Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning Demo Impressions

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a Hybrid 3rd Person Action RPG, think Darksiders meets Dragon Age. Featuring the talents of RA Salvatore, Todd Macfarlane and Ken Rolston, (if you don’t know these names you should seriously question your credentials as a geek), Kingdoms of Amalur is full of promise. Recently I sat down for a look at the Demo, Let’s see if it can fulfil the promise, or if too many cooks ruin the broth.

The demo opens with a cutscene establishing the games universe and backstory. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is intended as a gateway drug into a future Kingdoms of Amalur MMO, reportedly RA Salvatore has created a Kingdoms of Amalur ‘bible’ containing thousands of pages of lore and over 10 000 years of backstory to the universe. Watching the opening cutscene, you can tell. I may be a fantasy nerd, and therefore biased, but this opening cutscene drew me in and I was excited for a rich and fulfilling storyline in the complete game to finally fill the hole which Dragon Age 2 left gaping almost a year ago.

RA Salvator has earned his chops writing for the Dungeons and Dragons universe and Star Wars universe. He brings his considerable talents to work here, establishing a world based on some of the less well known aspects of western European folklore, with Alfar, Seelie and Unseelie courts. While the fair folk are in full attendance, you won’t see a Hobbit or an Sindarin here. This game is based on an older myth, one with which popular culture may not be as familiar with these days but was the only game in town 100 years ago. This game is not based on Tolkien works and I immediately found that fresh and exciting.

That being said, I found the opening cutscene slightly too long, and I could see how people anxious to get into the game, or not as excited about the story as me could get a little bored or frustrated. But for me, it was totally worth it.

Once I was actually in the game play, I found it to be halfway between Fable and Darksiders, drawing the best from both worlds and few of their flaws. While I loved Darksiders, I could admit that game was a little unresponsive and I felt restricted in some of my movement. However I did not find this the case at all in Kingdoms of Amalur, the combat is fluid and responsive, while still maintaining the rock solid feel of Darksiders. As with Fable, the combat is governed by 3 attributes; skill (finesse), strength and magic, with the usual, skill being use with ranged weapons and daggers, strength being the attribute a sword and board warrior will want to focus on, and you guessed it, Magic is for the Magic users. In my playthrough I chose to play a sexy lady dark elf (she had the best outfit in the character select screen) and as such I chose to focus on finesse. This was in opposition to my usual character in this type of game, as I usually focus on strength warriors. However I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the combat was and I became intrigued by the stealth mechanic at work in a game which so closely resembles Fable (there are no dark shadows I could snipe from, so I was completely perplexed). However, a finesse warrior woman who prefers to sneak around was a totally viable way to play and I was genuinely having fun.

After a few minutes of game time your character levels and I was surprised yet again when a skill select screen straight out of the original Dragon Age (or for those of us with a longer memory, Baldur’s Gate) appeared. Unlike most 3rd person action RPGs which tend to have simpler skill trees, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s levelling system appears to be as deep and complex as any of the RPG’s of the last few years and a looks to create a genuinely different playing style for any subsequent play throughs.

Todd MacFarlane, well known to comic book fans for his work on Spiderman and Spawn was brought in as the game’s art director and while it does look awesome, it’s hard to see his work in the demo. From the creator of Spawn and (allegedly) Venom, I expected something dark, gritty and gruesome, but this simply was not the case. The artwork and animation continues the tradition started by World of Warcraft, and continued by Fable and Darksiders. The opening area around the Well of Souls in particular is very reminiscent of Gnomer and I imagine this is what World of Warcraft would look like if it was released today. While this isn’t a bad thing, I wish it would have established its own visual style, rather than looking like a game I could easily, upon a glance, confuse with any of those mentioned above. Oh well, at least its not on the Unreal Engine.

I found the demo to be en enticing affair, demonstrating the full potential of the Kingdons of Amalur: Reckoning, and I could not be more excited for Thursday’s release of this game.