Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

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Postby Raines » Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:14 am

Ok, so this game has been getting glowing previews and from what I've seen in Youtube videos, the combat looks awesome. A lot of hype is building around the story created by R.A. Salvatore, and the fact that the lead designer is Ken Rolston, who helmed Morrowind and Oblivion. The art style looks fantastic; sort of a WoW/Fable mix. Another interesting thing is that when you play the KOA demo, you unlock stuff for the full game plus bonus items for Mass Effect 3. You also unlock items in KOA (including N7 Armor for your character) when you play the ME3 demo. The KOA demo includes the tutorial, character creation, and 45 minutes to play as you please. It's out Jan. 17th. The ME3 demo is supposed to be out around Jan. 24th.

Personally, it's hard for me to ignore this game after reading about it and seeing gameplay videos. Big Huge Games might have made themselves an Elder Scrolls killer.
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Postby grommyfrog » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:00 am

This is first on my GameFly Queue. It's a must try/rent before purchase title. I hope it's good. But, I'm not confidant enough to preorder it.
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Postby BigBadBob113 » Sat Jan 14, 2012 8:33 am

grommyfrog wrote:This is first on my GameFly Queue. It's a must try/rent before purchase title. I hope it's good. But, I'm not confidant enough to preorder it.


Yup, it's right on top of my list as well.
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Postby justabaldguy » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:10 pm

Thanks for the tip Russ, I'm always looking for games like this. A 45 minute demo is pretty impressive, can't wait to check it out.
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Postby Silentstriderm » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:32 pm

IGN has put up a review in progress, similar to how they review MMOs, and it seems pretty glowing so far.

I think that between my back log, and being stupidly busy with grad school, I can probably wait a little while and grab this on sale this summer.
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Postby justabaldguy » Sat Jan 14, 2012 8:04 pm

After watching most of that video and checking out the website descriptions I'm certainly intrigued. However, the Molyneux mark of constant good reviews and hype have me wondering. I'll certainly wait to hear/read about it and won't preorder something like this. It looks and sounds interesting, but I've yet to finish Skyrim so I'll have nothing to lose by waiting for reviews and a price drop provided the reviews are good. With typical timing, if this hits in February it might be dropped in price in time for the summer lull.
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Postby Bakken Hood » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:58 pm

Definitely keen on playing that demo. An RPG with satisfying combat is something I've been looking forward to for some time now. If it lives up to its pedigree, KoA could be my game of the year. (Okay, at this point the competition is ME3 and my opinions won't mean squat.) I'm with Baldy, though. I'll wait for a price drop, a slew of good reviews, or some free time-- I'll probably be up to my eyebrows in thesis work when it comes out.
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Postby Raines » Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:13 pm

Feels and plays a lot like Fable, but there's definitely some Elder Scrolls elements in there. The 45 minute timer starts after you complete the tutorial dungeon. The timer stops when you pause or talk to NPCs. Any time you play the demo afterwards you can skip the the tutorial. I'm liking it so far.
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Postby Bakken Hood » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:19 am

After playing most of the demo, I think I like everything except how my stupid system locked up with about nine minutes left on the clock. I think you have to reach the end of the whole thing to get some of the bonuses. The lore may or may not be worth following; the good news at this point is that the storytelling and gameplay are sound enough to hold my interest until I've made up my mind on that. RPG's have always been kind of weak in the combat department, so it's a relief to play an action RPG that mixes some real strategy and reflex in with the button-mashing and stat calculus. Rogue-ing seems to be a bit weak; I'd say heavy combat feels a bit safer than dagger-dancing.

As for its inspirations, I'd say it takes a lot of its look from Fable but little else. If it plays like Fable, it's because Fable plays like a watered-down God of War hack 'n' slash. KoA is a lot less watered down. I love the idea of building your character's moveset as part of his/her class as you go; anyone can do anything at first, but a high-level hammer swinger and a high-level sneaky mage wind up with completely different combat rhythms. It's like a more in-depth version of Skyrim's character development, albeit without the learn-by-doing mechanic. The health seems to resemble the Arkham games; you can heal sans potions by taking out enemies without getting hit, or at least I think that's how it works. The menus, leveling, dialogue, and general non-combat interface could pass for Dragon Age III, and the overall world more or less splits the difference between the fully open-world TES games and the narrow corridors of, well, most non-Bethesda RPG's. There's still some railroading going on, but it doesn't have transitions between zones.

