Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Preview

By Xav de Matos, Mar 09, 2011 11:00am PST

When it was first revealed, a lot of hyperbole was thrown at the feet of the Big Huge Games-developed action RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Promising a "deep quest narrative" and gameplay that marries God of War with Oblivion, it's easy to have a skeptical eye on the first game in the long-awaited IP from Big Huge Games and its parent company 38 Studios.

I carried some of that skepticism with me when I went to see the game during an EA Partners Showcase at GDC 2011 and walked away with fresh ink scrawled in my notebook of "things on my radar."

It should be noted that what was shown at GDC was an one hour long, guided demo of a much larger experience. There's still a lot of work to be done on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, but the passion for making a quality title and the potential for something special was clearly evident in what I was shown.

The demo began with a freshly created character waking up among corpses, the first person to have ever been successfully brought back to life by The Well of Souls. Here the setting is dark and grim, until the hero walks into a huge underground cavern where the bright green glow of the Well of Souls bathes the rocky cave walls. The story in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning starts off simply: learn how the hero died and who was responsible.

Combat is clearly a major focus in Reckoning. Rather than adopt the multiple button combos from other action games, Reckoning uses single buttons for its range of attacks. When a shield is added to the mix, players can block and parry enemy attacks to stun or add extra damage to baddies. Later multiple weapons can be assigned to different buttons--like a sword on one and hammer on another--allowing them to be used seamlessly and in tandem to combo adversaries into oblivion. The combat appears to have a solid foundation of proper timing attached to it, allowing players to run the gamut of powerful ground attacks to impressive aerial launches and juggles. Reckoning also includes an interesting magical element. Even the warrior can throw down devastating spells--in the demo, I spotted the warrior summoning spikes out of the ground with relative ease--and pull off a special strike that conjured up a magical hammer to flatten foes.

I cannot be completely positive about the combat though, as the game also includes quicktime events for some enemies, which is a mechanic I'm personally exhausted with.

Reckoning features a laundry list of RPG feature list must-haves: crafting, gem slotting, and adding attributes to weapons and armor. There's a dynamic gear system in play that shapes the look of each item, as well as its power. Whereas some RPGs feature pathetic looking starting weapons, even beginner weaponry in Reckoning looks impressive. Speaking on the art created for the game by famed comic creator Todd McFarlane, Mark Nelson from Big Huge Games explained that McFarlane doesn't accept the philosophy of "this is how things are usually done." To appear to yet another group of gamers, Reckoning has a big emphasis on quality loot. "This game has a very Diablo-like loot system," Nelson explained.

The game's story is split into "destinies," rather than character classes. Character choices throughout the talent trees in Reckoning help to shape the hero of Amalur. As players invest points in the game's skill trees, new destinies are unlocked and with it come a slew of fresh combat options. Even the Mage gets into the combat in Reckoning. Rather than have a standard "ranged-focused class," Reckoning gives the magical character an impressive array of melee options. One weapon, the chakra, features dual-discs that Mages can juggle between multiple enemies. There's an attention to detail in Reckoning that I can really get behind. For example, while the Warrior can roll away from incoming attacks, the Mage's similar ability is to teleport instead. It's bringing a story element to the small things, which is as cool as it is classy.

Kingoms of Amalur: Reckoning still has quite a long journey ahead of itself before it settles on store shelves. The game is currently slated to arrive on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 in 2012.

While I was skeptical that talk of the game from those involved was a typical layer of pre-release hype, it's easy to see now why they are excited. My primary concern at this point is whether or not Big Huge Games is trying to do too much, which will lead to the game crumbling under its own weight of a detailed feature list. However, right now, it seems like the hype is warranted. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has the potential to be something special.


For more on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, keep on the lookout tomorrow for our detailed interview with Big Huge Games studio general manager Sean Dunn.

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