Fantasy worlds in video games are getting pretty intricate. Consider the upcoming game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which is being developed by 38 Studios and will be sold by Electronic Arts. In this game, you can pick the pocket of a citizen in the world. Once you do that, you have to slink away because the character will start feeling his or her clothing for a wallet. When they don’t find it, they’ll whirl and look for a thief.
Reckoning features a world created by fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore. Ken Rolston, one of the designers of the game, says that the title will focus on action, with a heavy emphasis on making combat more fun. That isn’t the usual emphasis in a fantasy role-playing game, so Rolston and 38 Studios hope their first game will stand out in a crowded field.
This game is going to get a lot of scrutiny because it is being built by a team assembled by Curt Schilling, the former star pitcher of the Boston Red Sox who is now making big-budget video games. Schilling’s company acquired the Reckoning team, formerly part of Big Huge Games’ Baltimore office, from THQ. The Reckoning team adapted their design so that they can tap into the fiction created by Salvatore and the art style developed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. Schilling has assembled an all-star cast, including Rolston, to crank out high-quality fantasy games.
Rolston said in an interview that his goal early on was to create a game with fast-action combat and much better movement. You can layer on top of that all of the complexity associated with a role-playing game, where you can earn new abilities and get better and better weapons. As you get these better weapons, you see the effect in the world and the changes that make an impact on the combat, Rolston said. You can also craft new weapons from various parts and see how that affects your performance in combat.
When you click the mouse or push a button on a controller, you want something to happen. A demo of one level of the game showed that the game plays fast. The demo focused on Rathir, a capital city for the Dark Elves in the universe of Amalur. The city has lots of detail that makes the world feel alive. I got to play a little of the game, hacking and slashing with different kinds of weapons in order to take out various beasts attacking me. The world looks pretty, although I didn’t see much of it. And the fighting is fast and furious.
If this game is a success, it bodes well for 38 Studios’ more ambitious project, a massively multiplayer online game — or a persistent online world — that is set in the same fantasy universe as Reckoning and is expected to launch next year. That project, code-named Copernicus, is still under wraps and has no launch date.