Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hands-On First Impressions: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

You got Elder Scrolls in my Fable! You got Fable in my Elder Scrolls! Chris takes a look at the debut release from 38 Studios; Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Does this RPG stand a chance in the few months between Skyrim and Mass Effect 3?

Years, and I mean YEARS ago, 38 Studios (then known as Green Monster Games) announced their intention to create a rich new RPG series. The Kingdoms of Amalur series had huge ambitions before even stepping out into the public eye. Two titles are already underway in the series, surely with plans for more on the way. The first release, which is actually the second game chronologically (I think), is called Reckoning. And yes, that is the most generic title they possibly could have gone with. Apparently "ThunderStorm" and "Revenge Fate" were already taken.

Reckoning, at its core, is a third person RPG set in a fantasy world. The player character awakens upon a pile of dead bodies, another assumed failed attempt to create an immortal being. This provides the basis for the character creator, which is slider-based. Although it doesn't provide the level of depth of something like, ahem WWE '12, it's passable. I manged to create an albino pirate with facial tattoos and a handlebar mustache, so I guess it does what you need it to.

The art style of Reckoning is very reminiscent of several other modern RPGs, notably Fable and World of Warcraft. Now that I'm thinking about it, a much closer comparison would be the Star Wars : Clone Wars animated series. Everything seems to be a little exaggerated, and colors are very saturated. It's a good-looking game, but it takes a little while to get used to.

Combat is limited to very basic hack-and-slash techniques, with ranged weapons like bows being only a button press away. It's safe to assume the combat will get much deeper over the course of the game, but things stayed pretty basic for the 90 minutes or so I was able to play. Another similarity to the Fable series is the magic system. By holding the right shoulder, a simple 4-way menu pops up, allowing the player to quickly choose what magic spell they'd like to unleash.

The leveling system, combined with the loot you receive, allows the player to build their character the way they'd like to progress. Basic classes such as Thief, Warrior, and Wizard are all present, so chances are you'll be able to play the way you'd like. The beginning portion of the game is designed to let you try out each unique weapon, so you'll find yourself quickly procuring a longsword, daggers, and a staff, each with their own unique abilities. I always seem to go for a warrior type character, but this seems like it might be the least interesting way to progress.

To the detriment of the game, the first 30 minutes or so take place entirely inside a dungeon, or a castle or something. I'm not sure if it wasn't explained or if I'm just thick, but it doesn't matter. If you've ever played Fable 2 or 3, you can picture very clearly what these environments look like. Torches light cavernous walls, and there's smashable boxes everywhere. Not exactly starting out on the strongest foot.

Once you get outside, the true splendor of Amalur reveals itself to you. Lush grasslands, and overgrown foliage dot the landscape, and wild antelopes(?) leap around. The player is able to converse with several NPCs around the world, and things take a very BioWare-esque turn in conversation. Speech wheels abound with some choices color-coded in order to convey the chance you'll be able to persuade someone in one direction or another. It's very awkward, for me at least, when your character doesn't speak. The conversations look so similar to Mass Effect, it's odd to go with a silent protagonist.

I know Rock is very excited to get his hands on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and after this demo I'm unsure of what to feel. I think I'm going to chalk this up to starting out on the wrong foot, but I can't help but feel like there would have a been a better way to show off this new IP, which seems to have tons of potential. I'll still be sure to check out the full release, but I just hope this demo doesn't turn people off, who otherwise would've been interested. Time will tell.

Christopher Linendoll is a level 27 mage warrior red dwarf. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.


  1. Nothing about this game has caught my interest. I can't even retain any knowledge of it no matter how many times I'm told about it.

    1. Honestly, I thought it seemed...okay at first. But then Rock's excitement for it got me excited. So I got my expectations built up. Then Giant Bomb devoted a whole 60 minute podcast to talking to the devs. Then I played the demo and was filled with rage. Its so fucking mediocre and the 38 Studios guys think they just reinvented the wheel. Listen to next weeks KGB Radio, I expect to go off.

    2. I've been pretty hyped for this for about the last 6 months, even more after seeing a few previews and listening to the Giant Bombcast Amalur episode. After playing the demo, I have to agree with Chris. I can only hope that things are better in the final game, which I'll be reviewing.