Archive

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Hands-On Preview

Updated Tue, Oct 04, 2011 by Ethec

Dropping big names like R. A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, and Ken Rolston is one thing, but does the influence of these renowned masters of their respective fields translate into a compelling game experience? While we won’t have a complete answer until February, here’s an early scorecard based on our recent 5-hour playsession with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning at Big Huge Games’ studios.


Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s Story –
The R. A. Salvatore Factor


Though author R.A. Salvatore frequents the New York Times Bestseller lists for his work on the written page, at heart, he is seems to me a storyteller in the oral tradition. Forsaking the epic scope of a Robert Jordan, the political mishmash of George R. R. Martin, and the moral turpitude and bohemian sophistication of Stephen Erikson, you don’t need a literary degree or an multi-year commitment to understand and enjoy a Drizzt story.

Along those lines, I best enjoy Salvatore’s work in audiobook form, so the transition to the video game format seems very natural (Salvatore’s done it before, credited with work on games such as Demon Stone and, interestingly, Quake 3 Arena). We understand that Reckoning is a giant prologue to the story 38 Studios will continue in the upcoming MMO tentatively titled Copernicus, so much of the franchise’s “hook” will hinge on how well Salvatore and his team can spin a story.

And they spin it early, hard, and often. From your character’s more-than-humble origins (you start the game atop a pile of corpses, the first trial in the resurrecting Well of Souls experiment), the story centers on how Fate begins to unravel around your character as you take the fight to the Fae overlord Gadflow and his Tuaha Deohn minions.

kingdoms of amalur reckoning well of souls

The Well of Souls is a major plot focus in Reckoning, and one you'll come to terms with right away.

Free will vs. destiny posers aside, every character (even side NPCs that have nothing to do with quests) seems to have 5 or 6 dialogue options designed to give you a grounding in Amalur lore. And, as for story, I barely scraped the surface. In four hours of play, I didn’t make it to the second region, the arid, red-hued desert of Detyre from the deep forests and swamps of Dalentarth, the starting region. 

Yet there was no lack of trouble to get into in Dalentarth. While interactions with the Fateweavers (the priesthood of the good races of Amalur in this time period) form the backbone of the main story, Reckoning has no lack of side quests, some even offering the makings of story branching. When an innocent Fae is brutally beaten by humans, do you go before her faction, the House of Ballads, to try and make nice, or do you join the Fae-hating Warsworn, a mercenary band, and take an aggressive stance against the Summer Court? Players can only work one angle, and it’s likely that early choices like these will color your later experiences in Reckoning.

The narrative did have its flaws – if not necessarily in content, than in execution. The downside to having a game that would easily function as a series of novels is that you’ll have to read or listen to dialogue after dialogue to get the full effect, which really bogs down the otherwise intense nature of Reckoning’s gameplay. There’s ways around this – action RPGs have gotten very good at feeding players voiceover as they move and fight – but in Reckoning I fear too many players will miss out on some great storytelling in the rush to click past dialogue and get into the action.

30,000 lines of dialogue means you'll have plenty of light reading between fights.Another disappointment with Reckoning’s storytelling, and something that simply won’t change before launch, is that the player character isn’t voiced. Studio Head Sean Dunn explained that with Reckoning’s 30,000+ lines of dialogue, it wasn’t possible to do several alternate voicings for both genders of the game’s 4 playable races and not add several Xbox discs to an already full cases. Other games have featured a mute protagonist to great effect, notably the Fallout series, but I personally prefer the more BioWare-ish, Ubisoft-ish tack of letting you experience your character’s choices from their own lips.

That, and perhaps too many of the voices were recorded with too few voice actors – the Scottish accents favored by the dwarves and gnomes were especially hammy – but its possible that some of this was simply placeholder VO at this stage of the game’s development.

All that said, Reckoning will clearly feature story, and worthwhile story, in spades. The four hour playsession alone was enough to whet my appetite to see how my early decisions and actions carried forward and what kind of character I’d become.


Sorry you didn't come away with a more positive feel for the game, that said...none of what you seem to find as detractors or negative either don't bother me or I don't agree with. (from what i've seen from the videos)

I don't have to have pvp, especially in a SP RPG.

I don't have a need for my character to be voiced, it's a none issue to me.

I enjoy RPG for the story, this is a RPG with ARPG combat, so yes I realize that it's not a copy of Diablo 2 and basically non-stop action between cut-scenes...there's an expected amount of "reading" & listening, which is just fine imo, and like I said, expected in a RPG game. Just because DA/DA2 does a lot of voiced dialog doesn't mean that all games now need to or that all players now expect it. (imo) ;)

I have no problem player a normal sized humanoid type character. Again, non-issue for me.

