A First Look at Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning

Posted Tue, Mar 08, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

Over 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.

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning

Earlier this year the light was shed. For the first time ever, press was able to visit the BHG studios in Baltimore to get a first look at Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This title is being developed as a single player game but is set in the same universe as the planned Copernicus. Since Amalur is a unique IP we wanted to check it out and see what a team of iconic visionaries could put together.

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.

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning

Players will feel a desire to explore every nook and cranny as there is something at every turn, whether it be new creatures or new harvesting resources. Even so, the world feels like it has a real history and everything discovered in the world has a purpose. Nothing was put in just because "it looks cool." Ruins will have a story behind why they're there. "It's magic" is not an acceptable reason for Salvatore and the team.

"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."
The world and combat has a wonderful score behind it, designed by Nials Rodgers, with 650 recorded  hours of music and sound.

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.

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning

We were introduced to the Well of Souls, which is exactly what it sounds like--a giant well filled with souls. The Well will be a large focus of the story in the game and its secrets revealed as time goes on. During the introduction demo we met a gnome character who was the creator of the Well and we learned that every mortal has a destiny. Since we were brought back as an immortal we have a blank slate, and will be able to create our own destiny.

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.


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