: Firstly, the games demo is out on just about everything available so go and get it! You get a solid chunk of the games start and then 45 minutes to explore around the place. It's well worth it and will give you some free stuff in ME3 if you are into that. What's to lose frankly?
: Yes the game uses an online pass, which grants you access to seven extra quests if you buy the game new and this is what the community manager for Big Huge Games had to say about it.
Yes, at the time that was all I was aware of for the Online Pass. As of last night, I got the info that this would be included, and was in the process of writing up some info about it (my usual FAQ's and the like).
As a few others have mentioned, this is bonus content. It doesn't impact the main storyline, and is free to anyone who purchases the game new and uses the Online Pass that comes packaged with the XBox 360 and Playstation 3 version. For the PC versions (purchased via Origin, Steam, or at a retailer), everyone will automatically have access to the bonus content. (For the latter, the registration code for the game is for everything including the bonus content.)
So there you go. If seven quests in a massive game like this incenses you so much that you won't buy this excellent game, then well, what could I possibly say to that in the first place?
Oh yeah the game is totally out soon so go and buy it! Unfortunately though, it comes out before the ME3 demo and playing the ME3 demo will unlock some free stuff in the full game of Kingdoms of Amalur, which is a bit off timing wise. But free stuff is good!
So very recently (yesterday in fact) I was able to go to a community event held by IGN Australia
at their Sydney offices to play a game called Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning
, an open world action RPG. Having seen only a few screenshots of the game and having no real clue what it was, I decided to just enter their competition to see the game on a whim, not really expecting to win. I was pretty happy when I actually was accepted! Free swag and food was a good deal, but best of all I could even invite one of my friends to the event, which was just awesome of them IMO. However, I didn't actually know anything
about this game before going other than it was an "action RPG". Having a look on these forums, I didn't really see much mention of the game and that surprised me quite a bit. A cursory look at screens reminded me of the game being a lot like Fable in many ways - but hopefully without the disappointment that goes with that (Fable III was a real let down) - so I expected more interest in it here.
None the less, I will still highly excited and eager for the 2nd of december to roll around when the event was being held. It was attended by about 30ish people or so, including a bunch of doods from IGN and two of the developers of the game from Big Huge Games (38 Studios), Sean Bean (Producer
) and Ian S. Frazier (Lead Designer
). It was really great being able to hang out with these guys, especially the developers who were really quite approachable to talk about their game (and game design in general). They didn't seem to mind my general comparison (which I'll bring up more later) of it reminding me rather of Fable III, but with a much better combat engine.
So before getting into the game, here are some screenshots so you can kind of see where I am coming from (Spoiler'ed for being huge):
And here are a couple of trailers to further whet your appetite;
Here is a large gameplay trailer that explains various things about the game - including a few elements that I glossed over below:
So of course this event wasn't just standing around talking to my fellow gamers, but actually being able to sit down and play it. It's being released on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 next year in February (9th?), but I was only able to see the Xbox 360 version of the game. I would say in total I probably got about 30 minutes in total with the game, because there were only the five consoles there. This actually wasn't too bad though, because everyone got a decent go at the game and my fellow Aussie gamers were really friendly so plenty of sharing. So what is this game actually about? Well it's a lot like Fable, but this general description would be going it a large disservice as it is far more detailed than Fable is. It's more fair to say this game has a lot
of different RPGs blended in with it, which forms a rather interesting whole instead of feeling like it's been cobbled together. In short it has some promise.
At it's most basic description this is a very big looking open world RPG, which blends a decent skill based combat system and a very large amount of different quests. The world the game is set in was originally written by RA. Salvatore (Of Icewind Dale and Dropping Moons on Chewbacca fame) for a MMORPG, but they had such a long detailed time line that they decided to make a more single player orientated open world RPG set in it as well. So starting off, I didn't get to see what character creation options you get, but there were male/female options at least (on different consoles). I think the developers said you could be other races as well, but I'm not 100% certain of that. In terms of making your character, there are a few interesting options broken down between skills, your core "class" and destinies. Skills encompass what your character can do, including finding hidden items, seeing enemies from quite a distance away on your minimap, improving your lockpicking/magic disarming, improving your alchemy and such forth. You also have three main "trees" of abilities that give you different powers and set what kind of overall class you are. A brawler tree gives you direct damage increases to weapons like hammers, swords and a power that let you drag enemies towards you. While there is a sorcery tree that specializes in magic spells (fireballs, ice and such forth) and lastly your rogue tree, improving backstabbing power, archery, traps and so forth. Pretty standard RPG fare - but presented and executed very well.
