In an RPG, it’s important that players always have an objective to work toward. A reason to keep playing beyond obtaining ‘more loot,’ or clearing out ‘just one more dungeon. That’s why, before ever traversing the world of Amalur players are introduced to Gadflow, the king of the Winter Court. Of course, we don’t have an opportunity to sit and converse like old friends; instead we’re given a brief first appearance, one that shows the wretched king standing amongst piles of bodies, with a head lolling away from it’s former resident. Intriguing. But anyone can render a cutscene, the real problem lies in the gameplay itself. So how does the demo play?
Thankfully, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning introduces players at the beginning of the epic, initially requiring you to customize your character with what is expected to be the same options available in the full release. Four races are available, each with unique strengths raging from crafting skills like blacksmithing to more practical skills like stealth. After choosing your genealogy, it’s time for your religion (or lack thereof). Players can align themselves with five different deities, again, providing different benefits. For those lacking piety, an option for ‘none’ is available, providing players with a 1% increase in all xp received. And the final step before moving into actual gameplay is character customization. Face, hair, and accessories can be altered to ensure that every character and every player feels unique.
Now, your corpse is viewable by all. That’s a literal statement, by the way. You’re a corpse. Seriously. As you get dumped into a pit of bodies, you’re required to choose a name, typical of most RPG’s. Then, you simply wake up. Amongst the piles of rotting corpses, you force your way out from underneath them with no recollection of who you are, how you died, how you came back and, more strangely, why? But those questions have to wait for now; it’s time to explore the underground caverns and learn the basics of KoA: Reckoning.
Progressing through the initial area acts as a training ground for players, giving a taste of magic, stealth, ranged, and melee combat. No one combat tree feels more powerful than another. Each provides combat bonuses for chain attacks, powerful charge attacks, and are useful in their own way during different portions of the demo. In a wonderful change of pace, each character has the ability to use magnificent magic abilities and spells, regardless if they’re wielding an enormous hammer or dancing around enemies with fey blades — double-sided daggers employed by the stealthier characters.
Additionally, players are introduced to the dialogue system, which takes advantage of a wheel-like system giving players an opportunity to choose their answers or topics for the next conversation. While persuasion is available, yielding different results, markedly absent were options that would dictate whether your character was good or evil, which seemed odd in a game being touted as a deep RPG. However, these options could be introduced later in the game.
Another welcome perk is the overall interface; more specifically the absence of unneeded information and the inclusion of an uncluttered mess. Health, Mana, and Fate Energy take up your upper-lefthand corner, while a minimap resides in the upper-right. Your experience meter rests at the bottom of your screen and, when you wish to call up your magic options, the controller face buttons will appear, but are not visible at all times. It’s a simple look that gives players the ability to take in the maximum amount of visuals, and KoA: Reckoning has a wonderful pallet of colors.
Instead of your typical browns and greens, Big Huge Games has expanded the palette to include vivid colors. When delving into the fiercest dungeons, the ominous look is still apparent, but instead of dark colors, players are greeted with blues, greens, and reds that set the mood, but also grab the players attention. When exploring a forest, wonderful hues of purple, yellow, and orange meld together to create a gorgeous amalgamation of action and wonderment.
In a strange mixture of varying combat, wonderful visuals, and intriguing storyline, the substantial demo goes to great bounds to answer questions that players may have. Giving players a chance to experience each individual facet of combat, a taste of the level system, and a small portion of crafting, the KoA: Reckoning demo is one of the better experiences a gamer will find when still unsure of a purchase.
Big Huge Games may have created a world that role-players come to crave. We’ll find out when Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning releases on February 7, 2012.