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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning The Warcrafty, Darksidery, Bloom Lovin’ RPG

I rarely (and I mean rarely) play demos. This damn game, I don’t know what it is, but I have been terribly curious to see how it turns out since I first saw it at E3. When I left the screening room I thought it could be a revolutionary step in action-rpgs…or a huge flop. Still intrigued, I snagged the 360 demo yesterday.

Amalur is trying to be a lot of things, which has a tendency to backfire on developers.

It’s trying to be an epic open world rpg like Skyrim, Oblivion, etc.

It’s trying to be a deep, story driven rpg like a Dragon Age or even Mass Effect.

It’s trying to be an action rpg like Darksiders.

It’s trying to look (graphically and in art direction) like World of WarCraft. (I was shocked at how WarCrafty it looked. These developers love them some bloom effect.)

It’s trying to have a tactical combat element like, well, sort of like Dark Souls.

Throw it in the blender and you get Amalur. The demo isn’t terribly long but it gives you a really good idea of what’s in store if you drop your cash on it…

The combat is pure action rpg – press A to get all stabby, press RT to bring up a quick spell/special ability menu, press a button I can’t remember to shoot a bow, B to quick dodge, and LT to bring up a shield to block in real time.

The blocking mechanic is the only thing that reminds me of Dark Souls. You have to time your blocks which makes combat at least a little bit tactical. It looks incredibly weird though because you don’t SEE the shield until you use it to block.  It vanishes when you aren’t using it. My avatar has a bow on his back, two daggers in hand and yet can magically produce a kite shield from apparently under his vest.

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I did a Dark Souls test and nope…you can’t walk off a cliff. Ah well.

The combat reminds of me Darksiders. It’s fast, has some nice animations, but at least in the demo isn’t terribly difficult. The boss you fight is a cakewalk. You can string together attacks, do some wicked finishing moves and generally leap around like a jumping bean. This isn’t Skyrim combat—it’s pure action with a lot of stat crunching numbers under the hood. 

That’s the odd blend here as Amalur is full of traditional rpg trappings: stats, skills, dialogue out the wazoo (there’s a lot of speech in the demo and you play the strong, silent type. You have no voice which is all too common in this genre), various skill trees for melee, stealth and magic and the obvious crate smashing to find gold pieces. Hey at least the giant rats weren’t carrying money on them….(cough Skyrim).

The demo throws a lot of weapons at you so you can try out certain styles: daggers are wickedly fast, swords are swords, and you can use bows or fire shooting staffs. You also have magic powers regardless of your chosen field.

So in the end, after playing the demo for a couple of hours, Amalur remains an odd, odd bird. It’s trying to blend so many genres that I do wonder if it’s going to end up being great at any of them. The demo is terribly difficult to gauge. But – fact is, I want to play more. The skill trees look slick with some truly nasty powers at the higher levels.  The career progression with these weird cards has me intrigued and the combat really does have potential.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

25 thoughts to “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning The Warcrafty, Darksidery, Bloom Lovin’ RPG”

  1. The to lead developers Ken Rolston and Joe Quadara, the first from Morrowind and Oblivion the second former Crystal Dynamics, have been making the rounds on podcast namelly Weekend Confirmed and Giant Bomb, they talk about the blending of genres as you mentioned, although they use God of War as the comparison for the action combat.

    If they are successful at this genre mixing the next time someone makes something similar Kingdoms of Amalur will be the name people use as reference.

    With Bioware already hinting that Dragon Age 3 would be a more open world, it would be funny to ear in year people saying Dragon Age 3 is trying to be more like Kingdoms of Amalur.

  2. I’m still playing the demo (finished the tutorial and did some crafting after that, still 40 minutes or so to go) but this was my comment about it on Twitter:

    “I’ve played a bit of the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo yesterday and it feels like a more mature Fable without all the silly stuff. Which is good in my book. I’ll play a little bit more today (hopefully) so I can decide if I’ll preorder it or not.”

