I’ve just finished playing the brand new demo for the upcoming multi-platform RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. I specifically played the PS3 demo and I thought it’d be pertinent to give my early thoughts on the game.
Reckoning is an open-world RPG, meaning that you’ll be able to travel at your whim and kind of do whatever you want. It’s also highly customizeable in how you play the game. Some games (like Dragon Age) force you to choose a class at the very beginning, while others never really nail down your class but allow all sorts of freedom (Skyrim). Reckoning seems to take a middle-of-the-road approach, allowing you to choose any skills you want, while they’re still classified as Warrior, Rogue, or Mage skills.
There’s a lot I could say about Reckoning, but I’m going to stick with what the demo showed me, so I can have some material for the actual review in early February.
The most noticeable thing about Reckoning is its art style, which immediately catches your eye. It’s a common trend to make things look as realistic as possible… Todd McFarlane (of Spawn and many other comics) headed up this art direction and chose a very stylistic and colorful look. Realistic it’s not, but I found that I didn’t mind. It’s a fantasy game so I found myself still interested. The landscapes outside are especially gorgeous. In the demo, we get an entire dungeon and then a little bit of time in the open. In the dungeons, we’re greeted by these Avatar-like flowers that glow and bloom as you walk across them. The colors are vibrant and bright.
Even things like wolves, which could be made to look fairly real, are stylized and out-of-proportion, but it works completely. The combat is over the top and kind of ridiculous, but it makes you feel like an incredible badass. You can choose to wield a huge hammer or slim double daggers or even dual chakrams (similar to Xena’s claim to fame, pronounced shock-rum). The combat is fluid and it’s easy to create some killer combos which utilize different weapons and different magic attacks. Most RPGs have lacking combat. Yes, I loved Skyrim, but the combat was probably the weakest point of the game. The amount of flexibility in Reckoning (and the amount of animations) is already impressive.
In addition to Todd McFarlane, they’ve also brought in famous author R.A. Salvatore (famous for all sorts of fantasy, including Dungeons and Dragons novels that helped create the foundation for the current build of the game). Salvatore created a history for this world that spans over 10,000 years. We’re not told when in that timeline our game takes place however, since there are likely future installments of the game to come (assuming it’s successful). With so much canon to consider, the game is full of lore and info about the world. In the demo, there is just a taste of this, but I could already sense the scope. The voice acting was decent and the music was interesting, though minimal in the demo.
So what did I think? In just under two hours, it’s a pretty expansive demo. You get to choose your playstyle of choice and even get to level up (at least a few times). I went for a rogue/mage hybrid, mixing dual daggers with a flaming staff. The animation will obviously remind people of Fable, which also has a very stylized look. Fable was an underwhelming adventure for me, so I hope that this game can bring the scope and amount of possibilities up to what we’d expect from an Elder Scrolls or Dragon Age title. If this game can offer a sense of real choice, amazing combat, an immersive and believable world, and a boatload of hours’ worth of gameplay… I see no reason why this won’t top the charts of 2012’s RPG offerings.
Update after a few more playthroughs:
My first time through was a mage/rogue hybrid, so I thought I’d try a few other variants just to get a feeling. I did one as a pure mage and one as a pure warrior.
The pure mage playthrough was probably my favorite. Armed with melee staffs and long-distance scepters, you can really handle most situations. The effects for most spells are top-notch and very epic. Playing the full game as a pure mage will probably yield some incredible and powerful options.
My last runthrough as a pure warrior was less successful. I tried using hammers, just to see how they were in combat situations and they were incredibly difficult. When it says “Speed: Very Very Slow” it definitely means it. It was difficult to pull off maneuvers against the easiest of enemies. When they hit, they pack an incredible punch, though. It will definitely take a different strategy. I’m not used to blocking often, but the pure warrior build will likely need you to focus on defense and attacking when opportune.
I also encountered a few glitches during this last runthrough that I hadn’t seen before. It started to auto-skip all the dialogue and all of the sound effects cut out. It felt like my TV was on mute (it wasn’t though, I triple-checked). Hopefully these types of huge glitches don’t make the final cut. I’m sure they won’t.
Below, check out the gameplay trailer for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, available on multiple platforms in the US on February 7th.