the past few years we have been anxiously awaiting information
from 38 Studios and the projects they have been working on. We expected
the game that they would be developing would have some powerful
potential. After all, when you put Todd McFarlane, Ken Rolston, and RA
Salvatore on a team together, how could it not go extremely well?
Then in May of 2009, it was announced that 38 Studios had acquired Big Huge Games. This move was a little confusing to some as it was unclear at that point what the plan was for the MMOG. BHG had been behind some single player games but how it would relate to the project codenamed Copernicus was unclear.
We headed over to the studios and were shown our first look at Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. We began the day with a walkthrough demo of the game, which we would again see at GDC of this year.
The game is set to launch in 2012 and we were shown just a small slice of the huge world that's been planned. In Reckoning, magic is appearing for the first time, and there's a war going on as immortality is first discovered. That's where the player comes in. When your character is first created it is unclear as to where you came from or where you're going, and all of that works into the story. The epic plot unravels as you play your way through the game, figuring out your role in the world.
The world feels huge, yet familiar. There is a potential play time of 200 hours in this game, so you can imagine the sheer size and detail of the world. The intent behind the design was familiarity and to feel that Amalur is worth defending. The level of realism in the game is set to a level where the world is believable yet mystical. Everything was hand-placed in the world; there was no auto-generation of terrain or debris. This is particularly evident as the game switches between day and night cycles which are set at a 1:30 ratio. At night, lights will come on and town residents will head to pubs or go to bed to sleep.
"The system is class-less so it will be up to the player to decide how they wish to fulfill their destiny, or build their character through traditional ability trees in the destiny system. This can be as customized as the player likes, or if preferred, the game will recognize how the player has been playing and selecting their points distribution, and will offer destiny suggestions."
There are four races in Reckoning: two human races (Almain and Varni), and two elvish races (Ljosalfar and Dokkalfar). The races will each get a racial bonus as well as bonuses depending on their patron gods. Standard expectations of character appearance customization are part of the creation process, offering customization of facial features, colors, piercings, and tattoos, although there are no body type customization options. The world around you will also react to your race and background.
So, after you have created your character you can enter the game and you realize that you are dead. The whole goal from here on out is to figure out how you have died and why you have come back. BHG was not about to reveal this information, so it will be up to us to uncover as we play the game.
So enough about the story and world, how does the game actually play?
Though we didn't actually get hands on time with the game, we were able to watch as the demo was played through. The goal of the gameplay is fluid combo-based combat. Fear not, though, as the combos are not an intricate series of button mashing in pre-defined Euclidean combinations. The player can wield two weapons at once, and will have one button for each weapon. The combos will trigger based on the timing and rhythm the buttons are pushed as well as the position of the player to the monster. More importantly, if timing's not your thing, you will also be able to play just fine by tapping the button in your own fashion; there will be no need to invest points in advanced combos if you don't wish to use them. Wearing a shield will allow the player to parry, which opens more attack opportunities. All encounters have visual tells indicating an opening for attack or an incoming attack that will need to be dodged or parried.
Ken Rolston's influence is seen in the scaling of monster encounters. Like he did in Oblivion, encounters will scale to the player's level. However, the scale is limited to a maximum range. So, for example, a monster may level up to level 20 or so based on your level, but if you fight it when you're level 30, it will still only be level 20. There are also three levels of combat difficulty for the game, which can be set at any time by the player.
The UI and controls will be slightly different between the console and PC versions, but both systems are set up for ease of control. The advantage that the PC will have over the console is that the controls will be customizable, whereas on the console they will be static presets.
"The level of realism in the game is set to a level where the world is believable yet mystical. Everything was hand-placed in the world; there was no auto-generation of terrain or debris. This is particularly evident as the game switches between day and night cycles which are set at a 1:30 ratio. At night, lights will come on and town residents will head to pubs or go to bed to sleep."
Encounters will require strategy. For example, some encounters will spawn additional enemies, and it will be up to the player to decide which monsters to take out first. And should you have difficulty with an encounter you won't need to worry about losing your progress as you can save the game at any time outside of combat in addition to the autosave feature.
McFarlane's influence on the art and animations is quite clear in the game, particularly in some of the finishing moves. The screen will shift to a slow-mo or pause just before landing that devastating blow. These finishers feel like comic-book based movie shots, which McFarlane has made a name for himself. Some of these moves are known as "fate shifts" which allows the player to shift the destiny of those around him or her. The fate shift blow is different for every mob type.
There is some basic crafting in the game known as sagecrafting. This allows gems and slots in your equipment. Based on the gems that are slotted your weapon could take on a different look all together, like a flaming sword. Other crafting schools include blacksmithing, alchemy and several more which have yet to be announced.
And what about the MMOG?
Some of the monsters and races seen in Reckoning will be playable in the MMO iteration. The world will be set in Amalur, of course, 2000 years after Reckoning. According to the studio's founder, Curt Schilling, the MMO game however, is going to take a bit longer before we see it. But given the promise of Reckoning, we don't mind the wait.