Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Preview - Castle Crashing
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There's something reassuringly old-school about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. From the unrepentantly geeky fantasy name, to the classic mission structure and the antiquated boss battles, little about Big Huge Games' fantasy RPG pushes boundaries. But thanks to the quality of the combat and the solidity of the stuff that surrounds it, Reckoning is pleasing enough. It's like a beaten up pair of old, comfy slippers.

The last time we got to spend time with the game, we made our way through the first couple of hours of the adventure. Starting with the protagonist's miraculous rebirth and the subsequent realisation that he may just be the saviour of Amalur, it gave a decent overview of what we should expect. This time, however, we got to jump in a little further into the story, levelled up and armed to the nines.

The demo began with us looking down from the walls of a castle at a large-scale Lord of the Rings-esque battle; all battle cries and clanking swords. However, a closer look revealed that the little character models in this battle were barely animated and lost in murky ill-definition. Whether that was a mark of a game still in development or an indication of the final game's quality, I'm not sure. But whatever, it's enough to communicate the point - war is happening!

Speaking to General Tilera - a tall female Elven warrior – we were bought up to speed. Malwyn, king of the witches and all-round bad dude, is set to release a beast called the Balor. If he manages to do that then the battle is effectively lost, so we must stop him before he gets the chance. Each going in our own directions, General Tilera and I set off through the castle to hunt down our prey.

Passing through battlements as ally soldiers fired arrows down at the chaos below, I had the chance to warm up the old combat muscles again. Boosted to Level 10, I was armed with Salamander's Tail Fae Blades as my primary weapon. Loaded with additional fire damage bonuses, they were swirly-whooshy blades of awesome. With these badboys you pirouette and acrobatically swish around, slicing and igniting foes as you go.

I've already written at length about the secondary weapon with which I was equipped. In our last Amalur preview I called them them the Flaming Frisbees of Death, but they're actually called Chakrams, a class of medium range weapon that you can fling out in broad swooping arcs in front of and behind you. The type I tried before were obviously imbued with fire powers, but in this latest demo they were called Stormschythes and they crackled with lightning power. My character chucked them around with style - like a big, burly rhythm gymnast.

Put these two weapons together and combat is an absolute blast. There's nothing new about it, you merely chain together hits, occasionally combining moves with certain button patterns to achieve more damaging attacks - the same as the few million brawlers before it, basically. But it just feels so good.

It's in this way that I guided my character through the castle in search of Malwyn, while engaging bog-standard Tuatha soldiers and the more powerful, cyclone and fireball-flinging Tuatha Priests on the way. Each died in a flurry of fizzing frisbees and flaming blades, the camera taking advantage of the tight, linear level design to zoom in and out dynamically as I went. It's hard to overstate just how enjoyable all of this is, even when you're just button-mashing.

Occasionally the environment would pull that rusty old trick of locking you in a room with enemies, forcing you to beat them before you could progress. Often chests of loot would be scattered around the place. These are either locked - necessitating a Fallout/Skyrim style lock picking mechanic - or guarded by magic, circumvented by a rhythmic mini-game. Neither is particularly taxing, both offer up gold coins and items galore.

Continuing through the castle, I also encountered rooms with Indiana Jones-esque traps; giant swinging axes and blades that slipped through the walls. These were made somewhat easier to avoid by my character's levelled-up evasion techniques. Where you start the game with the ability to execute nimble, diving rolls, by the time you reach level 10, if you've invested in the right perks, you'll be able to teleport short distances, zipping a few metres forward in the blink of an eye. It made avoiding the traps a breeze.

By the time I made it out onto the ramparts ready to face Malwyn, General Tilera had beaten me to it. I arrived just in time to see her take a vicious blow from the witch king, sending her crumpling to the floor. 'I'll have you - you bastard,' I thought. But before I had the chance to act, Malwyn did what had been feared all along.

By now, it was getting dark outside, the battle still raging beneath us. Malwyn took a horn from his robes and blew on it, making a hilarious comedy parping noise. In the background, what had looked like a silhouetted mountain stirred and rose. Swinging into view, mounted by an ugly little dude perched like a flea on the back of its head, the monster roared. The Balor was unleashed.

For now, however, it seemed that the giant, hulking, fan-foreheaded beast wasn't interested in us. Instead he unleashed his wrath on the ally soldiers battling it out beneath us. It was time to take out Malwyn.

I must have died at least three times before I worked out how to beat him. Not because it was difficult, but because I am a giant idiot. Time after time I would wade into him, a blur of chain attacks and noisy effort, but his energy bar didn't budge. Meanwhile, all it took was two or three solid swipes from Malwyn and I was toast.

