• Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reviewing

2 comments
So I managed to spend some time with the new Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo that was released last week and thought I would share my impressions. I've been following the game for a while and have blogged about it a few times before, but this was the first chance for some real hands on time with the game.

It's launching during a busy period as far as I'm concerned. I'm very busy at work, have to go to South Africa again for a couple of weeks near the launch date, I'm still deeply engrossed in The Old Republic, and Mass Effect 3 comes out in March. So, to move me from an interested party to a customer the demo will have to impress. Read on to find out if I've been converted.

Fear my sideburns!
Initial impressions from the demo are a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. The first major problem was a graphics bug (it transpires that most ATI cards suffer with this) that means the introduction cinematic plays out as a black screen. A bit of research showed that disabling particle effects resolved the issue and sure enough I was soon able to create my character. However I was not able to name him what I wanted as there is an 8 character limit for names!

The art style and graphics for the game are great, and it ran really well on my system, pulling a consistent 60fps (it seemed to be capped at this) with everything turned up (though it seems likely that higher level settings will be available after launch). The animations are good and smooth, with a cartoon realism.

The world looks great, with some nice environments in the limited time you get with the game once the tutorial is over. I should mention that the tutorial does a great job of introducing you to the concepts and mechanics of the game as well.

However, other aspects of the game didn't leave such a good impression. The menu system is horrible, and obviously designed for a console controller rather than a mouse. There may be shortcuts I hadn't found, but simply equipping a new piece of equipment was a little cumbersome.

The controls were adequate, though I was surprised and annoyed by the lack of a jump option. The combat is quick paced and action-oriented, and unfortunately not to my taste at all. It relies on button spamming and reaction speed, rather than any level of strategic approach and again reminded me of a console game from five years ago. That may be a deliberate design decision, but for an AAA PC RPG title I think it's a mistake. Ken Rolston's recent comments that the game has the best combat of any RPG ever are simply laughable.

Matters are not helped by a horrible camera system which refuses to follow the character properly in combat, leaving you looking in the opposite direction than you would like way too often.

The final disappointment came with the cinematic conversation cut-scenes. Whether you like the Bioware Mass Effect storytelling style or not, there is simply no argument that they are far ahead of the competition in creating these in-game conversations.

The characters in Kingdoms of Amalur seem soulless compared to those in Mass Effect or Dragon Age, moving very little, with poor lip syncing and lifeless eyes staring. There are none of the choreographed action scenes, realistic eye technology (a small thing but it makes a massive difference in bringing the characters to life) or character that Bioware manages to breathe into their NPCs.

A silent, static protagonist staring at the NPC he is having a conversation with does not help, and neither does a story that, whilst promising to be epic, looks to be a very, very cliched fantasy tale.

So, in summary, based on the demo Kingdoms of Amalur looks to be a competent but soulless action RPG. I am quite disappointed I have to say; it's already been removed from my Most Anticipated list. I may think about picking it up when it reaches the bargain bins if it gets good word of mouth, but won't be buying it at release.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to have a brief rant about something I feel is becoming more and more prevalent in PC games, and it is something that threatens what makes PC gaming unique. That is the constant console-ification of new titles. I understand that the console market offers the largest sales platform, but consoles are different beasts to personal computers.

Console controls do not translate well to a mouse and keyboard. Console menus do not translate well (in general). The dumbing down of complex systems like inventories and lore and strategy and party management are being lost underneath systems like achievements.

I don't like it when developers don't even try to make allowances for different systems by tweaking controls, graphics, menus and game systems for different platforms. We are in danger of losing the depth and variety that PC gaming brings to the table.

Right, old man rant over!

2 comments:

  1. Nice bloggin' matey. Thanks for the write up, I must admit was thinking about having a look myself. Not sure I will bother now as I know my tastes are very similar to yours. new games aren't allowed anyhow!! Did you not know? It's the law now. you have to remove all other games from your PC and leave just SW:ToR ;)

    On your final point, you have no idea how much this winds me up too! take my very very favourite game series, GTA. GTA IV The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned expansion. I usually have GTA on console, just because it's been easier, but I definitely prefer the PC versions as the graphics tend to be better and the controls seem more precise. But with these two I decided to get on PC and (not sure if same before) you need to have not just a controller plugged in to your PC..but NO other controller other than a Microsoft XBox 360 controller will work. I know it's solid marketing. Most will buy the controller and play making Microsoft some more cash..but for me it was a game stopper.

    I know that's not exactly the same as your gripe, but it's along the same lines...developing titles need to take note..stop bleeding the two mediums together..they are completely different and offer so many differing benefits. And yeah, you're right, it seems to be becoming much more prevalent.

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  2. It's all about the profit margin mate...

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