You see that logo to the left? 38 Studios. That is why I was excited for Kingdoms of Amalur. The strength of the crew working on this game is staggering. As a Philly gamer, hearing that Curt Schilling created a game studio was almost from left field (pun intended). However, after hearing the names he procured for his first project I was on board quick. With R.A. Salvatore (one of my favorite authors), Todd McFarlane (one of my favorite character designers), and Ken Rolston (lead designer for both Morrowind and Oblivion) the game seemed almost destined to be not only gigantic but very deep. First announced as an MMO project, Kingdoms of Amalur may still venture into the online territory but in a very wise move will see the light of day first as a single player, role-playing game.
I say wise move since getting into the MMO market these days is a huge risk. I explained in my Star Wars preview and review that EA took a giant risk with green lighting BioWare’s MMO especially after Warhammer Online. 38 Studios took a great route by introducing Kingdoms and setting the stage before making that kind of leap. This way they can build a fan base and expand on the mythos and young lore that we get a taste of in the hour-long demo that just released. I took to Steam and downloaded the over 2gig demo to sink my teeth into. Seeing the exciting trailers and great developer diary videos made me very anxious to try out the combat that the team is very high on. Is Reckoning the intro Kingdoms deserves? I can’t tell you based off an hour but I can give you my first impressions:
Tamed Combo Machine – The combat is slick and does its job well. What I mean by tamed is that this is no Devil May Cry or God of War. Reckoning gives you the feel of combo fighting while remaining in the realm of sanity. There are no 30-feet high jump rolls and insane 50-hit sword combos that would normally break men’s arms. In Reckoning, you can combo weapon chains and your skills to execute enemies in stylish ways. Put together your greatsword attack chain with a quick roll-out into the lightning magic and you’ll just sit there and think, “that’s pretty cool.”
I’m An Important Person – Just within the first 15 or so minutes, you learn that you are a special person in the world. Nearly every NPC you come across before hitting the first town tells you so. This is all hinged on the fact that for some unknown reason you have no preset fate. You get to make up your future as you go when no one else gets that chance. God amongst men, almost.
Fate-touched – The Fate system in Reckoning makes for some very cool character building. You aren’t stuck as one archtype or advanced class throughout the game. You can mix and match and switch at any time you want. Mages who want more protection can opt for the Might/Sorcery combo and can at one point become a Champion class, master of strength and intellect. Sneaky people who enjoy the look of heavy armor could get into the Might/Finesse class category for some noisy armor subtlety.
Diablo 3D – In what Too Human wished to be, Reckoning does well. Although not the focus of the game, Reckoning made me feel like I was in an 3D Diablo loot fest. With so many half-hidden chests and things to harvest I found myself searching every inch of the three dungeons I came across in the demo. I found some rudimentary gear and magical stuff and a ton of the same Clothe Slippers. With the Fate system and loot galore, Reckoning could very well keep fans of Blizzard’s dark franchise happy until Diablo 3 touches ground…some time in the near (?) future.
Voiced by Pros – The voice acting in the game is superb and features some very familiar actors. Every conversation shows emotion and great character.
So Ugly – I haven’t felt this ugly since Oblivion. I’m not talking about the environment or backdrops, those are very pretty but the characters just seem so bland looking and drop dead fugly. If it wasn’t for the sweet armor designs, I would rather this game be of a first person perspective.
Camera Issues – The camera in Reckoning is a tricky fellow. Where most of the game feels like a traditional RPG in a sense that the camera follows you from behind, while in combat it likes to wander off and look at the roses. In nearly every fight I got into, the camera dislodges from my back and swivels around from left to right. I’m not sure if this was to try and capture an “epic” feeling of battle but it just made me look at the screen and wonder if the camera was challenged in some way.
Stretched-out Resolutions – This may only concern PC players but during the initial boot up of the demo I promptly went into the options menu, made sure subtitles were turned on, turned up the music, and picked out my resolution. What the hell? Every resolution seems stretched. You know what it looks like? If you picked a resolution way too big for Windows and it gave you that weird blinky image. This isn’t blinky but it sure is… wide. Instead of enhancing the image to accommodate my screen’s size, it seemed almost as if I was playing in 800×600. Text got wider and even the Steam Overlay looked stretched. This also may for the character bodies to look wider and out of proportion – which may or may not be how it is supposed to be.
Unresponsive Menus – I found myself double clicking things on the menu that weren’t meant to be double clicked. ‘Nuff said.
Overall, I liked this demo and found myself wanting more time to play. 38 Studios allows you 45 minutes AFTER the intro to play around and do some quests. The issue is you can’t get much done while you’re questing, exploring, searching for loot, and messing around with the weapons. It makes you want to play more. I will definitely be purchasing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The pros outweigh the cons and the sheer immense feeling of the game ensures this won’t be a quick one-and-out play session.
Reckoning drops on February 7th, 2012 and is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC (Steam, Origin, and other distributors). Download the demo now and play through the intro and the 45 minute play session to unlock items for both the full version of Reckoning and Mass Effect 3.