If thereâ€™s one thing we learnt at E3 this year, itâ€™s that fans of RPGs are going to have plenty of games to chose from over the next year. On top of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Mass Effect 3, EAâ€™s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is looking like a solid contender as well.
The other trend at E3 was sequels. But unlike the aforementioned titles, Kingdoms of Amalur is another demonstration of how EA are willing to introduce new IP each year. Despite being the new kid on the block however, Kingdoms is a collaborative effort by some of the genreâ€™s long-serving legends.
For example Ken Rolston, the lead designer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is the game's executive designer. He is joined by well-known fantasy author R.A. Salvatore (Forgotten Realms, Star Wars, DemonWars) and the prodigious Todd McFarlane (Spawn) in the art department. The end result looks and feels like a solid franchise that has been around for decades.
In Kingdoms, you play as a resurrected fallen warrior waking up in a pile of corpses after returning from the dead. With your second chance at life, you are free to wander the Faelands and do whatever you please. Unlike traditional RPGs, there is no restrictive class choice at the start of the game and instead the game uses a "destiny" system, whereby the playerâ€™s actions unlock various classes or skill-sets. The game will constantly revolve around the actions that you take and, as EA claim, every experience will be tailor-made to your gameplay style.
A large part of Kingdoms will seem familiar to RPG veterans. For example there is a typical leveling up system, an in-depth inventory setup that includes creating your own artefacts, and a standard dialogue tree with conversation sequences for interacting with other characters. But the one area that the game takes a massive berth from the norm is in the combat.
In a surprisingly bold move, the combat in Kingdoms is based on the timing of button presses, similar to the style of a more action based game. It features strong or heavy attacks, a blocking ability, parrying and even a detailed combo system. On top of this, there are occasional quicktime events for the bigger enemies like those in the God of War series, where hitting the right button at the exact right time will result in a successful attack. It felt like an RPG game evolved, but whether these more action orientated, quick-reflex controls will appeal to more traditional fans or not will be a matter of time. As lead combat designer Joe Quadara emphasized however, "Twitch skill is only going to get you so far. Strategy and proper RPG playing is going to get you farther."
Our demo at E3 was just a tease as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning wonâ€™t be out until early 2012. But so far I get the feeling that Kingdoms will be a game to look out for, even for non-RPG fans like myself. With the fast flowing action styled combat and a truly beautiful, immersive world to explore (thanks to McFarlane), it could be the perfect hybrid for newcomers and old-school fans alike. NZGamer.com will keep you posted.