My thoughts, in a nutshell: crap, a potential obsession like this is the last thing my forthcoming Master's degree needs. Skyrim debuffed my Willpower and Responsibility enough. I'll probably wait for a price drop and/or more free time than I have now, and feel sad when I see my friends playing it.
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Postby justabaldguy » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:32 am

Bakken Hood wrote:My thoughts, in a nutshell: crap, a potential obsession like this is the last thing my forthcoming Master's degree needs. Skyrim debuffed my Willpower and Responsibility enough. I'll probably wait for a price drop and/or more free time than I have now, and feel sad when I see my friends playing it.
Awesome review, thank you Bakken. I've yet to beat Skyrim so I really need to focus on that before entertaining the thought of another stellar game like KoA could turn out to be. It sounds awesome though and truly sounds a bit more entertaining in the long run with the strategy and button pressing. O too will likely have to wait, but at least if I can polish off Skyrim I'll be in good shape and ready for something exciting. For whatever reason, Skyrim is starting to drag in some locations.
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Postby Macrocephalus » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:24 am

I finally got to sit down in front of Ye Olde PS3 last night around 1am, and I tried out Kingdoms of Amalur since I was pretty eager to see how it'll play and obviously getting some co-op going wasn't an option at that hour.

In some respects, I agree with Bakken. The lore, writing and storytelling seem pretty solid. Quite a bit more engaging than in Skyrim, frankly. I certainly wouldn't say the game felt especially fresh or delivered anything particularly new (at least in the demo) but what was on offer was nonetheless well executed.

The graphics, however, suck leaky deflated balls. I'd say Reckoning almost looks more like a PS2 game than like a modern title running on (relatively) modern(ish) hardware. Textures are low-res, everything has a blocky, cartoony look… ugh. And it became an actual gameplay problem when there were traps, because the bland, blocky, muddy bear trap graphics just blended right into the bland, blocky, muddy cave floor graphics, and not in a cool, stealthy way, just in a 'jeez that was cheap' way. My eyes got really tired (and really pissed) from struggling to pick out features in the mine I went dungeon-crawling through. Blearrghh.

The demo also seemed to have a pretty big bug… unless maybe this is just how the game is, which I'd be interested to know. Once I finished the mine and went on to the village, nobody had voices anymore. People's mouths would move when they were talking, but the text interface would kind of judder and then their subtitles would show up on top of the screen instead of on the bottom, and I didn't hear any speech. Background sounds continued — insects and whatnot — but no dialogue. I really hope that was a glitch and not just the way things will be because the developers didn't record audio for most of the dialogue in the game.

That pretty much covers the major negatives, though. Character creation was fun, if not in any way unexpected, and while I wasn't a fan of the camera, especially during fights — it moves a little spazzily, it never quite felt 100% under my control, and it often made an extra little swoop and landed somewhere other than I wanted it to due to some internal calculation, which irritated me almost without fail — it was really refreshing, after Skyrim, to play an RPG in which combat isn't a rote and simplistic matter. (Or at least it seems like it won't be simplistic; obviously in the demo there wasn't enough time to really get a feel for the depth of the combat system.) I've seen a bunch of previews and promos in which the developers liken their combat to God of War's, but that's ridiculous. Nothing about it comes close to the smoothness, fluidity or responsiveness of the combat in God of War. The animation isn't there. The detail isn't there. The finishing moves aren't there. The brutality isn't there. The precision of move and counter-move isn't there. Enemy lock-on frequently twitches away from your selected target at the last possible second, just as you're attacking, frequently to an enemy who's not even onscreen, and combat as a whole just feels way clunkier and nowhere near as awesome as GoW's. But Reckoning is an open-world RPG, not an action game like God of War, so it would be some kind of impossible miracle if the combat was just as good. Expecting parity wouldn't be fair or reasonable.

I do hope they tweak the targeting issue, and I think they're generating some very unrealistic expectations by leaning on the GoW comparison when they really, really shouldn't, but the swordplay, staff-play and magic all felt involving in a way that spellcasting in Skyrim has not. In Skyrim, you just have two hands, and while you can switch what weapons, shields or spells you have assigned to each hand (albeit in a somewhat cumbersome way) you can't ever do more than two different things at once, and you never really feel like you have an actual, physical body you're operating because the combat is so overly simple and gives you so few things to do. In Reckoning, you can dodge and roll in whatever direction you want, you can block, you can use a melee or ranged secondary weapon as well as your primary weapon, and you can cast spells. There's just a lot more to do, and different enemies have different attack patterns — and even better, it seems like at least some enemies have multiple different sets of attacks they can choose from. For example, Kobolds tended to either take one really big swing or launch into a series of three smaller blows, but then there were the ones who had a ranged attack and also a ranged-and-then-roll-into-melee attack. It's not that any of these attacks were especially amazing to behold, or that any of the fighting had the kind of fluidity and intrinsic joy of the combat in a God of War title. It's just that I had to pay attention and engage, and timing and player skill actually mattered, unlike in Skyrim. So I can see where they tried to apply some of the systems from God of War, and that's a very good thing even if the notion that combat in Reckoning is even remotely comparable to GoW's is laughable.

