RPG fanatics will have plenty of options in the next year or so, regardless of their platform of choice. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Mass Effect 3 and the re-release of Tales of the Abyss on the 3DS are just a few examples of games guaranteed to suck up some playtime north of the 20-hour mark. What these games all have in common is that they were borne out of existing franchises, so people know exactly what to expect. Despite already releasing one of these big RPGs, EA has decided to do something a bit riskier and release a brand-new RPG next year. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the first game to come from the collaboration of Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, the game studio headed up by former baseball star Curt Schilling. With some input from Todd McFarlane for the art and R.A. Salvatore for the universe and lore of the land, Kingdoms of Amalur comes with quite a pedigree. We got a look at the game during E3 2011 and came away quite intrigued.
As the story goes, you are the first successful product of an experiment to resurrect fallen warriors. You are free to roam the land with a second chance at life. What you do is completely up to you, but unlike other RPGs, you aren't restricted by a class choice at the outset of the game. Instead, you are given a few activities to help you get acclimated to a few classes, and then you're free to pursue whatever class and abilities you wish. The game is supposed to be tailor-made to your actions, and with 60+ different abilities you can master, it'll be rare to create a character whose traits exactly match those of someone else playing the game.
During the demo, we were shown a few things that made Kingdoms of Amalur stand out from other RPGs in the market. There's a pretty heavy looting system in place as well as an item creation system that lets you craft your own artifacts for use in combat. A minigame system for disarming booby traps was also shown off in the demo, making it more about skill if you wish to not rely on pure stats for a successful disarm. A dialogue tree is also in place where, as expected, various choices made during each conversation help branch out how your particular story is going to unfold.
What was most surprising, though, is the game's combat system. It's built more like an action title with both quick and strong slashes, blocks, parry and a combo system. It's also quick, only slowing down to show off brutal hits, and uses a Quick Time Events system to dispatch bosses. There's no mistaking that it's still an RPG, but with so many action game elements to it, don't be surprised if newcomers to the genre will cite this as their gateway game.
One thing that was surprising is that this is a strictly single-player experience. There's nothing wrong with a single-player RPG, but with the emphasis on loot drops, fast action and varied classes, it would've made perfect sense to go multiplayer. This is also when you consider the pedigree of 38 Studios, a game studio that seemed focused primarily on MMORPGs.
There's still a long way to go before Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning hits stores in 2012, but from what we saw so far, it looks like it'll shape up to be an interesting game. The fast action and strong RPG elements make this a perfect hybrid game for the newcomer while the storyline and open class system will intrigue fantasy RPG buffs. The vast looting system may turn off certain fans that were looking for a deeper Diablo clone, but for everyone else, it looks to be an enjoyable romp. Look out for more coverage in the coming months.
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