Small Mini Centurion Fun Time

I generally don’t think too highly of EA’s marketing division – at least from my own perspective, can sometimes come across as almost more interested in alienating potential customers than actually drawing them in; BioWare titles in particular tend to suffer this peculiar trend. So with this in mind, I approached their latest scheme to sneak unlocks for a few additional Mass Effect 3 weapons and armour into demos of other games with a sort of tired dismissal. Of course, then a friend of mine reminded me of it when said demo was released, and I ultimately figured it couldn’t be that long, and surely I could manage what couldn’t be more than an hour or two for the sake of more shinies for my Shepard.

Considering I’m writing this with the benefit of hindsight however, I can only say well played, EA marketing division. Well played indeed… So. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: the Demo.

I’d heard of Reckoning before the demo, mostly in terms of that its combat was apparently supposed to be good, but I hadn’t really paid attention to it before – the name really didn’t help its case, there. The title basically sounded to me like Realms of Someplace: Cool Buzzword which really doesn’t tell me anything, and between the release of Mass Effect 3 and my planning to replay Skyrim sometime after the release of the official mod tools, I wasn’t exactly crying out for another RPG-like thing. There simply wasn’t anything about it that made it sound like I just had to pay attention to it. Prior to trying the demo, their selling point might as well have been how the gnome soldiers you can run into in the game all wear stylized roman legion armour and weapons for all the effect it was having.

You know, thinking about it, I probably would’ve noticed the game sooner if they’d actually done that, because said gnome legionnaires look Awesome. Next up! They start shooting lightning at medium ranges and then overheat!

Of course, then I tried the demo and found it actually surprisingly interesting. It started almost from the begining when the game went through the standardized process of starting a cutscene showing my character covered by a shroud of anonymity, then asking me to design it as it was being revealed… and then rather than having my character wake up, it promptly dropped her down a dark hole for disposal with a “That’s it for you, better luck next time.”.

Reckoning is a curious game because while nearly every element of it seems borrowed or derivative in some manner, it all strikes me as being played with its own spin that saves it from simply being a generic rehash. The game shamelessly declares its intention to have you play the archetypal destined hero with amnesia straight off the ferry from stereotypia, but then follows that up by stating that you’re actually more of an undestined hero by virtue of being the one fateless person in a setting where everyone and everything else is ruled by their fate, giving you free reign to muck about with the machinery.

Being able to go all Raziel on your enemies is also a significant plus.

One of the greatest standout features of Reckoning – not to mention the one typically most advertised – is the combat, which is a very action-y fare that reminds me somewhat of Fable – or rather, of a mythical Fable release that actually lived up to Molyneux levels of hype and as a result randomly spouted features such as charge and pause special attacks, special attacks out of parries and dodges and limited air juggling while letting you swap seamlessly between the three main fields of combat in Warriors, Rogues and Mages. Or Might, Finesse and Sorcery, in Reckoning terms. What makes it stand out even more is where most games that allow you to distribute ability or talent points as you level up put a very high focus on specialization, Reckoning is not only perfectly fine with you mixing and matching from any two – if not all three – forms of combat, but even provides specific benefits to characters who do just that. Ever wanted to play a heavily armoured and nigh-indistructible knight who annihilate his or her foes with magic weapons and spells or a swift and agile rogue wielding a two-handed greatsword? Reckoning is totally on board with such desires and cheerfully encourages you to mix, match and experiment with your own preferences in weapons and abilities, even providing the ability to respec if you feel you’ve been going down the wrong path.

Simply put, the combat is fun. And with your weapon choices being one-and-a-half-handed longswords, two-handed hammers, two-handed greatswords, twin daggers, twin faeblades (think Night elven warglaives, for lack of a better comparisson), bow and arrows, short range AoE explosion staves, mid-range throwable chakrams and wand-like scepters, there’s bound to be at least something there to strike your fancy. The game doesn’t shy away from letting your abilities be a spectacle either, with several both weapon attacks and actual abilities lovingly animated and visualized to come across as gratuitously over the top and gloriously spectacular without losing weight and punch.

