It seems we have a lot of Western-style RPGs coming up, with the likes of sci-fi entries like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mass Effect 3, to more traditional fantasy fare like the recently released Dragon Age 2 and Two Worlds II. But let me tell you – you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
Yaris and I had the chance to sit in on a panel hosted by 38 Studios, featuring Curt Schilling, of Boston Red Sox fame, as well as a couple of the producers on the game itself. We were given a bit of an introduction, then were able to witness a completely mind-blowing 40-minute demo session for this RPG.
I went into this thing kind of interested about the game and ended up getting my frakking mind blown. No, really. It’s THAT good. Dragon Age 2 be damned. Yes, I said it. Now, let’s take a look at why.
One of the main things Mr. Schilling pointed out was the three “branches” of talent involved in Reckoning – these being Todd McFarlane (comic artist, creator of Spawn), R.A. Salvatore (author) and Ken Rolston (lead designer on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion).
What I found most interesting – and I know, you probably expect this from me by now knowing what I like the most about RPGs – is that R. A. Salvatore wrote 10,000 years of lore for this title, creating an entire world and its history from the ground up. How awesome is that? On top of that little tidbit, everything in the design of the world was created with that lore in mind. Everything has a story, everything has a reason to be there and isn’t just thrown in. There’s none of the “oh, hey, this area is empty so let’s throw in an ancient ruin here that has no relation to the story but will at least fill the area” line of thinking that I know some games suffer from, especially lore-heavy RPGs.
Ken Rolston, of Oblivion fame, is also the lead designer on Reckoning, so the flow of the game has a very Oblivion-like feel. There’s a huge, explorable world where little hidden gems lie off the beaten path and you can do whatever the hell you want.
Aside from that, the battle looks incredibly fluid, action-packed and fun. It’s being billed as a “true hardcore RPG”, and the battle system and character development certainly don’t disappoint in that regard.
You have an attack button, but what is interesting about it is that the time between button presses, and thus between attacks, translates into various different combos. There are also various different weapons, many of which depend on which “class”, or destiny, as they’re called here, you choose.
Speaking of destinies, you don’t choose any at the beginning of the game, you are able to learn about them and “level up” various classes as you go along, and depending which abilities you choose to put points into, hybrid destinies are creates.
So, we have standard destinies like Mage, Warrior and Ranger, and hybrid ones such as Battle Mage, which is unlocked when you put some points in both the Warrior and the Mage ability trees.
One final thing to mention about destinies – a point I find pretty cool – is that when you change destinies it changes core game play mechanics. The example that was shown off was that, as a warrior, when you dodge, you roll out of the way and can attack as you come out of a dodge. But, if you’re playing a mage, the same “mechanic” is more like a phase shift that can actually be used to “phase” behind enemies and use rear attacks on them. You literally dodge by teleporting from point A to point B without regard for anything between those two points.
There are little things that are amazing additions to the RPG genre, as well. The entire room cheered when the inventory and looting systems were showed off, and it was revealed that you can take stuff straight from a corpse, chest or your inventory and put it in a “junk” bucket, which will sell immediately when you open up a vendor screen.
You heard that right.
Also, the outdoor environments were ridiculously detailed, especially for a pre-alpha build. If this is pre-alpha, I think I might have to change my pants when I see a final build.
Finally, a philosophy that I really can relate to is that it was pointed out that, through the entire game, things were designed to make the world worth defending. Because, let’s face is, when we, as the player, can’t get behind what the characters are supposed to be fighting for, it hampers our relationship with them and the immersion in the game itself.
Before I let this impressions piece run away from me, let’s just list a bunch of other stuff quickly that was shown off.
- There are no button combos to learn.
- There’s a day/night cycle with NPCs going about their own business, available at different times and might tell you different things at different times.
- Always something to find off the beaten path.
- Enemies work together.
- The mini-map is very like World of Warcraft, with quests shown and all sorts of stuff.
- No auto-leveling of enemies, each area has a specific level range.
All in all, of everything I saw at PAX East, this is the game I’m most excited about. I swear I meant it when I said that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will blow Dragon Age 2 out of the water, as much as I love the latter.