Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckonatorationing: The division of power: Lords of the Fae – Part 1: The Claudia Black Narration

January 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ok, so, despite the complexity of the title, this is a relatively brief recap of my time with the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo.  I want to say what’s good(there’s quite a bit), and also what’s bad(not too much), as well as what’s mediocre(there’s a fair amount of that).  ONWARDS!

So, KoA:R, which I will henceforth refer to as “Koala,” is a product of 38 studios, a complete newcomer to the gaming world, and rather importantly, Big Huge Games(who are owned by the aforementioned studio).  Big Huge Games are rather liked in the niche world of gaming, for the critically acclaimed Rise of Nations, and the more cult hit Rise of Legends.  Both of which are Real-Time Strategy games.  They also worked on the XBLA game Catan, and the Asian Dynasties expansion for Age of Empires 3.  So, this is quite a new project for them, their first foray into the world of RPG’s, though, it’s not entirely unexpected, given their history for bringing streamlined complexity to games, which fits perfectly with the style of an RPG.  Koala is also important as the work of Ken Rolston, Lead Designer on Morrowind and Oblivion, with R.A. Salvatore working on the Lore of the game, and art designed by Todd McFarlane. With a pedigree like this, you’d certainly hope for something special.

And uhhh, it kind of delivers.  The world itself is at least slightly different from your standard fantasy fare.  The world is at war.  Fae fighting everyone.  Confusing Elven people who aren’t Fae.  Pointy ears.  Swords.  Magic.  Your character, the Fateless one, stands an an anomaly in the world, as you can alter fate itself, essentially granting you the power of a god.  Yada yada, world needs saving.  Go smash things.  Luckily, when it comes to smashing things, the game delivers fairly well.  Combat stands as a mix of weapon combat with magic.  With a decent variety of weapons, each designed around specific situations.  By mixing things up, you can flow easily between different methods of smashing things faces in, and when you pull off an amazing combo, it is really satisfying.

As always with combat, the most important thing is stats(actually, it’s really more about control, if you’re good enough the stats aren’t that important, but shush now), and the game certainly has a few of those.  When you level up, you can put a point in to one of some number of non combat related skills, as well as assigning points into one of three development trees, based around the fairly standard magic, might, mystery(I couldn’t think of a good word starting with “m” here, so I mean Archery, stealth, and generally being a bit of a dick).  Finally, based on how you’ve assigned those previous points, you can choose a kind of fate thingy, which further alters stats.

So, combat’s good, stats are fun, but the plot, at least so far as the demo shows, is a bit drab.  Visually, the game is a mixed bag.  It’s never going to win any awards for visuals, with character models that seem like a combination between The Sims and those of Dragon Age.  Its environments too, are not that amazing, from a purely technical standpoint.  Particularly, the game features absolutely immense amounts of pop-in, with things materialising out of thin air as you approach.  Luckily, its art design is quite good, with the world filled with colours, and some visually interesting objects.  Spells have a nice feel to them, and for the most part, characters react well visually to being hit, which helps with the overall feel of combat.  The demo did however feature occasional stuttering, which seemed isolated to the firsts time I would hit something, as though the engine was attempting to cache some data, which, while not particularly bad, did really help to break immersion.

Speaking of Immersion breaking, here’s where the sound fits in.  Every character in the game seems to be doing their best at talking with their worst accents, though, those who don’t have an atrocious accent are at least voiced reasonably well.  Obviously, from a demo, I can’t tell how sound across the entire game fares, but if it features the standard RPG “5 lines of dialogue for a hundred people” then I imagine it could get very grating.  The game also seems to have a problem with playing sounds, as many times I would talk to someone, only to have them not speak for five seconds, despite their words appearing on screen, as well as in combat I found that I would start attacking, with the sounds of my weapon not playing until I finished a combo, where all of them would play at once.  Hopefully those issues can be ironed out prior to release, as they’re very distracting, and particularly immersion breaking.

Sadly, minor glitches like with those in the sound are quite frequent, with the AI often acting extremely dumb(not noticing you attacking them, running in circles, getting stuck on environmental objects), visual artifacts occasionally appearing, small things like that.  Overall, this doesn’t help with the feeling that the game is low budget(which I’m assuming it is).  It features a very large world, so far as I can tell from the map, but I am slightly worried that the whole thing will be a bit like Oblivion, with 2 square metres of ground repeated to give the world a needless sense of size.  That said, I’ve played through the demo twice, I like the feel of combat, and I am hopeful that the game as a whole will ramp itself up a bit.  With a few small tweaks, I think it could be a great game, particularly since glitches or poor voice acting have never stopped an RPG before.

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