    Combat is simple, but flexible and tactical enough to suit my tastes. The world seems huge, and the colorful art direction creates an interesting contrast with the dark themes that seem to dominate the story. Dialog and voice acting is better than I expected it to be, and the lore seems interesting too. UI is OK, with some pretty great ideas (like the “junk” system).

    All in all, it looks like the kind of RPG I’m in the mood to play, though I’d like some more flexibility in mixing skill and abilities (even if I understand why they are the way they are). A better Fable (with a more Darksiders-y combat) is exactly what I’d like to play, and Amalur seems to fit that almost perfectly.

  3. I agree almost down the line with what Rhamorim (SP?) wrote below. I actually loved the demo, and I can’t wait to play more.

    Surprise! It’s really a brawler. But it’s a brawler with lots of compelling depth, plenty of classes and playstyles, unique weapons…and a real story. Darksiders has been mentioned a few times, and it definitely reminds me of that game in a couple of ways. It looks like it’s much more of an RPG-oriented progression though.

    I _love_ the colorful style, I like the design quite a lot. It’s vibrant, lush, and rich-looking, which is a very, very welcome change. Particularly after Skyrim. Or just about any other game from the past several years.

    I think having an actual writer do the world-building paid off, because even in just an hour you really get a sense of where this particular setting stands in comparison to other fantasy settings. It has a unique look and feel, regardless of some well-worn tropes. I was compelled by the story that was there, and it made me want to see more of it.

    It’s DEFINITELY MMORPG influenced. Heavily. That could be a liability. There’s only so many of those kinds of quests I can do, and without a social element collecting things and killing some guy gets really old.

    Combat and controls are outstanding. Very smooth. Yeah, it’s dumb that your shield just appears…but that’s pretty typical in brawlers. Magic rocks.

    I like the item system, the upgrade trees, pretty much everything on the back end. Very accessible, and definitely not a “numbers stew”.

    I’m willing to buy it, I liked what I saw and like Rhammy said it’s exactly the kind of game I’d like to play right now. It does remind me of Fable, but a Fable that’s actually good and that doesn’t conflate innovation with fart jokes.

    Not sure where Curt Schilling is in all of the design. Maybe there’s a baseball minigame. Or an ASL one.

    Oh, and you can make your character an elf with a giant fuck-off poacher moustache. How awesome is that?


  4. I was fairly smittend with this one as well. Combat is remarkably fast and fluid, of course. The real Fable test was when I handed it off to Sandi, who played the Fable series to death. She picked up combat in seconds with only a quick button reference. 

    Normal level so far is pitched on the easy side. 

    Otherwise, a pretty amazing game. Two nitpicks:

    1. Some of the voice acting is pretty bad. Not “Master of Unlocking” bad, but clunky. 

    2. There is a suprising amount of crazy polygon glitches in the terrain in the demo. Every 2-3 minutes, we’d see some kind of giant triangular texture blog taking up 1/4 of the landscape for a few seconds. Did anyone else see this? (360 version)





  5. Disclaimer: Rhamorim (you spelled it right, though if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t blame you) is more of a username/callsign thing… like Todd with “ubrakto”. My name is Roberto.

    And I’m glad to know you also liked it, Barnes. I’m cautiously optimistic at this point, and I’ll definitely play the demo a little bit more, but odds are I’ll end up preordering it tonight. Hopefully, I’ll play it for a good while, at least until Darksiders 2 arrives.


  6. I don’t remember seeing those glitches you mentioned in the PC version, though I did notice some popping (of objects/textures) here and there. Nothing major, though.

    Also, it’s been said by the developers that the demo is based on a months-old split of the main codebase; though they tried to backport the most serious bugs, they didn’t backport all of them, and (according to them) most of the problems experienced in the demo have been fixed in the final game. So there’s that.


