Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Hands On With The First Few HoursBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Oct 03, 2011
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning hands-on - A new fantasy world takes shape
What We Already Know:
One of the more high profile properties to have emerged from the EA Partners umbrella of Electronic Arts is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. From our previous sessions with the fantasy action RPG, this new IP brings a lot of gameplay influences from other titles with similar settings. It seeks to have the depth of an Elder Scrolls game but with the fast pace of a melee-driven action title like God of War.
This is also the well-known dream RPG project of baseball pitcher-turned-videogame producer Curt Schilling, who has assembled a team of industry veterans that includes fantasy author R.A. Salvatore, who’s been in charge of the game’s lore, Todd McFarlane for the art direction, and the lead designer of Morrowind and Oblivion, Ken Ralston. Such combined talent doesn’t automatically translate into a sure fire hit, but based on our most recent hands-on time with the game, there are many reasons to stay optimistic.
What We’re Seeing Now:
It’s well known that our playable hero follows the videogame trope of being a resurrected warrior, but we haven’t had the chance to witness how this Lazarus moment plays out until now, let alone get hands-on time with this early part of the game. This rise from the dead is the gnomes doing, who have built the Well of Souls to learn the secret to immortality. Clearly, they’re in the beginning stages of this learning process since our playable protagonist is the only example of this resurrection working so far. The fact that this is a warrior with a “clean slate” and tied to no fate is related to the overall narrative itself as much still needs to be learnt as to why this specific warrior was revived.
Getting to experience this starting point for the first time also allowed me to appreciate how the quest system aggressively branches out with missions outside the main quests. In fact, our two-hour session only afforded me time to play two main quests, compared to the eight or so side missions I accepted thereafter. And that doesn’t even include the various faction quests you can come across; these become available depending on how you choose to interact (or not interact) with others.
The individual factions are threaded throughout the game, and those quests are just as optional as the side quests. Even in the short time I spent with the faction quests, there was a surprising depth to them. Not only does completing these reward you with items and weapons, but characters will behave differently after a quest depending on whether or not they’re part of your faction or part of a rival faction.
The first possible side quest anyone can accept is titled “Building Bridges,” a healing mission where you help a wounded maiden. Reckoning is one of those games where pursuing one quest can easily trigger the option of taking up another one even if the previous quest hasn’t been completed. Before I knew it, I was taking on “Crisis of Faith” where I was helping a priest find a young monk who disappeared into one of the nearby forests.
EA was also more than happy to finally reveal the complete list of the game’s nine skills, some of which we have previously reported on, like Alchemy, Blacksmithing, and Sagecraft; others include Dispelling, Merchantile, and Lockpicking. Having done my share of influencing others in BioWare games, and more recently in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I was curious about the Persuasion skill. I learned it affects how you buy goods and could result in you possibly paying less for them, and it can also influence the story in subtle ways. Early on, the game also taught me the value of the Stealth skill, which I found to be highly effective, so it’ll be curious how much better one can be 50 hours later. The ninth and final skill is Detect Hidden, which helps you find traps, enemy ambushes, and secret doors.
It also seems like every time we see Reckoning, we get a better appreciation of R.A. Salvatore’s fleshed-out world of Amalur and the primary area known as The Faelands. While this is unmistakably a fantasy game, a genuine effort was made to go beyond Tolkien characterizations and archetypes. There’s a great sense of imagination at play where names and places sound like they could be from Lord of the Rings, but are actually original to Reckoning. Among the races, I only recognize Gnomes. The justice-driven light elves are called Ljosalfar, while the dark elves are the Dokkalfar. Humans come in two varieties: the noble and knightly Almain and the informal trader/mercenary group known as Varani. The people and places of Amalur certainly have the right vowels in the right places from a classic fantasy naming standpoint: Nyralim, Grim Onwig, Dalentarth, Rathir, Canneroc to name a few examples. With the monsters, for every familiar sprite and crab, there’s a tuatha and niskaru.
I was also never short of these enemy encounters even before I had the chance to escape the Well of Souls. Not only does the game want to offer you multiple ways to attack, but there’s certainly a solid sense of accomplishment when mixing up the various attacks in a single enemy party encounter. I often found myself softening up the opposition first with arrows from a distance, then shocking them with a powerful stormbolt spell, only to finish them off with multiple hits from my two daggers. The diverse weapon set is a clear sign of how much 38 Studios and Big Huge Games want to cater to every play style imaginable; I took a look at the various other weapons and upgradeable abilities and found the following available:
- Might Ability
- Finesse Ability
- Sorcery Ability
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is certainly coming along, and with its February 7, 2012 release on the horizon, it’s curious to think how much better the game can/will be now that 38 Studios and Big Huge Games are soon transitioning into the game’s polishing period. With all the depth in character creation and character development, I think the deal-maker for this game to transcend its God of War, Fable, and Dragon Age comparisons will be its replay value. At least the fact that we are continually comparing Reckoning to these renowned franchises is one of many reasons to stay optimistic.