On February 7th the highly anticipated RPG from 38 Studios Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is set to release. When the game was first revealed I wasn’t any more excited about it than any other game that looked decent and set for early 2012. Then I heard that the creative team consisted of well known figures like R.A Salvatore, Todd McFarlane and Ken Rolston. That’s quite a line up for fantasy work. I loved the Drizzt books when I was teenager as well as McFarlanes Spawn, I still like his toys! Rolston’s work on the Elderscrolls series was fantastic. Morrowind was one of my favorites. It sounded like a recipe for success. Having just played the demo released for PSN I’m more excited than ever.
The demo starts out by plunging the player into the story of a land torn by war between the mortal races and the despotic reign of the Tuatha Deohn. In order to help turn the tide of the already desparate war, Gnome Professor Hughes has been trying to discover a way to resurrect the dead. The game cleverly works in the selection screens where you pick your gender, race, face type and even religion. There is a good amount of customization. Enough to where everyone’s character will be different but you don’t end up making a mess of your character due to an overabundance of facial change mechanics. No matter what you pick he will look cool.
On that note, the graphical presentation, something that sparked my interest, should be mentioned. The colors were vibrant and lush as opposed to Elderscrolls’ more detailed but gloomy visuals. Characters are large and movements dramatic and exciting. The setting conveyed the darkness in the air but did so in a colorful fantasy way and the atmosphere was never once boring during my playthrough.
Your custom character awakens in a pile of bodies to find the compound under attack. Using your characters innate prowess and weapons scavenged from the surroundings you emerge to find that you were the only and at that, unexpected success of professor Hughes experiments just before his lab was invaded. With this minute bit of backstory you are set to discover your destiny in the games huge overworld.
The interesting thing about this RPG that stuck out is it seems to be one that you actually play not just experience. The combat system is more reminiscent of an action title than a straight hack and slash or dungeon crawler RPG. You can switch between two weapon types on the fly allowing for unique play styles. Use stealth to instant kill an enemy from behind with daggers and then take out the sentry in the distance with a well-placed arrow. One may also be more direct. Hack everyone to bits with your great sword then unleash bolts of lightning on the stragglers. Magic is assigned to quick buttons as well. There are three main paths to accommodate these play types. As the player gains experience points from kills and levels up, they can allocate points into a play style and into a weapon type. One may allocate all points into one specific path and become a specialist or mix and match, as their play style desires.
The system is not necessarily ground breaking but the organic way it is implemented makes it stand out amongst the competition. To further enhance the players leveling, destinies may also be switched. These destiny cards when activated give boosts to appropriate stats as the character develops. These destiny cards can be switched as the encounter or player progression demands.
As I fought the boss guarding the exit to the Gnomes laboratory, a giant cave troll, I had to experiment with different ways to overcome him. As I fought to damage his hard skin and avoid his powerful attacks, the fate meter slowly filled. Once full and activated time slows and the character transforms slightly becoming more powerful. A quicktime event activates and if completed earns bonus experience points for the kill. When fighting many enemies they can be chained during this time to earn a large bonus for all killed.
The action is interesting and in my time with the game not once boring. Honestly the story as well was quite gripping. The relatively peaceful village at the beginning forebodes a darker reality of the world. War rages across the land and this small-insulated region is not going to be immune for long. Large and powerful factions are either being detrimental or indifferent. Would that I could have, I’d have marched right off to join the fight. The engrossing setting certainly has me sold at this point.
In the small village alone within the short amount of time that I had, I managed to activate several mini quests, some that seemed to allude to larger things, others just to increase local fame. If this is any indication of the rest of the game, replayability or continuous playability is likely very high.
In the demo a few bugs and errors were present but by release these will probably be worked out. Backgrounds blurred and characters got stuck on invisible walls. Here’s hoping the amount of glitches is minimal upon release. Skyrim doesn’t need any real competition in this area.
If you have already beaten Skyrim and obtained everything possible (or are tired of game stopping bugs and glitches) but still have an immersive RPG sweet tooth to sate Reckoning may be just the thing. Or if you are new to RPGs and would like a game to bridge the gap from action and adventure titles into the genre, Kingdoms of Amalur could very well be the catalyst needed to bring you over to the darker side of gaming. We will all find out February 7th.