The problem was my choice of attack. Rather than weaken him, my fire-equipped Fae blades were actually healing him. So while the electricity Chackrams may have been knocking his health a little, every blow with the Fae blades was topping it straight back up again. If I had stopped blindly button mashing and actually taken notice of the screen I would have known what was going on. If the numbers springing from your enemies are yellow, they are doing damage. If they are red, then your enemy is resistant to the attack.

Once I had got that into my thick skull, Malwyn became an easy target. Taking advantage of his weakness to lightning, I concentrated on pouring my magic into him. There are four different magic types with which you can use, all of which are enabled holding down a trigger. This turns the face buttons into your magic options. My character's lightning attacks had been significantly boosted, so the giant balls of electricity I hurled Malwyn's way did considerable damage.

Every now and again, he would call on the Balor to help him out. The beast would bend down over me and fire giant beams of light from its eyes. General Tilera was back on her feet by this point and would cast a protective shield around her, a shield that I had to dive into to avoid getting hit. The Balor attacked like this a couple of times before I was able to strike down Malwyn once and for all.

It's safe to say that the Balor didn't enjoy his master being killed. Hardly a happy chappy before, he was now enraged. Following a plot point I'm probably best not mentioning, I disappeared back into the bowels of the castle, the Balor's roars shaking the very foundations.

When I finally had to face the beast, he proved to be a little less challenging than his hulking frame and fearsome roar would suggest. This was boss design according to time-tested tradition, merely a matter of learning the pattern of the attacks before finishing the Balor off once for all. Indicative of the rest of the game, the way this climactic battle pans out is hardly groundbreaking, but it was quite fun. Don't come to Amalur looking for startling innovation.

With blood pissing out of his eyes, the Balor fell to the ground, crushing stray soldiers in the battle beneath. An enemy Captain shouted, "Battle's lost. Run fools!" - and it was over, we were victorious.

There's something a little odd about Kindoms of Amalur: Reckoning. With ex-Elder Scrolls lead Ken Rolsten taking an executive designer role, best-selling fantasy author R.A. Salvatore advising on the story and famed graphic artist Todd McFarlane consulting on the visuals, you would be forgiven for expecting a few more fireworks. But the truth is that none of these aspects of the game truly shine. They are good, solid, dependable, but not sparkling.

Instead, based on what we've seen so far, the real highlight comes from less-celebrated members of the development team. It's the combat that sets this game apart. With a kind of devastating fluidity, hacking up bad (and occasionally) good dudes is where the real fun is to be had. Everything else is merely comfortably familiar, adding nicely crafted context to the button mashing. After pumping endless hours into Skyrim, Reckoning may well offer the perfect alternative.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 69
Comment #1 by InfestusDnB
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 03:20:47 AM
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I've got to be honest, usually after reading a very mixed opinion preview like this, it puts me off until a demo is available, but for some reason this has me intrigued. Will be keeping an eye on this.

Forum Posts: 65
Comment #2 by Lord_Statn
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 03:21:32 AM
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This game is going to be GREAT! With the team behind Kingdoms of Amalur this can't go wrong!

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #3 by PhoenixTemplar
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 04:01:24 AM
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@2 - Did you actually read the article? I mean, you are obviously entitled to your own opinion, but it seems like it was a mixed review of the hands on time. The author specifically stated that he expected better of the team you mentioned.

Forum Posts: 26
Comment #4 by the bears beard
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 04:06:54 AM
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Looking forawrd to this. Bring on the demo!

Forum Posts: 553
Comment #5 by Hansathan
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 04:43:57 AM
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I want a demo and the damn achievement list!!!

Forum Posts: 346
Comment #6 by Sarcastro
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 05:20:30 AM
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It's tough to start release media on the heels of Skyrim and impress.

The combat is where the dev team are trying to position this in the RPG field, and all indications point to an RPG with an engaging combat system, unlike Skyrim's, which is great!

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #7 by Damodar Thade
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 05:35:38 AM
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Looking forward to this, best RPG of next year by the looks if it =)

Forum Posts: 38
Comment #8 by Aussie27Legend
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 05:38:27 AM
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That reminds me, when the hell are behemoth gonna get off their arses and make Castle Crashers 2 :(

Forum Posts: 553
Comment #9 by Hansathan
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 06:02:31 AM
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I wish there were at least a month this and FFXIII-2...a week is not enough time!! I will have to decide which I'm gonna play first.

Forum Posts: 553
Comment #10 by Hansathan
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 06:04:09 AM
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A month between***

Forum Posts: 175
Comment #11 by LegendaryMarvel
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 06:49:50 AM
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I'm really excited for this game. Even after reading this review it sounds like the game has great addictive combat. I'm not expecting this to play out like an Elder Scrolls game. I'm looking for it to mix that kind of combat with something a little more like Fable. Which it seems like it should do.

