Curt Schilling, former star pitcher of the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, never shied away from competition. Now retired, Schilling and his 38 Studios look to make their mark on the competitive fantasy RPG market with its initial offering, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Lucky fans got a chance to see the first gameplay footage of Reckoning at PAX East in the form of a 40-minute demonstration.
In humorous fashion, Schilling opened up the presentation by asking the audience if they had ever bought a game that “sucked.” After the vociferous response from the audience, he responded that he had as well. Schilling then spoke about how excited he was about the work his team had done on Reckoning and that he was very excited to finally show it off to the gaming public. Before turning over the panel to Ian Frazier, the lead designer on the title, he encouraged PAX attendees to get excited if they saw anything they liked. Based upon what was shown, the audience had plenty of reasons to cheer.
If the level of talent alone attached to this project could guarantee a hit game, Reckoning would be a huge success. Legendary comic book artist Todd MacFarlane has contributed to the art style and animation of the characters. New York Times best-selling fantasy author and creator of Drizzt Do’Urden, R.A. Salvatore, wrote 10,000 years of history for the world of Amalur to instill depth and texture to the world and to provide players with a reason to care about saving this fantasy world. Lastly, the lead designer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Ken Rolston, contributed to the game’s design.
38 Studios’ goal with Reckoning was to create a hardcore action-RPG title with a twist. The title runs on a brand new engine designed from scratch, and for a pre-alpha build, it looked incredible. The level of ornate detail seen in the background environments was amazing, especially since there was no apparent slowdown in frames during the action. 38 Studios insisted that all of the structures in the game will have meaning and a history to provide a higher level of immersion. Frazier joked that his team’s goal was to have the “best doors ever seen in a RPG” and while he was half-kidding, each door shown was a unique and highly detailed structure.
The game takes place during the “Age of Arcana,” as magic has begun to make its return. Magic is so predominant in the world that even warrior combatants possess powerful spells. In this world, players will be forced to determine their place in the face of an oncoming war. While doing so, players will explore five massive zones without loading screens while traversing within one zone.
The character creation tools shown appeared to offer a high level of customization over the face and body type of your character. So much so, that Frazier joked that you could actually make your avatar look exactly like Curt Schilling. Players will be able to pick from various races, each with their own set of bonuses, gender, and a patron god that will bestow small bonuses throughout the game.
Unlike other fantasy games, in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, players don’t initially pick a class for their character since you start the game deader than a doornail. Somehow you are brought back to life, but you don’t recall who you are, know where you are, or how you came back. As the game progresses, players will be able to select “destinies,” which allow their character to specialize in different forms of combat. How many destinies are available in Reckoning? Schilling simply stated “a lot.” Frazier then explained that, in most role-playing games, trying to be a Jack of all Trades usually results in an underpowered player. In Reckoning, hybrid classes won’t have that problem so players can create their character in the exact manner they wish.
The actual gameplay demo started from the point of the main character’s resurrection in a dungeon. The warrior protagonist grabbed a weapon from a nearby dead body and then started hacking enemies. Those looking for a strategy RPG, ala Dragon Age: Origins, should look elsewhere, because the combat is an instant gratification system where players chain attacks through button combinations. However, players will not be expected to memorize button combinations to pull off more advanced combat moves and the combat is more paced and deliberate than a simple button masher. Targeting is controlled by a “softbox” system, which will direct attacks in the direction that the player is facing.
The main character will have access to two weapons types at all times with the X button accessing the primary and Y using the secondary. For the fighter/warrior build shown, a huge hammer and a sword were used in back to back attacks without any break in the action. Warrior types will also be able to equip a kite shield block and parry incoming blows. Attacking after a successful parry will result in different attack chain.
At certain points during combat, an option to perform a “fate-shift kill” appeared. These are quicktime moments that are reminiscent of those found in the God of War series. Frazier demonstrated such a move where the main character jumped in the air with his large hammer cocked back over his head while in slow motion and then he brought the thunder down on his fallen enemy, which caused quite the bloody squish.