  7. The demo certainly wants me to play more of it, so mission accomplished as far as demos go.

    I do hope that basic combat ramps up a bit. I’m tired of the “hey here’s four bad guys that have absolutely no chance to hurt me” scenarios with these games. I was expecting a mash up of action rpg and stat based rpg and that’s here, w/o a doubt.


  8. I’ve got to echo the notion that it feels like a Fable more skewed towards combat rather than social simulation. I was chuckling the whole time though because I picked the bald black guy preset and during all the dialogue he stood there looking very unamused at what was going on around him.

  9. Eh, Billiam isn’t as good as Blabner.

    But yeah, how about that, I got the spelling right from memory. But knowing that your name is Roberto, it’ll be very hard not to call you Rhamberto from now on. Or Rhambo.

  10. Well, Billiam was created by Mister Binky. I was trying to keep it to NHS-generated names.

    As for the monikers, Rhambo isn&#82#8217;t half bad. I’ve heard something similar somewhere, I think. Perhaps in a movie?

    Zaysen: Are you insane? One man against trained commandos… Who do you think this man is? God?
    Colonel Trautman: No. God would have mercy. He won’t.

  11. Bill really likes to be called Lil Abner. He has never heard it before I recently called him that and thus loves it. Try it out!

  12. Is this going to ship with some co-op? Because while the demo was fairly good I just kept thinking it would be cool to duo it.

  13. Do I need to take the difficulty comment with a grain of salt? You beat Dark Souls afterall. I envision you with nerves of steel, reflexes of a cat and thumbs that could crush walnuts.

  14. I enjoyed the demo enough, though I think the “everything to everyone” RPG design approach leaves it more than a little unfocused. I was swinging like a pendulum between moments I loved and moments I was embarrassed to be participating in.

    I liked the incorporation of fairy lore into the bog-standard fantasy formula, since it rarely pops up in modern culture (odd Eastern European gems like King Arthur: the Roleplaying Wargame and The Witcher aside).

    I hated the interface, an uninspired system of lists, menus, and hotkeys that all don’t quite work the way anyone who has played an RPG on a computer in the past decade would expect. Where the heck is my paper doll? Why doesn’t hitting “i” kick me smoothly in and out of the equipment screen? Why am I selecting items from rather arbitrary categories and having to double-click to equip them? Didn’t these guys see the backlash Skyrim received over their crap inventory system?

    On a side note, I’ve never played an RPG so quickly and efficiently as when the demo announced that I had twenty minutes of playtime left and that I should probably finish up whatever quests I’m on.

  15. Tried it. I wasn’t a fan of Darksiders, Fable wasn’t my thing, and I’m bored of WoW. Pretty environments though. Between Skyrim and Mass Effect 3, my RPG needs will be fully met. So I’m not sure what the added value of this game would be.

  16. I didn’t love it quite this much, but tried it this morning and was very close in my estimation.

    The scenery is fantastic. Look, a color that isn’t goddamn brown! The cave flowers that bloom in the presence of magic were fantastic.

    The character options were good. Lots to variety for fighters, rogues, and mages. I do like the archery and the regenerating arrows. Thank god. I boosted my magic way up, put on some snazz robes, and did some great charge attacks before I stopped.

    Big plus for one of the most memorable character openings I have seen in a while. Relatively generic fantasy, then… wake up in a corpse pile. Loved that.

  17. There’s a quest in the demo that has you looking for a monk that disappeared. When you finally find the monk, he’s convinced that he will become a great wizard, and he’s trying to come up with a “great wizard name”.

    One of the names he “tried”, though, caught my eye. And it was…

    “Abner the Visionary”.

    I laughed out loud. Really loud. And it was kind of an evil laugh too.

    And I have no idea why I told you all that. Not at all. Noooo, sir.

  18. My youngest Son was watching me play the demo when I came across the same line. My Son looks at me and says, “Is he talking about TheAbner who’s your Xbox Live friend?”

    I Just laughed and said, “He could be… He just might be…”

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