It's a common misconception that gamers can't be jocks and vice versa. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is a great example of why that stereotype is wrong. Schilling is a big gamer, and a role-playing gamer at that. He's risked a generous amount of his personal funds to found a new game company (38 Studios/Big Huge Games) in order to make the kind of game he wants to play. The first game from that company is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, an open world RPG with a fighting system out of an action game.
I've been watching Reckoning for some time now, though it's been flying under the radar a bit due to being developed by a new company. Now that there's a demo out for the game, it's finally seeing the buzz it deserves. Still, I feel that more gamers should be paying attention to this gem from a dedicated company of talented designers. Here are my top ten reasons why gamers should check out this upcoming swords and sorcery gem.
We Should Support New RPG Developers
Bethedsa, BioWare, and Blizzard have dominated the Western RPG scene for too long, each company specializing in very different kinds of RPGs. While all three of these companies create excellent games, they all have their quirks and established habits. It's good for all of us to see successful newcomers to the marketplace, bringing in new ideas and shaking things up a bit for the established genre veterans. Bethesda in particular could use some competition, as few developers have the time and resources to create open world games. Thanks to Schilling and publisher EA, however, the Reckoning team has been able to turn out a brand new open world game for us to explore. Reckoning has the potential to bring fresh ideas into the open world RPG genre, and that's good news for all of us.
We Got a Meaty Demo Before Release
It's very rare to get a demo of a major RPG before the game releases, and almost unheard-of these days to see one of the size and scope of Reckoning's offering. Go out and play it! Menu actions and conversations don't even count toward the 45 minutes, giving plenty of time to run around the early area of the game. It's been great to see the many different experiences that players have had with the demo, which has far more to see and do than could possibly be completed in a single 45-minute run.
As for the bugs found in the demo, most of them have already been fixed in the game's final build, and a few new ones experienced by demo players (such as needing to turn off post-processing if playing with an ATI card) were quickly fixed by the development team in the final build. In order to provide such a big demo, the development team had to split the demo code off from the final code a few months ago, so we're not seeing the level of QA and polish that the final game will have. It was a tough choice whether to put out a demo with some remaining bugs or not have a demo at all, and I think we should reward the company to decide to give fans an early look into the game.
The Team Is Responsive to Fans
The Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning team is one of the most responsive I've seen while covering upcoming games. They've been doing a weekly Q&A on the official forums for months, and short questions are frequently answered on the company's official Twitter account. This is clearly a team that is passionate about its project, which bodes well for Reckoning's post-release support and for the next games in the Kingdoms of Amalur universe. Many gamers try to support companies that stand behind their products and interface well with fans, and 38 Studios/Big Huge Games is a great example of this kind of company.
A Dense Open World
Getting to the game itself, one of the first things players will notice is that Amalur isn't the same kind of open world that we're used to from Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series. The player can't go tromping through an endless landscape, and sadly can't even jump except at specifically-created jump points. Instead, the world is a series of smaller connected areas. It's still an open world because the player can travel anywhere within and between those areas, it's just a more directed exploration experience.
The upside of this denser open world is that every nook and cranny has been hand-created and stuffed with things to see and do. Every dungeon in the game is unique, and each one has a purpose in the world, be it as part of a quest or simply as an ecosystem for a particular kind of enemy. There are quests, ruins, treasure chests, and other goodies found everywhere, especially if the player specializes in "Find Hidden," which reveals that many "scenery" objects like wells and hollow logs have treasure caches hidden inside them. What Reckoning sacrifices in breadth, it makes up for in depth, providing more bang for the buck in every minute that the player spends in the game's world.
Non-Player Characters with PersonalityWe all know about the infamous "arrow in the knee" that every generic guard in Skyrim seems to have taken. Non-player characters have been more carefully created in Reckoning. In fact, every named NPC will tell you his or her personal story if asked, and the demo shows that each individual has particular opinions about the world around them. What seems at first like a simple recitation of the game's lore turns into more. A character doesn't just recite what relations are like between the local mortals and fae, for instance, but will mention how he or she feels about inter-species relations. Even unnamed villagers and guards deliver short lines that are relevant to where they are and what they are doing. RPG fanatics should greatly enjoy getting to know the many different characters in Reckoning.