Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kingdom of Amalur Demo Impressions

The Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning Demo hit XBLA, PSN and PC today. It is 2 gigabytes large and they have created one of the most thoroughly thought out demo's I've ever seen. I've played the demo through once on PC and Xbox 360, both of which have pretty different controls and seem to fit each platform quite well. I must say that after a second playthrough the PC version does not feel nearly as fluid as the console version did and many of the menu's seem to be ports of the console menu's. The demo seems to give you full access to the game with regards to skills, levels, equipment, crafting, quests and the roles. The only restraint it has, the restraint that is to thank for giving you so much content to experience, is a timer. Once you get out into the open world the game will give you a forty five minute time limit, but one that encourages you to play the game at your own pace. This timer does not count down if you are in menu's or in conversations, one of the many things this demo does right.

One of the biggest differences between this game and many other rpg's is that this one has a fluid action based combat system, one that is far quicker and more exciting that most systems out there. The one thing that I noticed with the PC version that is superior is the camera, even though the game in general would benefit from being able to zoom out a little farther than the fixed third person camera will let you. The first reason why the demo is so well created is that even though the game is a demo it remembers what you have done, one reasoning for that is just so it can remember your unlocks for Mass Effect 3 or the full game, but the other reason has to do with ease of access. The demo has you go through the beginning of the game and the first section is 15-20 minutes long if you don't rush through it, and once you beat the first section you will forever have the option to skip past all of that in order to go straight into the open world. The demo really only shows off one biome, the wolf/bandit/troll filled forest, but it does look quite good on both console and PC. The game has a colorful fantasy based graphical quality that might make you think it is aimed for younger or "lighter" audiences, but this is a dark world. You execute enemies with a bloody ferocity and goodly folk seem to be in deadly peril at every turn. The language and lore also suggests a world that is aimed for mature audiences, much like how Dragon Age and Mass Effect generally have heavier themes.

Now for some nitty gritty details for those who wish them: Kingdom of Amalur doesn't restrict you to one specific class like many open world rpg's, this one let's you continuously experiment with magic, melee and stealth. You can run through the demo using a bow, daggers, two handed hammers, longswords, staves and wands. They make it really easy to use multiple weapon types by having a simple primary/secondary weapon system that has you able to customize your weapons however you want. I spent most of the game running around with a sword and daggers, but there are many other combinations that complement each other well, like bow and sword, staff and sword, dagger and wand. The mage weapons in this game are not what you would expect, they fit the fast paced combat of this game quite well, making it feel like a mix of an action game and a rpg. Staves for instance allow the player to hit enemies at close-to-medium range with elemental damage, while wands are used to hit enemies at long range with a million tiny charges or you can charge it up to do stronger single attacks. Another thing that is uncommon is that as a mage you may use a shield, anyone can use a shield and in the demo there are magical and plain shields. You can also ignore shields entirely and just be an agile bastard and dodge/roll all over the place. I found dodging to be a little more useful, but some enemies make shield use seem quite favorable, especially when they try to actively track your movement. If you don't feel like playing the game feel free to watch this video of someone else playing it.

One of the few things that the demo didn't show off was any idea of choices and consequences. I had a few options to kill, extort, blackmail or save people but I didn't see if that had any impact on anything. One of the first things I did in the game was try to steal from a house, which I failed to do and ended up killing six guards. I figured I would go outside and no one would know what I did but damn was I wrong. Guards poured out of the Inn and I found myself fighting six guards in the middle of the first town in the game. I managed to kill them all, which was surprisingly easy, and subsequently went around town killing everyone. This game is a little harsher with NPC's than many other rpg's. I had received one quest when I entered the town and one of the first people to come to try to kill me was a named NPC that I need for a side quest. Once I murdered him that quest was changed to fail and that man was gone forever. I also managed to wipe out another quest giver, one who kept coming back from the dead but he ended up permanently dying with the rest, but I believe his death to be a bug since they obviously had a system in place for him not to die. Merchants may also be killed, permanently and the game doesn't seem to give you any chance to fix that. It took me a while to figure out how to fix this, once I didn't want to kill or steal anymore, and ended up turning myself into some guards who were far stronger than I. All I had to do was sleep in jail for 24 hours, with seemingly no repercussions, but it is a demo and I'm sure they have a more complicated system in place in the full product.

There is quite a lot I would love to praise about the Kingdom of Amalur Demo, but I will end this with saying that this is a very well made demo that supports the player in every way possible, I wish I could cherish the gameplay as much though. The demo easily let's you recreate characters to get you right into the open world, it also gives you two large areas to explore that have many dungeons and quests. This isn't the same kind of open world game as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you will not be walking over mountains or going anywhere that you can see, this game is more structured and similar to how games like Two Worlds 2 or Risen handle open world. I am happy to say Kingdom of Amalur looks fairly good based on the demo, at the very least it will provide a ton of content that is pretty well made. If you tried games like Gothic, Risen, Two Worlds or Divinity 2 and found them lacking then you should give Kingdom of Amalur a chance. The demo has a weight to it that should be able to help make most people decide whether or not they want the full game. They have created a huge demo filled with content that is very user friendly and encourages you to take your time, something that other developers should look to when creating demos. I am very concerned about combat and quests though, even the few in the demo seem like they may become very repetitive and the combat has a lot of options but seems as if it could just turn into a continuous hack and slash rpg. The demo is available on Steam and Origin for PC, check out the demo page below for more details. Kingdom of Amalur will be coming out next month on February 7th. Thanks for reading.
Demo Page: http://reckoning.amalur.com/r/demo
Main Website: http://reckoning.amalur.com/

-Written by Sean Cargle


Post a Comment