Fantasy RPG’s are a funny old beast, you don’t get any for a long period of time, then suddenly there they are, all lined up on the horizon, teasing you to pick the one you feel will go the distance. Looking ahead to this year and next, we have Dungeon Hunter III, Hunted: Demon’s Forge and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while not long ago we had Fable III, Two Worlds II and Dragon Age II. These aren’t the only contenders for your cash though, as we found out at EA ‘s Spring Showcase.
Quietly brewing up a momentum in the background is a new title named Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a new fantasy RPG from 38 Studios. The team behind this game certainly has enough Fantasy RPG experience behind it, Ken Rolston worked on Morrowind and Oblivion, Todd McFarlane, Spawn and then there is writer RA Salvatore, who many readers of the Forgotten Realms novels will know of.
Straight from the off you can tell this game has epic RPG written all over it, after creating your character and customising him or her with the expansive character creation system, your character is thrown straight into the action, landing atop a large pile of corpses. The strange thing about all this is that you were actually dead, so your mission is to find out what happened to you and how you ended up coming back to life.
As you wander along after your rude awakening, you are suddenly confronted with a Gnome, who sees you wander up the corridor towards the door, this guy as it turns out is the creator of the Well of Souls, which it seems is probably the reason you are alive. Therefore you are asked to grab a sword, and your adventure begins.
Interestingly the developers explained to us that one of your characters abilities is that he is born without fate, whereas everyone else in Amalur has one, what this means is that the game will grow around how you shape your character and in turn as will others.
There are four different classes to play within reckoning and the first we were shown was the traditional warrior. The first action with the warrior was against some little minions who weren’t particularly difficult to take down. Combat is a fairly simple thing in Reckoning, with face buttons mapped to each weapon, therefore the style in which you use the weapons will vary depending on how you press the button. The weapons within the game will certainly differ, with the developer promising us that there are millions of combinations of armour and weapons within the game, especially when you use the various enchantments and gems to make them more unique than they otherwise would be.
As with all RPG’s, when you kill an enemy you will gain XP, your progress is shown in a large bar which appears on the bottom screen, showing just how far your character is away from the next level. When you level up you are able to choose your path from a wide range of skills, which is excellent as it allows you to specialize or just become a good all rounder. Obviously the skills you choose will affect the way your character is in the World, both in terms of looks and personality, so there is certainly more to think about when you are upgrading than whether you want to use big fireballs or a longsword.
The beauty of Reckoning is that even if you are a rogue or wizard you can still customise your character in a way that allows them to get into the thick of the fighting action if you wish, otherwise you can still play these characters in the traditional way i.e. hurting the enemy from a distance, or by stealth in the rogues case.
Reckoning is a RPG in every sense, however the developers have tried to make it accessible for everyone, therefore if you just want to pick up equipment and not juggle through your menus, then you have the choice of equipping any item you find straight away. If you want to save time when selling equipment you can just put everything you want straight into a junk pile and then sell the lot all at once. This system ties in well with the one button touch assigned to weapons and magic.
One thing that stuck out for me is that Reckoning encourages you to explore your surroundings, the developer explained to us paths will veer off course, and while you do not need to go down these routes, if you do then you will always be rewarded. It’s interesting to see this in action as you will be wandering along, and then suddenly this dark, uninviting path will be there, staring you in the face, and although you think to yourself you shouldn’t go that way, for some reason it draws you in.
Another impressive aspect was the dungeons, which not only highlighted the fact that you will not only be underground, but also come across open spaces. Speaking of open space, in one level we saw the character go into the dungeon during the day and when he came to an open space within the dungeon, it was night time, so obviously day and night cycles are going to be used to full effect within Reckoning.
Day and Night cycles, upgrading weapons and characters are all very well, but what about the enemies? Well, it seems that you won’t be disappointed here, during the brief presentation we had of the game we saw a giant troll, serpents, goblins and all other manner of nasty beasts, and we are assured that there’s plenty more where they came from too. Another interesting point regarding the enemy is that if you see a certain type outside a dungeon, then that is likely to be the level of enemy you fight within; an obvious move, but a smart one all the same.
During the presentation the developers explained that they want players to care about the world their character lives in, therefore they plan to use the games five regions to draw you in, so that you will want to save the place, rather than just letting it crumble at your feet. Although we only had a short video showing us the five regions in full, the sheer variety and beauty of these areas mean they may very well have pulled this off, although only time will tell in that respect.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning certainly seems to have drawn inspiration from some of the best RPG’s out there, with elements of Elder Scrolls, Fable and a few others clearly visible. If 38 studios early presentation is a sample of what’s to come then this game really could be one of the stand out’s of next year. Let’s just hope they succeed at what they are trying to achieve.