The final part of the character system is that based on how many points you put into the various trees, you can pick up different destiny cards (like tarot cards a bit), which further give you bonuses. These cards have better 'upgrades', which you unlock by investing points into one of the three main ability trees. So "Warrior II" requires you to have at least 11 points invested in the Brawler tree, with the card vastly boosting various abilities to do with hitting people in the face. While "Rogue II" lets you modify your bows, improve your backstab damage and so on. Overall there is a fair amount of depth and customizability to this system, while not being terribly punishing if you want to make a bit of a hybrid of a rogue/warrior (for example). One thing I did appreciate is that the game does make what your choices have done pretty obvious. While playing the game, I invested points into the search skill, which lets me find hidden objects and loot more gold off corpses. Once I looted some gold from something, the game broke down what gold I got normally and how much extra I got from the skill: removing the guess work in figuring out what the hell it was doing.
There is also a crafting system in the game as I mentioned from the alchemy skill above. Improving your crafting skills improves the kinds of items you get for the associated crafting and improves the items you craft. I didn't get time to see how this actually worked in game, so I can't give any comment on that beyond my cursory observations that it was there. One nice idea is that you can break down equipment you find to get their components out. So if you find a really nice frost hammer, but don't use that weapon at all you can break it out and get the frost items out to improve what you are using. I quite approved of that idea.
When I got my hands on the game first, I had taken over from another guy playing on the console before me and more or less dropped right into a boss battle. You can imagine that's quite the introduction to a game that you've never seen before! Thankfully the combat system apes some of the best mechanics from other good action games, that I slotted right into a good rhythm and it rewarded the skill I've developed from playing tons of other action games. Like other action games, you can press the attack button with different timing to produce different results and gain new combat moves (with different weapons) by leveling up the requisite bralwer/rogue/mage trees. As a basic example if you want new moves with your longsword you need to invest points into the brawler tree, while the rogue (finesse I think it's called now I think of it) tree gives you new moves with daggers. You can roll at whim, with one of the rogue skills I noticed giving you damage reduction while you are rolling as well. There is a slight delay on rolling, so you do have to learn to predict enemies attacks and make sure you aren't attacking yourself to roll. Enemies do have obvious "tells" on their attacks and one ability was like a "hook" ala Scorpion from Mortal combat. To my delight, I discovered if you used it with good timing just as an enemy would attack it cancels their attack and drags them out of position, allowing you to get further free hits. As well as being able to roll you can also block, with good blocking being able to negate an enemies attack entirely and leave them stunned for an attack.
I could describe more, but the basic point is that the combat system is deep enough and interesting enough to be really fun. There are several difficulty levels, the game I was playing was on normal and it can get fairly challenging in some fights. I noticed numerous encounters with a variety of different ranged and melee enemies, with the hook ability being extremely useful to drag a ranged enemy right up to your face and manage mobs to your advantage. As I didn't get to see later abilities - we only saw a tiny fraction of the first area of the game - I don't know how this progresses, but it certainly had enough depth on my first impression to make me want more. In fact, I found the combat so fun that I am really wanting to play the game right now as fighting things was a real joy. Ultimately in a game this big
that is a really good thing.
Let me assure you, from what I saw the developers claims of it being something in the order of ~200 hours of content if you do much of the side stuff along the way with the main story could well be pretty true. In the time we were playing the game, I only saw maybe 1/10th of the first zone of the game and the world looked huge
. Where I compare this game with Fable, is that the over world is really very large but is spread out with relatively narrow paths, with larger areas containing villages, larger ruins and such, as opposed to the open expanses of land like Skyrim. Like Fable, there are separate caves and such across from that you can go into as well, adding even further areas onto the already expansive main map. Generally speaking, there weren't a lot of load screens and most of the surface areas were pretty substantial in size. Load times were pretty quick, although I did notice some minor FPS drops when entering newer areas - so I assume its streaming the majority of its content as you run around. Overall it's not going to be something you notice as it's actually a very pretty game, with each of the five areas having its own identifiable landscape and art. Exploration is definitely a key aspect of the game, with lots of secret items, nooks and crannies if you do so. In another thing that reminded me instantly of Fable II/III, is that swimming in water has specific points with bubbles you can dive down at to find hidden things.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game came when I started talking to the various NPCs in the world that I encountered. Unlike what I expected of an open world RPG like this, there is a surprisingly deep conversation system in place. With many NPCs, you have a more 'old school' style of conversation choice, with a list of topics that frequently goes into a Mass Effect/Dragon Age II like conversation wheel. Very often, the list of topics are just for information, while the dialog wheel is used for individual choices like threatening the NPC, asking for more information, making choices (more on this later) and deciding to accept/deny a quest. One early example was I met an NPC who my character had interacted with in the beginning, I was able to let them live, threaten them for more money or simply tell them how much I hated them and cut their head off. It is pretty basic choice wise, but for the sheer amount of stuff in the game in the game it was impressive to at least have the options. Another example I encountered later was an idiot "priest" who got duped by a mischievous elf. At a certain point in the quest, I got an option to support the elf or the human in question with presumably different results based on those choices. Best of all, all of this dialog is spoken and apparently there is a lot of dialog (As I gleaned from talking to Sean Bean). I encountered at least 7-8 quests near the beginning of the game and only had time for a couple, but if they maintain a few choices per quest that is a lot of variation.
