Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo (Xbox 360) Impressions

For a demo, this download has more meat too it than most premium DLC today, and this was free. Thanks to the cross-promotion with Mass Effect 3, I downloaded and gave the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo a whirl today, not knowing much about it going in.

For all intents and purposes, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning appears to be EA's version of Fable II with some Mass Effect and, I believe, Dragon Age thrown in for good measure. The game world is a standard fantasy world with Men, Elves, Gnomes, etc. and there's a race of what I believe are Elves who've gone all evil and Orc-like and they're trying to wipe out the other races in a massive war. That's all well and good save that unlike the other "mortal" races, these evil Orc-Elves don't properly die; you kill them and their soul goes back to their homeland to be reborn.

This war has been going on for well over a decade and the western kingdoms (why are the good guys always in the west anyway?) are starting too loose simply due to the inexhaustible numbers of the enemy. That's where the Gnomes come in. One crazy Gnome has been working on a way to bring regular folk back to life, and guess what: You're the results.

The demo starts with a summary of the fantasy world and the war and with your body being hauled off to be discarded. You can choose to be male or female at this point and can choose from four different races, two kinds of Men and two kinds of Elves, and you can fully customize your facial appearance, name, etc. It's all standard RPG fare and you awaken in a pile of corpses, still alive but with no memory of anything (amnesia, the classic RPG plot device) and a Quest to escape the underground tunnels you're in.

From this point on, if the cartoonish graphics weren't already a give-away, the game plays very much like Fable II: linear exploration, similar styalized combat and control scheme, similar inventory system, and a host of Skills to expand and level up (you do actually earn XP in this game). More or less it's fun with a slightly clunky camera, but I didn't find anything overly innovative.

Dialogue is handled via a conversation wheel just like in Mass Effect save that you don't hear your character speak anything, traditional dialogue boxes will crop up in more detailed conversations, and I found myself having to hit "A" several times on many occasions to have a dialogue option actually select; the responsiveness wasn't the best.

Just like in Fable II, you can find chests to open and loot for goodies, and you can engage in lock picking of a make and style ripped right from Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; it's exactly the same but inverted.

Once you escape the dungeons you have a Fable II-styled surface area to explore, again very linear with caves, mines, and swimming scattered about (complete with bubbling spots in water that have items you can take).

Once I completed the demo's core Questline, a notice popped up telling me I had 45 minutes to continue playing and that Pausing the game or entering conversations stopped the timer, so I could take my time talking to townsfolk. This was good as exploring and doing Side Quests is what I wanted to do, save that this is when the bugs really began.

From this point on, I could talk to people but they wouldn't actually speak, and the dialogue would race through as if I was jamming on the "X" button to skip everything; save that I wasn't. For this reason I had no clue what was going on with anything because I couldn't read/hear any of the information, Quest related or otherwise. Outside of conversations, music would cut in and out as would some sound effects, and I started having odd texture issues; corpses would sometimes stretch into the ground or bounce around with odd physics, and one towns person's teeth were showing through her facial skin texture, making her look like a sloppy wanna-be zombie.

Basically these are some pretty heavy bugs that were near enough to game breaking to really turn me off from the game. By playing through the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo, I've unlocked several items for the retail game, but more importantly to me, I've also unlocked special armour and a weapon for Mass Effect 3.

Seeing as how I found nothing special or innovative with the demo (outside of the fact that it took me about 3 hours to complete) and with the tremendous amount of bugs that kicked in, I'll be passing on the retail copy unless I find it dirt cheap in a bargain bin. If I get any kind of an action RPG fix before that, I can always fire up Fable II again, as it was similar enough.

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