Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Previews

Another fistful of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning previews have peremeated the web, thanks to the game's showing at last week's GDC and this week's PAX East.

It's pretty standard practice, when you fire up an RPG, for the game to present you with an option of race (and possibly gender), followed by class. In keeping with the concept of an unwritten future, though, in Reckoning, you do not select a character class upfront. Instead, you'll grow your character as you play via the talent system. As you progress through the story and level up your character, you put points into skills or spells that suit your particular play-style. There will be three talent trees, to emphasis specific types of play (Strength, Magic, and Finesse), and as you put points into any one area, you will unlock classes which you can select to activate, thus granting your character additional boosts associated with that class. For example, if you favored spells, but also relied heavily on close-quarters-combat, you would dump points into skills that benefited that play-style, and theoretically unlock a battle-mage type class.

One of the talking points for Reckoning seems to be the much-toted "fluid" combat system, in the few battle sequences I saw, the combat actually did look pretty darn fluid. Rather than having players repeating complex sequences to execute specific combos, most melee attacks vary based on timing your swings, allowing you to do both quick attacks and longer flourishes using the same button. From there, you can transition to whatever spells and special attacks you have that are hotkeyed seamlessly. The animations for each flow together nicely, so you can change up the order to suit your needs. Every so often, enemies will display a prompt above their head, and you can press the corresponding button to initiate a no-fail, quick-time-event-esque, "fate kill" for bonus experience points.

IGN (again):
The development team isn't talking much further about the Well of Souls just yet, but they insist the gameplay/lore connection won't stop there. The world of Reckoning is open for exploration, and a player can leave the beaten path to explore the expansive map at any time. Traditionally in RPGs, this is a thrilling moment. "I'm free!" you exclaim to no one in particular while traipsing across the Bogs of Belgarius or however your mini-map happens to identify your current location. While gawking at the environment team's skillful tree rendering, you spy a nearby cave, its black maw inviting you to explore within. "Sweet," you say to yourself, "there will be skeletons inside, and they carry large amounts of gold inside their bones for some reason. I will go kill them (again)."

The enter-the-dungeon loading screen begins (quickly checking your iPhone for LOLs while you wait), and then the mood-lit cave pops into view. You scan the area for treasure chests, take a few steps into the blackness, and then a giant monster instantly kicks your ass.

A harpoon spell allows you to grab enemies and drag them over hidden environmental traps. High-level magic users can call upon meteor, a top-tier spell that rains flaming rocks, devastating a whole room of enemies. Magic-focused characters also have a range of abilities and weapons that help create distance between them and their opponents, freeing up time to cast these powerful spells.

Reckoning does not stand apart from the crowd in combat alone. The wider universe of Amalur is being shaped by a talented brain trust at 38 Studios: founder and former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore, and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. Although this group is not directly involved in the day-to-day development of Reckoning 38 Studios is currently developing an unnamed MMO set in the Amalur universe their impact is evident. Amalur is not as generic a fantasy setting as it seemed upon first impression.

Characters have three ability trees: Might, Finesse and Sorcery. Rather than being assigned a class, players swap out abilities to follow their destiny. (Most RPGs make you choose your class too far in advance. If you make the wrong choice, it sucks,) Nelson said. (We want you to have all the choice in the world.)

With the mage destiny equipped, Fridley had new bonuses and abilities at his disposal. Instead of rolling like a warrior, mages teleport. Their talisman (shield) doesn't mitigate damage as much as a warrior's shield, but it sets enemies on fire.

And Gamer Beast:
Once the snake was slain we spied an entrance to a dungeon not far from our position. Once inside we noticed that our character had been transformed from a warrior to a wizard. And while wizards aren't known for their martial prowess, the developer wanted to make sure that the magician's weapons were just as much fun to use as any other. Our character quickly encountered some kobolds and drew an ornate wooden staff. Cascading waves of ice covered the cave's floor with each swing of this weapon. And if one foe got too close, our pilot would teleport away before tagging it with Mark of Flame. This spell transformed the feral fiend into a living bomb that could be detonated at will.

Our demonstration ended with a head-to-head battle against a cave troll. Here our character made use of his second weapon, a pair of flaming chackrams, to engage the monster from mid-range. While these deadly rings lacked the reach of the staff, they excelled at quick hits and covering a lot of space on the front and sides of our character. Once the monster had taken enough punishment our pilot triggered a quick time event to finish it off. Luckily, he didn't have to worry about failing the event since it only involved tapping one button repeatedly to do additional damage. Onscreen this manifested as a giant, magical spear being jammed through the troll's skull.