Tag Archives: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Rogue Failure. Or ‘How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the Paragon’

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I am not and never have been a rebel.  In life, as in gaming, I tend to follow a path of general decency and behaving unto others as I would wish for them to treat me – it isn’t cool, it rarely yields great rewards and marks you out to others in the world as being even more of a nerd than they expect you to be.  Thankless existence, unto eternity?  You said it.

I am, dear reader, a Paragon, a Paladin, a White Hat – and I’m ok with it.

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My current favourite gaming experience, the omnipresent “Kingdoms of Amalur”, gives me the chance to play as a rogue class ranged fighter and what I’ve discovered from my now 52 hours of game play is that I’m absolutely useless when given the choice to exercise bad behaviour in games.  ‘Amalur’, for example, gives your levelled-up Rogue class the chance to use your stealth ability to sneak up on adversary and ally alike and either shank them assassin style or simply pickpocket them for nifty loot.

Curiously, I find it more morally acceptable and preferable to sneak up on humanoid aggressors and slice them six ways to Sunday than to go creeping around the game world and cut purses or rifle through wallets – how’s that for a bizarre reaction to choices that a game designer provides you with?   I’d like to think that it doesn’t prove that I’m a sociopath-in-waiting but it does give you pause.

It’s this odd disconnect between real world personal conviction and the options inherent in a video game environment  which has kept me from playing sandbox gangster titles like “Saints Row”, “Mafia” and the grand-daddy of them all, “Grand Theft Auto”.  If I can’t envisage ever wanting to be the characters or inhabiting their world, there’s no way that I’m going to play the title – it’s probably a Boy Scout reaction to the criminal anti-hero archetype but there you go.

That’s not to say that I require characters in-game to be Peter Pureheart and impossibly, impractically noble as that option offers as much of a game-breaking flaw as glitch code or poor design decisions but I don’t want to play games where the protagonist’s raison etre is slaying innocent bystanders and arbitrarily causing car crashes.  It’s just not how I’m wired, folks.

I suppose the point that I’m grasping towards is that I like being offered choice about what I do in games – perhaps I should make 2013 the year that I start to take advantage of those choices and see where they take me in games?

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2012 in review – Games? We got games…

To some, an epic battle of beast versus noble knight. To me? Monday morning.

Gamers have lived in interesting times in 2012.  From Doritosgate  to a new console from Nintendo, from Kickstarter letting star developers of yore crowd-source funds for niche titles to the NRA blaming pop culture (and, inevitably, video games) for inspiring real-life violence, to studios like Sony Liverpool and even publishers like THQ either closing down permanently or entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to that “Mass Effect 3” ending, there’s been no shortage of stories on the daily games blogs to make you say “…hmm”.

Perhaps this weird sense of flux is partially attributable to the waning days of this gaming generation? With the debut of a hand-held  iterative system like the PS Vita and the aforementioned Wii U heralding the onset of a new generation of home systems, it’s probably not unusual to expect some consolidation in gaming – especially with the competition from smart phones being an ongoing agitant and conspiring to win yet more eyeballs and minds from the traditional gaming monoliths of Sony and Nintendo (next to whom, implausibly, Microsoft are the peppy young upstart of the sector).  If you’re not fast enough to keep up, and can’t get attention quickly, your game’s in the bargain bins two weeks after release and your studio will doubtless be downsizing headcount left, right and centre.  Who would want to be a games dev?  Not me, that’s for sure.

It would be easy to get downhearted, but there’s always reasons to get excited about this hobby – titles which engage so much that they persuade an otherwise sane gamer to invest 51 hours of his life (and counting) into a fantasy universe without really denting the main quest line – if you’ve read this blog at all this year, you’ll be in no surprise when I tell you that “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” was my favourite game of 2012.

It’s not one which has featured much in the year-end discussion – that honour goes to the likes of Tell Tale’s “The Walking Dead”, ThatGameCompany‘s art-em-up, “Journey”, steampunk stealth fest, “Dishonored” and the revived “Halo 4” – but it’s the game which pulled me back in, hour after hour, level after level to discover the secret provenance and reason for my seven foot blue elven ranged scout’s mysterious resurrection from death.

