PAX East 2011: Kingdoms of Amalur Plays Like God of Warcraft

PAX East 2011: Kingdoms of Amalur Plays Like God of Warcraft

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The public gameplay debut of Kingdoms of Amalur wowed a crowd of hundreds at PAX East 2011.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has gotten a lot of hype, with aspects of its development being influenced by artist/designer/animator Todd McFarlane, author R.A. Salvatore, Elder Scrolls designer Ken Rolston, and baseball player turned 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling. The company recently took to PAX East 2011 to show off Amalur's first public demo, and the game did not disappoint by any stretch of the imagination.

The demo began with the player awakening in an underground cave with a nasty case of amnesia. At the start of the game you die, but a very short man (voiced by the actor that did Minsc in Baldur's Gate) has been working on something called the Well of Souls that brings you back to life. The interesting part is that the Well of Souls never worked until you showed up. Now, you're the only one in Amalur without a destiny, and have the ability to shape your own rather than face the one given to you. This basic concept ties into how players choose their class, but more on that later.

38 picked up a sword off a dead body and got into the basics of Amalur's action-based combat system, which saw the main character slashing his way through a few skeletons and assassins. Repeated button presses might lead to a few regular strikes, but using a bit of delay could have the player performing an upward slash or other moves. It looks very easy to get the hang of, and 38 demonstrated how the simple addition of a shield makes things more complicated. With the shield, players can block, but also use a timing-based parry which can lead to a counter. 38 Studios emphasized that Amalur is not an action game with RPG elements, but a hardcore RPG with action-based combat.

Defeating an enemy will of course allow for the opportunity to collect loot, and Amalur has a very familiar loot system. It's similar to Diablo, with randomization creating over 2 million different kinds of items, in addition to over 1,000 uniques and armor sets. The area that Amalur improves on this system is in the interface. For example, equipping items can be done from the loot screen itself. Another feature that got a big cheer was how players have a "Junk Pile" that they fill with unwanted loot. At a merchant, this pile is sold with a single button press.

After finishing up in the cave, 38 brought us above ground to what they hope will be a "world worth saving." 38's design philosophy is to create a gorgeous world that players will want to protect, and judging by the demo they're already succeeding. Imagine World of Warcraft, but with a major upgrade. The use of color, particularly within the lighting system, makes everything look vibrant and attractive to the eyes. It'll be worth it to explore the world too, because a path in the forest could lead to a hidden cache of treasure, a special gathering point, or even unique foes that you won't find anywhere else.

While above ground, we got to see more of the combat system's depth. Amalur's story revolves around magic returning to the world, so all characters use magic, not just the frail wizards of other games. The warrior that was demoed used a shout that stopped enemies in their tracks, moved up for some melee attacks, and combined them with a spell that brought rock spikes up from the ground. During battle, the spell effects and sparks resulting from parries even made combat pretty darn good looking. 38 also divulged that players will always have two weapons at the ready that can be used in the same combo chain. Want to open with a single hammer strike, slash with a sword, and then bash your foe's skull in with the hammer again to complete the combo? Go ahead. 38 appears to be implementing gameplay that makes sense in a context of a game, not necessarily the real world, which is more fun.

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Next, 38 brought out a mage wielding a frost staff, showing how each weapon will perform very differently. This one shot out a "whoosh" of frost, which the mage combined with an ice rain attack and an electricity blast that immobilized foes. Instead of rolling like the warrior, the mage can teleport, giving players new strategies as a teleport can move through an enemy while a roll can't. The mage's second weapon was a set of two incredibly sweet chakram (circular, bladed throwing weapons). Seeing him use magic in tandem with the chakram, which left red trails as they sliced through enemies, was really cool. For the mage's final trick, he stood above a group of enemies and cast a meteor spell, annihilating all of them. Mages do pretty well for themselves in Amalur.

Despite 38 showing us both melee-focused and magic-focused characters, players will not choose a class at the beginning of the game. Amalur has a "Destiny" system which allows players to be whatever they want, and never "screw" themselves. As players put points into the skill trees of might, finesse, and sorcery, they'll unlock Destiny cards, which are basically Amalur's classes. They're designed to boost the weaknesses of hybrid characters and emphasize their strengths. They'll also work just fine if you want to be a fire mage or a heavily armored knight. It appears similar to the "job" system found in the Final Fantasy series.

