming in on your character - possibly so you can admire that weapon set you just upgraded to.
There's a lot of looting in Dungeon Siege III. And with a unlimited inventory things could get complicated very quickly, hence the developer colour-coding every item as it drops from dead body and treasure chest alike. It means at a glance you can decide what's worth picking up, or fighting over, if you've a friend playing.
Rewards also come from completing quests. Our first village, after we've chopped our way through the forest, lopping more limbs than branches after we (and every other bastard with a sword) discover bounty signs offering money for our heads, is ripe with quest options.
Missions can be multi-layered. Our three main objectives from the game's start, which list such noble endeavours such as searching for survivors and rebirthing the Legion, are now mere footrests to helping rid a swamp of a flesh-eating predator so a man can fish there, avenge a man's death on behalf of his widow, and help a trader rescue his goods.
Directions are given, but we mainly rely on the golden breadcrumb trail that phases into being at the touch of a button, and note that its rather hard to identify against the warm yellows of the village trails.
For a while as we trot from one end of the village to the other, we can't help but feel like a death-dealing postman. But as with any RPG through history, you've got to indulge yourself in the story to enjoy fully. And at least we're not hearing anyone intoning the name Jayne Kassynder for once.
To be fair, twee the narrative may be, the dialogue between yourself and NPCs is robust and full of flavour, the conversation branches diverse enough to give different experiences depending on how you play it. We still play the decent soul and refuse payment for our aid, while silently promising, as we do with every RPG, we'll be much more a bastard next time round.
Quests done, we wrap up our time with a boss fight against that witch we talked of earlier. Well, after navigating a complex cavern maze to get to her.
The game's larger foes automatically cast a fortifying circle around them, which will beef up their entourage's attributes should they step inside it. Best bet is leading weaker enemies away and dealing with them first, then steaming in with some Shield Pummels to soften the old girl up.
As she drops, so the game ends. We can't deny we were slowly becoming invested in the world, but we're more interested how the dynamic changes once you're joined by other noble warriors. It just wouldn't be same without a barney over who's getting the most loot.
But we know, no matter what, we're claiming first hit against Jayne Kassynder. Wonder if she hates her full name as much as we do?