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!|
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!