Another exciting aspect was how enemy creatures cooperate with each other. While fighting a tough snake-type boss, fish-men that hatched from her eggs held up their tridents as the snake-type charged a lightning attack on their weapons. Further, Amalur features a day/night system with NPCs that go about their daily tasks, a weapon upgrade system called Sagecrafting, destructive finishing moves that 38 let us see but kept mum about, and what 38 hopes will be the best doors out of any game ever. That last part is not a joke.

I get the impression that 38 Studios is trying to take the best parts of the best games, from all over the spectrum, and combine them into one title with a focus on an easy-to-use interface. Schilling nervously joked that he had a lot invested in Amalur, and that's a big risk, but it seems to be paying off. Amalur is without a doubt a game that RPG fans should keep both eyes on.

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I really don't like Salvatore but I like the 'no destiny' bit as opposed to being yet another hero with an epic destiny to save the world. Still I figured even Salvatore would be above the amnesia trope.

I really cannot wait for this game. Been waiting to see what comes out of 38 Studios for ages.

Hungry Donner:
I really don't like Salvatore but I like the 'no destiny' bit as opposed to being yet another hero with an epic destiny to save the world. Still I figured even Salvatore would be above the amnesia trope.

Its a convenient plot device though, specially in this case. A character with no memory no longer has ties to the destiny he had before, and is free of restraints to forge a new one.

This seems like one of those games that I want to try but never do. Maybe it will make a big enough splash that I'll get browbeaten into trying. >>

I can't believe Curt Schilling is working on this. Then I looked up on wikipedia if he ever had a public stance or anything related to gaming and wow:

Schilling formed a deep-rooted interest in the board wargame Advanced Squad Leader.

ASL has become his constant companion on road trips, and every National League city is now his playground for baseball at night and ASL in the day. (All of which has become a bonanza for ASL players of his acquaintance, who are sometimes Curt's guests at stadiums around the country.)[56]

Schilling's disappointment at not being able to attend the ASL Oktoberfest (an annual game convention) led him to create his own, The ASL Open, which debuted the weekend of January 15, 1993, in Houston, Texas. The Open was financed out of his own pocket. Schilling also started his own amateur publication entitled Fire for Effect, a bi-monthly featuring "some of the ASL hobby's best writers".[56]

And it goes on. OMG, he is hardcore, that's great. And what's more this looks like it's going to be a great game from the sounds of the preview. I guess I'll be keeping my eye on this one, now is it single-player? I'm hoping it's single player but if that was mentioned anywhere I missed it.

I couldn't be prouder of this team. The proof will always be in the pudding and we get that, so talk is cheap until you have something in your hands, but they're doing something pretty cool and special and thanks to all the gamers out there that showed up today for the demo!

Hell, I like the point that the Character dies at the start.

Ive been looking forward to whatever this team puts out since the moment i saw Copernicus (their MMO project) concept art years ago. I got a feeling about it, i dunno. I hope its not a disappointment, but so far all info coming out has just been getting better and better.

I'm actually looking forward to the environments, since I enjoy some good scenery porn.

Looks very interesting. And it apparently has the same composer as Viva Pinata; that's a nice bonus.

Dr. wonderful:
Hell, I like the point that the Character dies at the start.

That is, without a doubt, my absolute favourite way to begin the story, in, like, anything.

Smooches,
-TOM

Grant Kirkhope is doing the music. How wonderful :)

gehrig38:
I couldn't be prouder of this team. The proof will always be in the pudding and we get that, so talk is cheap until you have something in your hands, but they're doing something pretty cool and special and thanks to all the gamers out there that showed up today for the demo!

Thank you, Mr.Schilling (I presume) you and your team look like you'll have a winner here.

This looks sensational. I can't wait to see some gameplay and teasers.

It's funny how I almost never see anything about this game, yet every time I do I fall in love all over again. With so many great names involved, it's easy to sweep something gimmicky up and have the artists sell the product, but with every new little thing I hear, this game is going to be the real deal. Awesome extreme.

gehrig38:
I couldn't be prouder of this team. The proof will always be in the pudding and we get that, so talk is cheap until you have something in your hands, but they're doing something pretty cool and special and thanks to all the gamers out there that showed up today for the demo!

Thanks for the t-shirt (yes, I won one)!

Ghengis John:
I can't believe Curt Schilling is working on this. Then I looked up on wikipedia if he ever had a public stance or anything related to gaming and wow:

Schilling formed a deep-rooted interest in the board wargame Advanced Squad Leader.

