I have to say, after seeing a good amount of footage and reading up on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, I was really excited for the title. So much, in fact, that it surpassed Mass Effect 3 for my most anticipated game of 2012. I sat down with the newly released demo to see if my expectations were justified.
The demo takes you through the beginning of the game. Your character is dead and being carted away by two gnomes. Here’s where you will create your character. There are four races to choose from, each having slightly different starting stats. The face customization allows you to make the character however you want. It’s not too complex, but there is enough there to satisfy your creation itch. There is also a patron to choose that will grant you another starting stat increase. Think of it like the star signs in Oblivion.
The beginning part of the demo is basically a tutorial level to show you everything the game has to offer in combat and traversing the world. There is a lot to take in as far as different combat situations using a sword, shield, magic staff, daggers and spellcasting. Each has its own way of playing, and choosing which style is right for you is what the tutorial is all about.
You find out that you are the first person ever to have been successful brought back from the dead with an experimental machine. During this time, the tower you are in comes under attack by the story’s antagonists, Tuatha soldiers. During your escape, you encounter your first boss fight against a rock troll. After escaping the tower, you are told to seek out a Fateweaver. Fateweavers can see a person’s destiny and see where they stand in the line of fate. The Agarths, the Fateweaver you meet, surprises you with the information that you have no destiny. You are a clean slate. This is where the destinies mechanic comes into play. Depending on how you choose to play the game and what points you place in your stats when you level up, you are allowed to choose different destinies. If you are an all melee sword-wielding hack and slash kind of player, you can choose a destiny that features heavy weapons combat. Destinies can grant you higher stats complementing your preferred play style. Luckily, you’re never really stuck with a certain destiny. You can change them whenever you’d like.
After talking with the Fateweaver, you are then allowed 45 minutes to do whatever you wish. You can take on quests, explore, and basically play the game as if it were the retail release. That is how you do a demo right. Just from running around the first area and doing quests, I can tell this is going to be a long game. I didn’t even finish all the quests in the demo, and I did a ton of them.
The art style is a combination of Fable and World of Warcraft. There are a ton of bright colors and exaggerated looking models, but they give off a more mature feel. It’s hard to explain, but it suits the game great. The music is another surprise. I was expecting music much like Fable, but instead heard more epic sounding scores that you would hear in a Lord of the Rings game. It was a nice touch.
The combat is very action based, but still gives off the RPG feel. You can dodge and attack as well as defend and use magic abilities. Depending on how much you level up in the game, you can unlock new abilities to use against your foes. Some weapons are enchanted and some abilities will do additional effects to your enemies, so when you light a wolf on fire with a fireball, you can see the damage slowly chip away at their health over time. It is very much an RPG as much as it is an action hack and slash.
Now, I do have to say, the demo is not without problems. I find that the camera is very strange compared to other games. Most games have the camera fixated on your character. In Amalur, it seemed like the camera was more a point of view rather than a turning mechanic. Most people don’t notice this, but the camera serves as a way to turn in most games. In Amalur, this is not the situation. Also, the demo is rather buggy. There were multiple times where the audio would cut out. There were also some occasions where I would be in a conversation and the game would skip all the dialog and choices I made. It was strange. 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have stated that the demo is from an earlier build of the game and that the full game will not have those issues.
I think it means something when I spend over two hours with just a demo. The game hits all the right notes for me as an RPG player, and keeps me entertained with the action based combat. I honestly can’t wait for the full release. There’s a ton to do in the demo, and that’s just the beginning of the game. The developers have been quoted as saying that to do everything in the game, while skipping all of the dialog, would take you over 200 hours. Is that true? We’ll see. If it is, judging by the demo, I can’t wait to play those 200 plus hours.