Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur PS3 demo review

It amused me that on Monday I received an email from EA advertising their new game "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" given that I'd downloaded and played the demo over the weekend.

Initial thoughts - it's a tweaked version of Dragon Age. It's the same fantasy setting; the same style of graphics; the same third person viewpoint; there's the same inventory with the same radial wheel and the same stilted conversations. However there were some differences to be found.

The initial character set-up was handled well in the Oblivion style. You start off dead with a sheet covering you and a couple of gnomes registering your details. You therefore get to pick your race; features etc. and then the sheet is removed to reveal your dead body as they gnomes confirm all this.

Within the game so far there have been no companions; depending on how you like AI that may be a blessing or not. Once out of the initial linear tunnel sections the world is much more open with various gates and tunnels leading off to different areas. To match that there seems to be more quests and as such I found it enjoyable to roam. At this point again comparisons with Oblivion sprang to mind.

In terms of gameplay combat was surprising. Different weapons actually behaved in different ways beyond the slow/big damage quick/small damage. Being able to equip both a primary and secondary weapon and flit between the two during combat without pause was enjoyable as was discovering the combo system employed pauses such that Square Square Square produced a different outcome to Square Square [pause] Square. I can see an almost God of War system in place here.

The stealth system worked smoothly if a little unrealistically in that I've had guards walk straight towards me without seeing me.

Inventory management was also surprising and it's obvious they've been taking notes regarding other game's flaws. It's possible to grab everything from looted container in one go; but highlighting each item provides greater flexibility. It can be just be grabbed and filed under the relevant category; it can be moved straight to your junk pile; it can be compared to what is already equipped and then directly equipped. The same holds true at stores with the added option of just selling everything in your junk pile in one lump. Cuts out a lot of menu flicking.

Levelling up was easy and uses a tree structure split into three main branches Might, Finesse, and Sourcery. Weapons skills fit into these three types and other skills also logically follow.

Flaw time and there were a few. I can't locate a lock-on system in combat; this is modified in that the character will always swing a weapon towards an enemy. Except try to hit a barrel with a chicken behind you and you'll charge at the chicken.

As mentioned conversation is a little stilted and the way it's handled is a little messy. An initial conversation produces the same sort of wheel that Mass Effect 2 did so well; but past that it becomes a list you just scroll through resulting in an interrogation by your character.

As always when without a manual weapon and armour bonuses as well as skills have to be figured out by yourself. With the seemingly current penchant for minimal information I hope they don't skimp on this in the full game.

The biggest flaws I found- one was graphical. Shooting boggarts with a ranged ice staff resulted in a polygon corruption of their bodies - they'd suddenly turn into expanding triangles with stretched textures until the character clipped them or they naturally disappeared.

Also at times my character would teleport sideways; not by much, but enough to make me go WTH just happened.

In terms of gameplay spending points in Spot Hidden displays enemies on the mini-map in red; fine except this was occurring at a serious distance away from my character; kind of a spoiler.

Picking locks and wards was also painful - Move the lockpick into the correct position using the right analogue stick then draw the bolt across through the cog mechanism using the left if it's in the wrong place the bolt will catch. Great interaction, poor implementation. There's no indicator of whether the pick is in the right place until you start to draw the bolt and it snaps the pick as soon as it catches - give me Fallout 3's version any time. Wards operate differently in that they're arranged on a circle and you have to hit them as the cursor falls - sounds easy but they recharge and different wards recharge at different rates. Great if you know which are which.

Personally I hope this demo was constructed during the Beta phase; because it looks like it could be some real fun with a little more polish. As is... I'm not sure; might check out if it's rentable first.