ASL has become his constant companion on road trips, and every National League city is now his playground for baseball at night and ASL in the day. (All of which has become a bonanza for ASL players of his acquaintance, who are sometimes Curt's guests at stadiums around the country.)[56]

Schilling's disappointment at not being able to attend the ASL Oktoberfest (an annual game convention) led him to create his own, The ASL Open, which debuted the weekend of January 15, 1993, in Houston, Texas. The Open was financed out of his own pocket. Schilling also started his own amateur publication entitled Fire for Effect, a bi-monthly featuring "some of the ASL hobby's best writers".[56]

And it goes on. OMG, he is hardcore, that's great. And what's more this looks like it's going to be a great game from the sounds of the preview. I guess I'll be keeping my eye on this one, now is it single-player? I'm hoping it's single player but if that was mentioned anywhere I missed it.

I was curious about that too. I'm always in the mood for more single-player RPGs, but I would probably give this a shot even if it was an MMO.

Doesn't seem like anything special to me.

Just seems like WoW with a slightly different combat system.

While i was never a fan of Curt Schilling the pitcher, I am now a big fan of Curt Schilling the game producer. excited to see how this turns out.

Alar:

I was curious about that too. I'm always in the mood for more single-player RPGs, but I would probably give this a shot even if it was an MMO.

I looked it up on the web and it's apparently a single player game, which is great, points for that. The article should really tell us that.

gehrig38:
I couldn't be prouder of this team. The proof will always be in the pudding and we get that, so talk is cheap until you have something in your hands, but they're doing something pretty cool and special and thanks to all the gamers out there that showed up today for the demo!

Thanks for stopping by man, and nice work. So far, so good.

I was so excited reading about this game (plus the fact that the studio was founded by a baseball playing gamer). But then I looked closer and found out it's only for PC. And that makes me sad, as I don't have access to a PC to be able to play it. :(

Maybe this will be something that I could experience on Let's Play someday if I never get a chance to play.

Alright, this was the first I've seen of this game, so I'm uncertain exactly what it is (Single-player RPG, MMORPG, Single-player with cop-op RPG), so I'm not sure if I want it or not. If it's not an MMO, I'm going to be keeping a very close eye on it in the future.

Reckoning is the single player RPG set in the universe/world that is Amalur. That same world, 2000 years later, will provide the setting for Copernicus, the MMO.

It looks impressive. I'm interested, but I wish they'd do more with the Rise of Legends IP I assume they still own.

Tom Goldman:
Now, you're the only one in Amalur without a destiny, and have the ability to shape your own rather than face the one given to you. This basic concept ties into how players choose their class, but more on that later.

So... What happens to everyone else in the world? If I weren't the main character, would I be handed, say, a destiny card designating me as a florist and be doomed to a future of fragrant, seasonal monotony?

Erana:

Tom Goldman:
Now, you're the only one in Amalur without a destiny, and have the ability to shape your own rather than face the one given to you. This basic concept ties into how players choose their class, but more on that later.

So... What happens to everyone else in the world? If I weren't the main character, would I be handed, say, a destiny card designating me as a florist and be doomed to a future of fragrant, seasonal monotony?

Yeah, probably.

This is the first I've even heard of this game! More pub, please! (color me very interested)

I was really looking forward to the game until I read this

It's similar to Diablo, with randomization creating over 2 million different kinds of items, in addition to over 1,000 uniques and armor sets.

I hate these types of loot systems. They take the risk/reward out of the game. It become to me a fluff piece in which the story losses it meaning. What is the point of exploring and leveling if I can kill a random mob in world that will drop the uber sword of Godslaying. I wish companies would get away from this and go back to the old school loot table where specific mobs dropped specific items and you got a feeling of accomplishment from defeating the big bad bosses along the way. I am disappointed that Curt Schilling being a long time gamer would ever put his name on a system that takes away the risk/reward from the game. It is very difficult for me to take a game that calls itself a hardcore rpg with this type of system. They could have 40 million randomly generated weapons and armor and it still does not make up for the fact it takes away from the gaming experience. There is no reason to explore, to challenge yourself and your character to get better because right around the corner a level scaling rat will drop the best item in the game.

Uhm there are over 1000 uniques and armor sets. Sounds like enough reason to beat down on some bad guys as anything.

Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning has been on my radar ever since I heard the title music and the project was known as Mercury. It looks awesome and the footage from the latest game convention makes that impression even more so.

Only thing I wished for was to see more of the open world environment, but all in good time. I have faith this game will be good. I'm sure Curt will only release a product he himself would be proud to play.

Hope to see more of it soon! :D

Really looking forward to this game. Dragon Age 2 has strayed so far from what I want from a RPG (but Origins was incredible!) that I'm looking for other options.

 

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