Returning to traditional point-based upgrades and leveling from Skyrim's learn-by-doing mechanics will be a bit of a bummer, though grinding out repetitive tasks in Elder Scrolls games just to level up skills obviously has its own drawbacks, and I have a feeling that harvesting reagents will be much less absorbing than in Skyrim because of the sheer craptasticness of the graphics and the fact that the world just doesn't have the awesome and immersive look and feel of Bethesda's latest, but that probably just means the game will have a somewhat different set of strengths and weaknesses.

At this point, I guess I can count myself cautiously sold… at least more than enough to rent it, which was all that had been on the table, anyway.
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Postby Engineer Seven » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:00 pm

It's an odd game to be sure. I can see myself picking it up on sale, but not a Day One.

For a game that has name-dropped Todd McFarlane from it's announcement it's shockingly bright, peppy and cartoony. Maybe it changes later in game, but I just don't see a single thing in the game that has any of McFarlane's trademarks or inspirations. It looks more like a Blizzard game than a Spawn comic.

The combat is enjoyable but ultimately kind of hard to get behind because there doesn't seem to be a way to (manually) lock on or switch targets. This may be the Demos biggest flaw - given the time limit I didn't bother to get invested in any Questing, which left the game to stand on its combat (and looting). Combat boils down to button mashing with some ability use tossed in; when I leveled up my Finesse I was told I had unlocked 'timing based' attacks with my daggers. I saw the animations a few times but couldn't for the life of me explain how it happened or recreate them intentionally.

Despite my complaints I did enjoy the Demo a lot more than I thought I would. Adding in some more traditional RPG elements (speech checks, lock picking etc) to the Fable-Style gameplay really creates a nice mix.
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Postby CoopBob » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:35 pm

I managed to get about halfway through the demo before I had to go to work; looking forward to diving back in when I get home. It's an enjoyable game for sure although I kinda wish they could find a balance between this game and Skyrim. Kingdoms definitely has a more robust combat system with combos, etc but it's waaay more arcadey and cartoony than Skyrim. I think the cartoon vs realism comparison pretty much applies to all aspects of Kingdoms to Skyrim (from what I've seen so far). Even though I haven't played much of either game, it reminds me a lot of Darksiders as opposed to Fable so far.

Overall I liked it. The discount price kind of like.
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Postby Macrocephalus » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:06 pm

Steampunk Jin wrote:The combat is enjoyable but ultimately kind of hard to get behind because there doesn't seem to be a way to (manually) lock on or switch targets.


When you're in combat, you pick your target with the right stick, IIRC. Whichever enemy has its name (well, type) and health bar displayed over its head is the enemy you're targeting.

The problem is that, as you say, there doesn't seem to be any way to lock onto that enemy, and since the camera control is what's largely responsible for picking the targeted enemy but the camera is also partly out of your control, the sheer act of moving to attack often causes the targeting to switch from one enemy to another, which can be infuriating, especially if the new target isn't even onscreen.

CoopBob wrote:but it's waaay more arcadey and cartoony than Skyrim. I think the cartoon vs realism comparison pretty much applies to all aspects of Kingdoms to Skyrim


Yeah, definitely, but I'd make a qualified exception for combat. Reckoning does have a more arcade-like feel to its combat, but I think it's also more realistic at the same time, since it does a much better job of mapping what a human(oid) body would be capable of onto the system (stipulating a world with magic and so on, of course).

I do wonder whether the cartoony (and often appallingly cruddy) visuals might become more and more unpleasant over time. In general, Skyrim has been a treat to behold, and the landscapes have yet to get old or even to hint at the possibility.
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Postby Bakken Hood » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:34 pm

Acknowledgement: God of War is one of the glaring holes in my gaming experience. I'm only bringing it up because "GoW clone" is a genre unto itself at this point, one for which my main point of reference is Darksiders.

I'd say the God of War (clone) comparison is relevant, even if there are limits to how far it should be taken. I personally haven't played an action RPG with that kind of depth to the gameplay. The obvious comparison for us Xbots is Fable, whose combat is a snooze by comparison. Real gameplay, interesting characters and setting, and stats to obsess over?!?? I've never seen more than two of those in one place. Even if the combat isn't as smooth as it is in GoW (and how could it be, with animations and button combos for a bajillion different custom movesets?), it beats the tar out of Fable or Dragon Age or any of its other obvious competitors.

I definitely hit a lot of visual glitches. Near the end I was seeing, I don't know, wooden cabinets or something appearing in the forest floor and changing shape when I moved. I hope those glitches are exclusive to the demo. I didn't see any audio glitches, but then I didn't go far from the first village. I'm sure they had to cut a lot of content out to get any given 45 minutes of gameplay into 1.9 gigs. Maybe some of the more remote voice acting wound up on the chopping block?