"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is my game of 2012

“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is my game of 2012

Lots of action, deep lore (with a story by R.A. Salvatore), charming music, a neat inventory system and an indefinable x-factor which compels you to keep forging ahead even with the likes of “ME3”, “Halo 4” and every thing that XBLA/PSN/Steam could offer calling you away – that’s what my game of 2012 offered.  “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is the overlooked gem of 2012 and the title which I hope somehow sees a renaissance worthy of it’s central plot line on the soon-to-be-unveiled next gen systems from Microsoft and Sony.

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Rogue Gaming

Whilst the rest of the gaming world is currently hip-deep in this Autumn’s onslaught of must-have franchise entries – “Halo 4“, “Black Ops 2”, “Assassin’s Creed 3“, to quote but three titles currently snaring gamer hearts and minds – I’ve found myself enraptured by…something else.

The game which torpedoed it’s studio – but it’s a lot better than that factoid suggests…

Yep – “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” – the brainchild of former baseball great Curt Schilling, brought to life by a team headed by legendary game designer Ken Rolston, sterling fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore and comics superstar/geekery mainstay Todd McFarlane.

I picked this game up in the summer and finally got stuck into playing it a couple of weeks ago – and I’m loving every second of it.  Action RPG games are definitely my bag and this game from EA and the now-shuttered 38 Studios/Big Huge Games gives me the stuff that I love – comparing stats, loot grabbing, multiple classes of characters, fast action against hordes of bad guys, huge maps full of fun environments to explore and the obligatory giant mutant spider Big Bad villains to lay the smack down upon.

There is nothing new here, arguably, but the game’s determination to reduce the barrier to entry for new players in this sub-genre – combat is easy to pick up, the skill trees are easy to understand, there’s freedom to re-specify your character if you find that you don’t want to be a mage and want to be an assassin, say – is a real selling point.

Eat swirly, elemental arrow doom, dark creatures of the forest!

If you’re a fantasy nerd and you want to pick up a game which scratches your Elf/Dwarf/Wizard itch whilst looking gloriously colourful and appealing, “Amalur” is definitely worth your time.

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – demoed!

I have to confess that I’ve been a bit remiss on the gaming side of things.  Since finishing “Uncharted 3” in the run up to Christmas, my time has been monopolised by other things.  This is partly by choice, as I decided to throw some of my energies into reading through the growing stack of novels by my bedside before they formed some kind of sentient, gaudy covered Jenga-like tower of my undoing.

I’ll get to that in a post later this week – blame GoodReads.com and the Sword and Laser podcast for getting me hooked on books anew – but I want to touch on a game demo which reeled me in like a conga eel at the weekend.  I’m talking about the latest action/RPG from EA, Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning”.

If you’re currently neck-deep in your “Skyrim” quest lines, I’m not sure that you’ll find a great deal in the “Amalur” demo to drag you away from your Dragonborn adventures but if you’ve skipped “Skyrim” – and, believe it or not, there are people who haven’t set foot in that epic digital realm – it’s entirely possible that this hybrid fantasy adventure might be your particular flagon of Elven Ale.

For one thing, it’s inevitably a more directed experience, at least in the demo portion that I’ve played.   You watch some cut scene action, create a character and go on a extended tuition of combat, mechanics and get some back story thrown in.  It’s not an earth-shattering approach to the genre, but it is nicely assured and seems to be a slightly better job of chucking you into a single-player action fantasy setting than EA’s “Dragon Age 2” did in 2011.

As is so often the case for me, I’ve gone for the female Elf archetype and played through the demo focusing on combat as much as any of the other talents which you can level up.  And the combat, at least in this vertical slice of game, is accessible, fun and makes you feel like you can mix things up to suit your style until you have the measure of the enemies being pitted against you.

Dodge about a bit, hit some poor unfortunate lackey with arrows from a distance, dash back in and lay waste with your short blades – it’s often so tough to get this stuff right in games, but on the evidence of this demo, if “Amalur” gets something dead on, it’s the fighting.  Boding well for the full retail release, I’m saying.

The settings are fun, the meta-game collection aspects are well integrated and the conversation system is accessible to anybody who’s picked up and played “Mass Effect” in this console generation.   That comparison alone may suggest to whether you want to play it or not, but I’m enjoying what I’ve played of this game and might be reorganizing my time to give this game some attention once it comes out on the 10th of February in the UK.

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