I'm perfectly happy playing a RPG that isn't all "browns", I've loved the vibrancy of the videos I've watched and the world looks amazingly alive and active. I'm sure I'll enjoy Skyrim as well, but again...the world hasn't suddenly fled the use and appreciation of color because of "A Game of Thrones" or any other book/video/game.

So yet again, not a problem for me...

I'm a believer in that every game simply isn't for "every" player.

Perhaps this game just isn't your cup of tea as they say ;)

But for me, it sounds & looks amazing...and I haven't been this excited about a game for a long time.

Regards,

Stu

Sorry about all the typos...was typing fast and didn't have time to "proof" before posting, my bad!

I totally agree with Stu. On every point!

Voiced main (or any other) character for me just isn't the right way to make best RPG. Giving few voiced lines to a character at the beginning of a dialog like it was done in Baldur's Gate series or Neverwinter Nights is just perfect for this kind of games. I was more immersed in story as I could imagine characters in my own way (and it goes for the main character also).

Regarding storytelling, what is a point of having R.A. Salvatore making story and lore if you are not going to show it!?!??! I can only thank god that we will get story and lore rich world finally after so many action RPG's made for people that doesn't want to read a single letter on the screen and just want to smash awesome buttons for a few hours.

One of the best RPG games of all times - Betrayal at Krondor that had Raymond E. Feist for a writer made a revolution in 1993. They designed a first game that "felt like a book". Almost 20 years later people still play this game and enjoy it.

I hope the studio will continue to develop this game in the same direction and it will listen to its RPG community. This studio has maturity on its side and it is time that someone makes a real RPG game for the player base that is over 35-40 years old that starves for a quality over quantity. And I am sure quantity will follow as this player base will continue to support such a developer.

I can see this game expanding as a single player game over the years to come and I hope it will get as many expansion as the number of R.A. Salvatore books :)

Best,
Aarionn

Sorry you didn't come away with a more positive feel for the game, that said...none of what you seem to find as detractors or negative either don't bother me or I don't agree with. (from what i've seen from the videos)

I don't have to have pvp, especially in a SP RPG.

I don't have a need for my character to be voiced, it's a none issue to me.

I enjoy RPG for the story, this is a RPG with ARPG combat, so yes I realize that it's not a copy of Diablo 2 and basically non-stop action between cut-scenes...there's an expected amount of "reading" & listening, which is just fine imo, and like I said, expected in a RPG game. Just because DA/DA2 does a lot of voiced dialog doesn't mean that all games now need to or that all players now expect it. (imo) ;)

I have no problem player a normal sized humanoid type character. Again, non-issue for me.

I'm perfectly happy playing a RPG that isn't all "browns", I've loved the vibrancy of the videos I've watched and the world looks amazingly alive and active. I'm sure I'll enjoy Skyrim as well, but again...the world hasn't suddenly fled the use and appreciation of color because of "A Game of Thrones" or any other book/video/game.

So yet again, not a problem for me...

I'm a believer in that every game simply isn't for "every" player.

Perhaps this game just isn't your cup of tea as they say ;)

But for me, it sounds & looks amazing...and I haven't been this excited about a game for a long time.

Regards,

Stu

I think Reckoning looks amazing. I am SO happy it doesn't have the same drab color palette as all those other "serious" RPGs. It will probably help it rather than hinder it, having its own visual identity.
That it shares some superficial visual similarities with WoW is a non-issue. The game world looks alive, colorful and vibrant. It looks like something I'll be happy to explore for hours and take in. Like running around in a story book world, and I am very positive about that.

As far as being high powered... this game has been in development at least as long as ME 3 and Skyrim, so if development time by a full studio is any indication of "power level" then Reckoning is definitely up there with the best of them.

Seems to me this game just isn't your cup of tea, but it's Ambrosia to me.

I do have some concerns, but I've voiced those in the official forums. They're also mostly small things that wouldn't terribly mar my game experience. All in all, this is shaping up to be one of the best RPG experiences for me in the last few years.

Im Level 20 .. Can i kill Gadflow ? or i need to level up ?

Copernicus-Green-City.jpg

Some of the remaining game properties from 38 Studios were sold off during an auction this week but Copernicus wasn’t one of them.

News
Fri, Dec 13, 2013
Martuk
Copernicus-City.jpg

Bidders made their offers for the remaining game assets and tech left over of the defunct 38 Studios in the final asset auction earlier today.

News, Official Announcements
Wed, Dec 11, 2013
Martuk
Copernicus-Night.jpg

The auction for 38 Studios’ game assets and IPs has been pushed back to December following “greater than expected” interest.

News, Official Announcements
Fri, Nov 08, 2013
Martuk
Copernicus-City.jpg

The lawyer charged with selling off 38 Studios’ game IPs wants to delay next week’s planned auction due to “greater than expected interest.”

News, Official Announcements
Wed, Nov 06, 2013
Martuk

News from around the 'Net