Oh and the main villain of the game? He's voiced by the guy who does the voice of Winnie the Pooh. Not in Winnie the Pooh's voice of course, but you know
This brings me to a feature I really appreciated and that's the ability to kill whoever you feel like. Like in Fable (again, I can't help but compare it to Fable in many ways) you can set your character to turn their "safety" off and target non-hostile NPCs with a push of the up button on the d-pad. You can use this to gain a sucker punch on people, murder them for their stuff or just create general havok and mayhem. Although the game does use a "quest essential" system like Oblivion for its main quest NPCs, you can murder whoever you like and if you kill someone offering a quest - too bad. Thankfully this system is designed well enough if you use the quick potion button, which is left on the d-pad you can't accidentally turn off the safety and slaughter an NPC you are escorting on a quest by mistake (as it doesn't target allies during a quest). You shouldn't feel bad about that, as I tested once a quest is finished if you felt particularly homicidal to him you can just murder them afterwards. Like in Fable - again sorry for the comparison but it's just so apt! - if someone sees you committing a crime guards will attempt to arrest you. Your choices are hard time in prison, paying a fine or plain resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is naturally the correct option, but it does get very overwhelming very fast. But like with other great open world RPGs that let you do what you want like Skyrim, Fallout and such forth if you feel like cleansing the land of civilized life this game lets you do it - if that is your thing.
Overall I was left with a really good impression of the game and I just wanted to keep playing it - very good sign! Perhaps my only reservation with the game is that with its considerable length, how repetitive quests may feel and how they will keep it from feeling repetitive. At the same time, the combat system is engaging and deep enough, that it will probably be good fun to stab things well into the long length that the game purports to offer. While I didn't know about the game before I got my hands on it - an unusual circumstance - I was pretty keen on it and if you like action RPGs (and were like me, disappointed with Fable III) I think it's more than worth a look. If there are any questions I can answer, I'll try to answer them but bear in mind I didn't get a big look at the game beyond early elements.
So I really enjoyed playing the game and I'm very much looking forward to when it comes out. Also, I totally scored a T-shirt and free tickets to see some movies in my free swag at the end of the night. Most rewarding!
Featuring a mysterious tale of intrigue, danger and dark magic on the island of Gallows End, players will encounter shadowy characters and new enemies, and will experience a host of new side quests, treacherous battles and exciting new challenges. The Legend of Dead Kel gives players access to Gallows End, a gigantic new continent to explore where players claim ownership of a vast personal estate and experience new weapons, Twists of Fate and other perks against new enemies.
The Legend of Dead Kel DLC and the story of Gallows End will feature:
An Epic New Questline — The Legend of Dead Kel is only part of the story of Gallows End. It intertwines with numerous side quests, multiple dungeons to explore and a colorful cast of characters
New Enemies, Dungeons, Items — Multiple new enemies and enemy variants, a new dungeon type: Dverga Fastings, three new Twists of Fate, eight new armor sets, eight new shields and 18 new unique weapons
The Ultimate Player Housing — Gravehal Keep is more than just player housing, it's a massive estate with multiple buildings and a full retinue of retainers, each with their own back stories, side quests, perks and quirks
Tons more to Explore — The Legend of Dead Kel DLC adds in more than 15% of additional land to traverse and explore in the already massively expansive world that is Amalur
The Legend of Dead Kel will be available starting on March 20, 2012 on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Origin and Steam.