That said, the animations are host to a few curious design quirks – while there’s clearly a whole lot of love put into a great deal of combat and combat-related animations, right down to a few added touches to the sheathing animations that give them an added life and weight most sheathing animations of other games tend to lack, the game also only shows the weapon you used last, regardless of you having both a primary and secondary equip slot, and will swap between them in an instant, summoning the added pair apparently out of nowhere. Of course, this is all to allow for smooth instant swapping of weapons in the thick of combat and doesn’t seem that much of an issue of its own. Where it does step into the realm of ridiculous is when the game unabashedly pulls the same stunt with shields, making the block button not only instantly sheathe your weapon(s) but also summon whatever shield you have equipped out of the ether through sheer force of will. Considering how much attention seems to have been put to most combat animations to make them really come to life regardless of how over the top they might be, the shield-summoning powers of the block button comes across as a bit breaking.

Only a bit, mind you – while there are certainly several oddities on display at places in the demo, some of which related to it being split from an already outdated build, none of them ever came across to me as a direct dealbreaker, especially in the face of the things I do like about the game. One of which I have to say is the visual design – the vibrant colours and stark contrasts combine to form a world that strikes me as alive and varied, while still maintaining a cohesion that can sometimes be lost in a surprising number of gritty HDR realism AAA games in spite of their simplifying the colour palette down from Red-Green-Blue to Red-Gray-Brown. At the same time I realize it’s not the type of visuals that appeal to everyone, and what I’ll find vibrantly alive others will find cartoonish, but they certainly hit a mark with me.

It doesn’t appear to be a particularely small game either – mind you, I don’t expect it to be nearly as hour-devouring as Skyrim, but the demo gives you 45 minutes to run around the Odarath section of the Dalentarth region which isn’t nearly enough to explore even half the quests available to you, even with the timer pausing whenever the game itself pauses or you’re in a dialogue. Considering that and then looking at how many sections like Odarath seem to exist, and it strikes me like there’s a fair bit of ground to cover with a significant amount of content to explore.

Reckoning will be released on the 7’th February for North America while us Europeans have to wait a few more days until the 10’th, giving me about a week and a half to make up my mind in regards to which I prefer more – Daggers, Chakrams or both interchangeably. So far it’s proven quite the conundrum…


7 Responses to “Small Mini Centurion Fun Time”

  1. January 31, 2012 at 20:00

    Initially i was not overly interested in this game. But after i read about the amount of investment in world-building for this game I had to learn more. But it was on my list of “maybe later” games until the demo. Now i an anxiously waiting.

  2. 2 Cobs
    February 2, 2012 at 18:47

    Had a go at this after reading your thoughts. I accidentally picked a lock I should not have and ended with slaughtering an entire village.

    I was tired… >_>

    • 3 Nhani
      February 3, 2012 at 20:00

      It’s one of those kinds of things that you’d only ever have in games, isn’t it? I mean, imagine walking up to someone in real life and then punching them in the face. And when they go “OY WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?” you go “Oh sorry I was trying to read the newspaper next to you but my aim was off when I pressed the action button.”

  3. 5 Serenais
    February 6, 2012 at 09:43

    Nhani, they should give you a free copy or at least a very nice bonus item (set). Had it not been for you, I wouldn’t have even thought of trying the demo, much less about buying the game. And I guess there are a few others like that, too.

    And fortunatelly, I didn’t pick any locks. Though the reaction of the general public to “borrowing” a certain book was somewhat surprising.

  4. 6 LolDrood
    February 12, 2012 at 18:35

    I”m not sure I $60 want this game, but this and the Felicia Day9 play-through got me to download the demo. I’m quite impressed by how fluid and tight the combat feels. It’s very reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts.

    I’m partial to the female dark-elf sneaky stabber meself. Though I’d like to see how a magic user plays as well.
    And I know it’s probably just me, but I really appreciate that the chick models are not 100 pound, 38-24-36 sex kittens with a weapon.

    The story seems pretty boiler-plate: from what I’ve seen it comes down to, “badguys over here, kill they ass.” I’d also would have liked to see some PC voice-work, though I suppose they’re doing the modern interpretation of the Silent Protagonist from ye olde dayes. (incidentally, for all it’s slightly-rushed-out-the-door-ness, the thing that irks me most about SWTOR is the early-beta emotes. Hop to it, guys; there’s no excuse for them to be that half-baked.,)

  5. June 19, 2012 at 10:46

    I actually made a video on my thoughts of this game, funnily enough…only now I get to link it because, unfortunately, I’ve been rather inactive across the things I used to be active on. You can blame two KO’d computers for such.

    I do want to buy it still, but I’m mostly waiting for it to turn up at a bargain price now. Or maybe a catalogue shop someplace.

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