Oh, one major complaint I didn't bring up. THIS IS THE WORST F?%KING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ALREADY-CRUMMY FALLOUT LOCKPICKING MINIGAME EVER. It was frustrating enough when Skyrim did it.
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Postby Macrocephalus » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:42 pm

Bakken Hood wrote:Oh, one major complaint I didn't bring up. THIS IS THE WORST F?%KING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ALREADY-CRUMMY FALLOUT LOCKPICKING MINIGAME EVER. It was frustrating enough when Skyrim did it.


Oh, Jesus, you're right! How the heck did I forget to mention that??? It's exactly like the Fallout 3 / Skyrim system — except WORSE! It's substantially harder to exert fine control with the left stick than it is in those games, meaning there are going to be a lot more broken picks and a lot more cursing. Egads what a terrible, diseased idea!
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Postby CoopBob » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:51 pm

justabaldguy wrote:Haven't tried this yet, but am looking forward to it. For those of y'all who have played it, how did your experience compare to the video above? I thought the graphics were fine. Cartoony, yes, but not muddy or glitchy. I always like the Fable II graphics, as they felt warm and happy, always neat. Sure the more serious looks of Skyrim and Fallout are nice too, but cartoony graphics alone won't be a turn off for me.


Despite what I said I actually don't mind the art style. I generally like the caricature look. What I was surprised about visually given the hype around this game was, hmmmm, I don't know how to explain it other than to say the quality didn't look like a triple A title to me. The textures are really simple and plain. For example the scenery looks totally flat with "texture" painted over it - like games used to look 5+ years ago. This is in stark contrast to something like Skyrim where the ground actually looks like rough ground.

I don't think it's really bad, just trying to offer some explanation for your question. It's not terrible, just surprising out of what's supposed to be such a big title.
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Postby justabaldguy » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:56 pm

Macrocephalus wrote:Returning to traditional point-based upgrades and leveling from Skyrim's learn-by-doing mechanics will be a bit of a bummer
That's actually something I'm looking forward to. If Skyrim had the Fallout leveling system, I'd suffer through it with much more smiles. I know the arguments for both sides, but I prefer points.

Haven't tried this yet, but am looking forward to it. For those of y'all who have played it, how did your experience compare to the video above? I thought the graphics were fine. Cartoony, yes, but not muddy or glitchy. I always like the Fable II graphics, as they felt warm and happy, always neat. Sure the more serious looks of Skyrim and Fallout are nice too, but cartoony graphics alone won't be a turn off for me.
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Postby Raines » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:10 pm

The thing graphics-wise that bothers me is the pop-up. I've had rocks and grass just appear in front of me out of nowhere. I can look past the fact that the visuals look dated, as long as the gameplay can back it up. It looks like a solid RPG, but not good enough to truly dethrone Bethesda or Bioware. Needs some bug fixes for sure.
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Postby Macrocephalus » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:26 pm

justabaldguy wrote:Haven't tried this yet, but am looking forward to it. For those of y'all who have played it, how did your experience compare to the video above? I thought the graphics were fine. Cartoony, yes, but not muddy or glitchy. I always like the Fable II graphics, as they felt warm and happy, always neat. Sure the more serious looks of Skyrim and Fallout are nice too, but cartoony graphics alone won't be a turn off for me.


Videos give you a good sense of the cartoony artistic slant of the graphics, but not, I think, of their muddy crudeness. I really did feel like I was looking at a moderately jumped-up PS2 game — it looked like a title from late in that era that was given an HD tuneup but not a ground-up rebuild.

Not having an XBox I've never played a Fable game, so I don't know how it compares to those, but I have a hard time imagining a major XBox 360 exclusive looking this cruddy.

Bakken Hood wrote:Even if the combat isn't as smooth as it is in GoW (and how could it be, with animations and button combos for a bajillion different custom movesets?), it beats the tar out of Fable or Dragon Age or any of its other obvious competitors.


Oh, for sure. I just think that the developers saying they're giving players "the best of both worlds" (the actual exact phrase I've heard them use on several occasions) of God of War-level action gameplay mixed with equally high-end RPG design is unwise. They're saying they're matching the gold standard for action-game combat. Even if they were, that would be a comparison better left for reviewers to make. And since they're not even coming close (as we agree, how could they? it'd be all but impossible) I think they're actually setting themselves up for some disappointment over something that is actually probably one of their game's strongest points — its combat.

All that said, if they just fix the target selection problem that Steampunk Jin and I talked about and do nothing else on this front, I think they'll have a really awesome combat system on their hands, and one I'll have a blast playing with in an open-world RPG, particularly one that seems to have pretty solid lore, writing and storytelling. But they do really need to do something about the targeting problem, because it's a serious one.
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