Forum Posts: 125
Comment #12 by Jesuit007
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 09:20:02 AM
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Honestly the review comes across as snooty and condescending. Doesn't push boundaries? Come on, that's bollocks. Someone must have pissed in Lee's tea this morning. It's got deeper combat than any current gen RPG, by far. Deeper customization, great hybrid development... etc. No, it's not the Messiah, but it's pretty damned cutting-edge as far as an RPG goes.

Hell, what "boundaries" does Skyrim push? It's a great game, but basically it's just an upgraded Oblivion. Nothing revolutionary about it, unlike Amalur which actually does completely mess with the genre tropes about combat.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #13 by Damodar Thade
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 09:50:34 AM
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@12, I think they missed the destiny systems during there play time and the video diaries showing it in action online lol

Forum Posts: 289
Comment #14 by THC BLUNTED
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 09:59:09 AM
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Im sure I will be playing this game when it is released. The more RPGs the merrier.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #15 by Left4Candy
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 11:06:57 AM
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I wonder how this game is going to be.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #16 by gaara344
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 01:34:07 PM
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looks good cant wait

Forum Posts: 65
Comment #17 by Lord_Statn
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 03:55:23 PM
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@3 I did read it, and from what I've seen and read ( this article and many others ), I still have huge faith in this game. I didn't see what the writer saw when he previewed it, so the "negative" points in this article didn't really affect me. Though I see your point, and if someone else wrote what I wrote, I would have wrote what you wrote.

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #18 by PhoenixTemplar
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 @ 04:56:09 PM
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@17 - Yeah, and I definitely wasn't telling you not to have faith that this game will turn out great (I still think it wil), just thought it was a little strange you highlighted the one thing the author found a bit lacking. Glad you can differentiate a comment from a personal attack, to many people have problems with that nowadays.

Really hope this game turns out to be what I wanted from Fable 3, and to a lesser extent, Fable 2.

Forum Posts: 107
Comment #19 by Darth Bambrox
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 @ 01:04:44 PM
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@ 18 your last comment sums up my expectations

"Really hope this game turns out to be what I wanted from Fable 3, and to a lesser extent, Fable 2"

From what little I have seen of this it looks like what fable 3 should have been, I have slightly reserved high hopes for this game

Forum Posts: 122
Comment #20 by DJGOA
Monday, December 26, 2011 @ 04:10:41 AM
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@5 there achievement list is here mate, check the archive or search the game.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #21 by drizztken
Friday, December 30, 2011 @ 12:13:46 AM
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buying this just cos salvatore is on the development team love his novels love the other couple games hes worked on aswell cant wait

Forum Posts: 4
Comment #22 by CodeWarMonkey
Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 01:09:08 PM
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I still find it strange to EA is releasing this game a month before Mass Effect 3. I am definitely getting ME3. I am not sure on this game yet. I am very interested in this game, but a huge backlog from last year is holding me back from a day one purchase.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #23 by xONLY INHUMANx
Sunday, January 08, 2012 @ 05:27:44 AM
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in the end i learnt that don't listen to people about games, movies play it and watch it before judging thats why u can rent first

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #24 by Pluckd
Monday, January 09, 2012 @ 04:14:59 PM
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Looks pretty awesome, I hope it lives up to the hype.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #25 by reaperdan23
Thursday, January 12, 2012 @ 05:29:20 PM
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Quite lookin forward to this one.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #26 by Alladur7
Saturday, January 14, 2012 @ 12:02:58 AM
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It's like a marriage between Fable and R.A. Salvatore...what fantasy geek would not look forward to this?

Forum Posts: 53
Comment #27 by Coruba
Saturday, January 21, 2012 @ 02:09:43 AM
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Will wait for a GOTY ed

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #28 by ServbotNamedSxE
Sunday, January 22, 2012 @ 06:33:20 AM
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Played the demo and had a great time! Preordered my copy yesterday! And getting all the special and FREE content for Mass Effect 3 for playing (and beating if you want every piece of free content they offered in the demo) was the icing on an already very tasty cake!

And, WTH!? Did I just read this games last battle!? I really hope not cuz the writer didn't even try to warn anyone that it had spoilers in it.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #29 by hythloday
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 @ 08:42:01 AM
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While I completley agree with #14, "the more RPG's the merrier" when I played the demo I thought the presentation was a little too... Disney? The breif spray of red as you hack & slash through enemies weren't enough to slate my husk for some real combat action. The vibrant colors of the world indeed made me think of Fable.

However, I'm currently wrapping up Dark Souls which has left my love for RPG's forever warped. The love and hatred I have for that game made Kingdoms feel like a trip to Toon Town.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #30 by GSG9Enigma
Sunday, January 29, 2012 @ 04:42:29 AM
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having played the demo i must say i cant wait to play the full game after playing skyrim for so long a bit of colour wont go a miss and as for what 30 had to say about the enemies when dont monster in games look a bit stupid

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Game Info
38 Studios
Electronic Arts


US February 07, 2012
Europe February 10, 2012

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