Star castHeadlined by the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, last year was a great year for role playing games, and 2012 looks set to kick off with a bang when Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning launches in February. A single-player RPG that challenges players to unlock the mysteries of a magical world filled with strange landscapes, exotic cities, colourful characters and terrifying creatures, expectations are particularly high given the star cast involved in the game's creation.
Fantasy world Amalur and its 10,000 years of fiction was created by 22-time New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore, and has been brought to life visually for the game by renowned Spider-Man artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. Featuring over 60 hours of story, diverse side quests and exploration, the title's open world, free-roaming design has been developed under the leadership of RPG guru Ken Rolston, formerly lead designer on the critically acclaimed Elder Scrolls games Morrowind and Oblivion.
Choose your destinyKingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gives players great scope for personalising their character, with the freedom of choice extending well beyond just physical appearance. Destinies, which are the essentially the game's version of classes, enable players to develop and master their personal battle style, crafting their character without many of the constraints associated with traditional RPGs.
The Destiny system is basically a class-switching feature defined by abilities managed and unlocked within Sorcery, Might, and Finesse specialisations. Whether dabbling in all three specialities or pouring every point into one, path-shaping destinies continually evolve and new ones open up. For example, a battle-hardened warrior can incorporate the stealthy quickness of a rogue as well as the magical mastery of a sorcerer, or adopt subtle variations of them all. The choice is yours.
RPG combat evolvedFrom our brief exposure to the game, perhaps its standout feature is its non-traditional take on combat. While most RPGs see fighters trading blows until whoever has the least hit points loses, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's responsive, lightning-quick combat is more influenced by fluid third-person action series like God of War and Ninja Gaiden. Warriors can roll out of danger, mages can teleport-dodge, and characters perform brutal combos - the lead combat designer happens to be a tournament level Tekken player - while the camera sweeps around framing the action in the most exciting way possible.
While it's still possible to button-mash your way through duels, chaining skills together and precise timing will pay off and develop your character further. Once you've acquired enough energy from defeated enemies to fill up the game's 'fate meter' you can also unleash 'Reckoning' mode, which slows down time for your opponents, giving you an upper hand that lets you zap around dishing out damage and taking out the more deadly enemies with brutal kills that require you to react to button prompts on the screen which, if your timing is spot on, appear to earn you additional experience as you close in on flashy kills.
Based on what we've played to date, we're more than a little excited to see more of what Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has to offer with its gorgeous open world, fast-paced, visceral combat and its interesting take on character creation and development.