Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning "The Legend of Dead Kel" DLC Hands-on PreviewBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Mar 01, 2012
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is already a massive game, but there's one thing it could definitely use more of: pirates. At least, that's the thinking at Big Huge Games as the team preps the game's first major post-release DLC pack, "The Legend of Dead Kel," set to release on March 20 for 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360 and $9.99 for PS3 and PC.
The Legend of Dead Kel adds a new chunk of land to the world of Amalur, the island of Gallow's End, located far to the north in the heart of the Frostbreak Sea. My hands-on session with the largely complete DLC pack started off in the port city of Rathir. More precisely, in a dingy pub where Commodore Garrick, an officer in the Alfar Navy, awaits. Players will be led to him initially by notices posted around the world, which will also apparently point out that the recommended level for this new adventure is 10 or above.
Garrick tells me that he wants to hire a cutthroat mercenary to cut the throat of one Dead Kel, a legendary pirate who is also referred to in some circles as the Ghost of the Frostbreak or the Blood-Red Sail. The actual pirate named Kel was killed centuries ago, but Dead Kel continues to haunt the waters of the Frostbreak Sea--and the merchant ships that pass through--with his crew of Hanged Men, as they're called. Garrick tells me that I'm to meet with Captain Rast Brattigan at the city's nearby docks. He tells me that she's known for being "the worst sailor alive," but she's also the only one who's crazy enough to embark on this foolhardy expedition.
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I spot Brattigan waiting for me on the docks in front of her ship, The Calamity. She's a blond-haired, blue-skinned elf with a properly salty sailor's attitude. I learn more from her about this Dead Kel fellow, including the identities of his Hanged Men crew, who all bear ominous names like Bloodgrin, the Whispering Witch and Baronett; mini-bosses, the lot of them.
After a brief yet spirited exchange with the clueless captain, the screen fades to black as we sail off into the Frostbreak Sea. The new island mentioned above, Gallow's End, isn't actually our destination at this point. We're really just hunting for Dead Kel out in the open water. Unfortunately, when you throw your lot in with an inept captain, nine times out of 10 your trip is going to end in a shipwreck. This is not one of those tenth times.
I awaken on a sandy beach surrounded by rocky spires and pieces of a sailing ship. The Calamity, naturally. Brattigan is just regaining consciousness too, though she doesn't seem very distraught about losing her ship. Deep down, I know that it's probably because she's lost so very many. She does have a good idea though: let's get out of this surf and find ourselves some civilization, so that we might escape from this wind-beaten hunk of sand and rock.
Unfortunately, a dark cave stands between us and the rest of the island. Before the exploration of this new land can begin in earnest, we'll need to find our way out to the other side. The cave is... well... not too dissimilar from other underground locations you can find on the mainland. There's a big underground lake here and a family of Scavs--a new enemy type--to be attended to, but it mostly just amounts to a lot of rocky, twisting pathways.
Scavs are nimble critters, roughly the size of a human but looking more like overgrown insects. They'll attack swiftly with a melee slash and then withdraw to shoot at you with a projectile attack. Taking on one or two isn't a big deal, but larger groups can be a challenge since you'll generally have a few moving in for up-close attacks while the rest shoot at you from the fringes. Brattigan and I encounter several groups as we proceed through the caves.
It's a fairly linear path that we walk, pausing occasionally while Brattigan sets up some kobold explosives that she has handy to clear out blocked passageways. It's not a totally smooth ride, however. We get to the last stretch of blocked path and, sure enough, no explosives left! Fortunately, there's a branching path one chamber back for me to take. After a brief swim and a few solo encounters with more scavs, the last bit of block passageway has been blasted to bits and the whole of Gallow's End now lies before us.
I didn't venture much further out from here, for fear of spoiling more of the story. Suffice to say, you quickly come to a small, mostly abandoned town with a very large gallows built overlooking the choppy coastal waters. All around the island, just offshore, are many more of those rocky spires that I saw on the shipwreck beach. It's dangerous waters for sailors here.
The other notable feature of the environment is a massive structure surrounded by a wall built out of thick, wooden logs. This is Gravehal Keep, the player house that you'll be able to obtain fairly early on in your travels through Gallow's End. It's a definite fixer-upper, and there's apparently an elaborate tale wrapped up in turning Gravehal into something livable. As you build it out, you'll add on entire wings and hire people to fill roles like scout, trainer, beastmaster, and diplomat, all of which bring unique perks to your living situation there.
All in, Big Huge Games expect players to put in no less than 10 hours on the new content pack. That's just for the story too. Gravehal Keep obviously adds plenty of reason to keep coming back to the shores of Gallow's End, especially once you've built it up. Expect to hear more on this pack soon, as that close of Q1 release deadline draws closer.