Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Preview

With Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, developers 38 Studios are aiming to take a slightly different approach to the western RPG, while still incorporating many of the tried-and-true mechanics and design elements veterans of the genre have grown accustomed to. Between its third-person action combat, dynamic loot system, and class designation based on play style, there looks to be enough here to warrant some attention from both seasoned RPGers and players who may have avoided the genre in the past.

A major theme in Reckoning is the protagonist’s lack of a destiny. This ties into the game’s narrative, and also into play itself. At the game’s outset, the lead character wakes up on a pile of corpses, having come back from the dead through the Well of Souls. This leaves him (or her), unlike anyone else in Amalur, born without a fate. As such, players do not choose a character class to begin the game. Four races, both genders, and a variety of facial structures, hairstyles, skin tones, eye colors, tattoos, and piercings are available when starting out, but a class is not designated until later, when the game suggests a “destiny” consistent with the way the character is built and the choices the player has made up until that point. The developers have said that this class system is a way to provide a “narrative wrapper” for, and then support and enhance an established play style via stat and ability bonuses bestowed by the chosen destiny.

Combat is also different from the typical RPG in that it more closely resembles something like God of War or Darksiders (which also happened to blend genres in a similar way). Reckoning features fast-paced third-person combat, and while success does not hinge upon player skill or combo memorization, that more tangible interaction between player and character does seem to exist. There is even a meter that fills as enemies fall, eventually allowing activation of “Reckoning mode,” during which time slows, the player gets faster and stronger, and Fate-shift kills can be executed. The game does remain an RPG, however, so the bottom line for combat success is the way in which a player has built his or her character.

One thing that helps a character grow is loot, and 38 Studios has incorporated a dynamic loot system reminiscent of the one in Borderlands: hundreds of component parts make up thousands of random pieces of equipment, each of which will theoretically display differently on the character in the game world. There will also be unique items, often parts of sets, that players can find throughout Amalur. It looks like 38 is aiming to make loot an enjoyable game component, rather than a boring or tedious one, as evidenced by the lottery-like nature of dynamic loot, the collectible equipment sets, and the convenient ability to equip items directly from the loot screen.

It wouldn’t be an RPG if there weren’t secondary abilities through which players could mess around with everything the world has to offer. Mentioned during this particular demo were Alchemy, which lets players use recipes or their own creativity to concoct potions from ingredients plucked from all around Amalur, Blacksmithing, which allows weapon and armor creation and breakdown, and Sagecrafting, a skill via which players combine magic shards into gems to be slotted into equipment to produce bonus effects. These come complimentary of a set of three ability trees, which can be invested in evenly, or prioritized to master a particular style of play.

A huge world, with five distinct environmental zones, four major cities, a number of minor towns, and over 125 dungeon areas, is where all of these things will be put to use. Aside from a central narrative campaign, hundreds of sidequests will be available for players to level up and earn other rewards. This includes six distinct Faction quest lines, each with its own divergent, yet related side plot. For those who don’t wish to explore everything the game has to offer, though, 38 has thought ahead to include options for streamlining the experience, like a dialog system that always highlights the responses that most rapidly usher the player through any conversation in order to advance the story.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is aiming high with a “God of War meets Oblivion” goal, but from what 38 Studios has to show so far, the prospect is looking more and more believable. There’s still plenty of time until the game’s 2012 release, so it can only grow from here. We’ll be keeping an eye out.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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