Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo Reviewed

The Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (KoAR) demo was released on Steam and I had a chance to put about an hour into it. I've been hard on the game in the past for it's very generic nature in the marketing spins produced by it's developer 38 Studios. Having played the demo now, I am still worried the title is a little bit too generic fantasy to rise above the field. However, there were a couple bright spots that gave me some hope for the game.

KoAR starts as almost any RPG starts by providing an origin story for the player's character. In this case, the player's avatar died on a foreign battlefield and their body dumped into the Well of Souls. As luck would have it, the Well of Souls ends up working to restore the character to life. It is a very organic introduction to the game and setting up the player's character. It also gives a blank slate entrance into the world and sets up a plausible re-spawn scenario.

Once resurrected from the pile of bodies in the Well of Souls, the player is whisked through some battles. Apparently the "bad guys" are attacking the Well of Souls. A few combat training scenarios later the player is on their way.

The combat felt very "actiony" (if such a word were to exist). However, after a while I felt like i was just left and right clicking like mad. The controls were as expected (WASD movement, click to attack), but I couldn't quite figure out how to hot key cast spells. It required a button press and then a right click. I'd much have preferred just to press a button.

One glaring problem I had with combat was targeting. Many times it looked like my avatar was targeting a specific monster only to unleash my attack in a completely different direction. Or just the opposite, I was charging an enemy down and attacked only to have the attack choose a target to the side. Fortunately, once hitting a target the game does a good job of keeping the player locked on. The combat varies a good bit based on the weapon selected and it was refreshing to see that spell casters could still handle themselves in melee combat.

Even with the targeting issue, the system showed promise. The move to action combat is a welcome sight for open RPGs and KoAR does a good job to fit the action in with the rest of the RPG goodies. There are still potions and other things to do all accessible via quick menus that work very well. The menus are well laid out and offer mouse click or hot key movement. I found most of the UI intuitive from character level ups to inventory management.

Overall I think KoAR will be a good RPG, but it still feels and looks generic. The action combat helps separate it from the crowd a little bit, but I'm not sure it will be the game's ticket to success. I think the keys to the game are locked outside of the demo. The supposed open world, non linear progression, and complex destiny ( aka class ) system may sell the game to the RPG faithful. I'm interested to see how the game does.

After playing the demo I wouldn't buy the game myself, but that's because I'm pretty spoiled by Steam sales and have a back log of great RPGs to play. At a later date with a good sale I would feel comfortable buying this.

View my screenshots here.

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