Monday, January 23, 2012

I’m ready to step into the Kingdoms of Amalur

Last week the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. This game wasn’t on my radar until I sat down for a presentation of it at E3 2011. I have a feeling this is the RPG many non-RPG fans have been waiting for.

Reckoning is the first game to be released from the developer 38 Studios founded by pitcher Curt Schilling. However, Schilling isn’t the only big name behind the game. Famed fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore wrote a 10,000-year history for the game as well as the upcoming MMO project codenamed Copernicus. Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, worked as art director on the game, and the lead designer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Ken Rolston, served as executive director for Reckoning.

Looking at the game, it could be labeled it as a derivative fantasy RPG. It’s based in a fantasy setting with elves, gnomes, magic, and swords. But the feature that stands out above the rest is its combat. It’s been described as someone putting the God of War combat system in an Elder Scrolls game. After playing the demo, it plays more like Darksiders meets a hybrid of Fable and the Elder Scrolls. Combat is fast, fluid, and dynamic. I can’t think of another RPG that allows you to sneak attack an enemy, juggle him up in the air, fire several arrows at him while still in the air, and slam him down to the ground with a giant two-handed mace.

Reckoning also takes a cue from Skyrim, as there are no classes in the game. Instead, it uses a destiny system that effectively lets you choose your class at the end of the game, rather than the beginning. During the game, you can freely switch weapons on the fly to create hybrid combos. Feel like mixing the sneak attack of daggers with the burst damage of magic? The destiny system allows you to shape your character to how you want to play, whether it’s with a two-handed sword or with a bow. The fun part comes from experimenting with these different combinations and unlocking different destinies to see which playstyle fits you best.

I have to commend EA, 38 Studios, and Big Huge Games for putting out an exceptional demo, especially on PC. It’s refreshing to play a demo again; the last quality demo I can remember was the Bulletstorm demo released in 2010. Even after finishing the tutorial, and outside areas of the demo, you’re given an extra 45 minutes to explore and experiment, whether that’s following up on the quests or stalking and killing NPCs in town.

The demo is free and available on both Origin and Steam for PC, as well as the Xbox Marketplace and PlayStation Store. You’ll also unlock items for Mass Effect 3 when you play the demo as part of a cross-promotion. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will be available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on February 7.

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