Episode 7 - Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
INTRO: Gadflow, from the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Soundtrack PODCAST TOPIC: The great tragedy of Big Huge Games' *Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning* is that it all but demands a sequel, and will never have one. Although its developer, Big Huge Games, has re-opened, the *Amalur* IP remains the property of Rhode Island in the wake of the 38 Studios bankruptcy. The setting of *Reckoning*, the world of Amalur, is wholly deterministic; everything and everyone in it is entirely beholden to a predestined fate. This fate can sometimes be foretold, in whole or in part, by the fateweavers of the land, but it can never be altered. And it is into this world that the player's character is resurrected, having been killed just prior to the game's beginning in the long-raging war between a race of immortal Fae called the Tuatha and the mortal races of Amalur. But the circumstances of the player's death and resurrection have resulted in something unique: a being who has broken free of the bonds of fate, and who is no longer beholden to a fixed destiny. The idea of a fateless being in the midst of a fate-governed world is an intriguing concept that *Reckoning* doesn't explore to its fullest potential, but there are certainly moments where the theme shines through. The storytelling is often at its very best in these moments, especially in those times where the player's mere presence disrupts the weave of fate and alters the destinies of individuals, groups, and entire races. Much of this occurs in the game's side quests, and those stories often eclipse the main plot. As the final act of *Reckoning* begins, however, the main plot finds its stride, and treats the player to a philosophically-charged, action-packed rush right up to the final confrontation. (*Reckoning 2* would have, I've been told, explored the concepts of fate and destiny in greater detail. Alas!) *Reckoning's* world isn't a true open world, but is instead divided into several large areas. Each area is itself massive, and boasts a different biome. Where other fantasy RPGs of its era emphasized a muted colour palette, *Reckoning* opts for rich, saturated colours; part of the joy of exploring the world of Amalur is how staggeringly beautiful much of it is. The world is also heavily influenced by Celtic mythology, and much of the voice acting reflects this; it's a welcome departure from the Nordic motifs on display in other games in the genre. In some respects, *Reckoning* can be thought of as a single-player MMORPG. The game is methodically laid out, and while there are numerous narratively rich side quests in addition to the main story, there are also plenty of fetch quests and monster-killing missions. The crafting system is well-implemented, the skill trees add meaningfully to the gameplay, and the Destinies concept — essentially, interchangeable meta-classes that can be reassigned on the fly — adds an interesting strategic element to how you manage your character. Combat in *Reckoning*, however, is anything but methodical; it is hyper-kinetic and brutal, fast-paced and tactical. The key to combat in *Reckoning* is movement, and also innovation. You can use an array of weapons and abilities, and while you'll eventually settle into particular patterns for these, the combat rarely becomes boring for it. And in a certain sense, it's the combat in *Reckoning* that ties the game together; its frenetic tempo allows the rest of the game — quests, crafting, and the like — to proceed at a measured pace without feeling slow. It would be a mistake to dismiss *Reckoning*, which was released in early 2012, as just another 3D action RPG. That isn't to say that the game doesn't have a truly excellent combat system, and it isn't to say that the game isn't combat-heavy. But whereas *Reckoning* could have been just another unintelligent brawler, it instead delivers a fully realized (and massive) fantasy world filled to the brim with interesting lore and imaginative stories. SHROUD OF THE AVATAR NEWS: *Shroud of the Avatar's *seventeenth pre-alpha test release (a.k.a. **Release 17**) is starting up this week (https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?p=49996); expect to see Starr Long posting instructions for it by the time this episode has gone live on the Codex, if not on Patreon. The standout feature of this Release will evidently be the addition of the first actual player-owned town, PaxLair (http://sotawiki.net/sota/PaxLair), into the game. Of course, PaxLair had previously made themselves a home in *Shroud of the Avatar*; they more or less took over the town of Valemark (http://sotawiki.net/sota/Valemark) for a while, rebuilding it every time Portalarium did a server or data wipe. Moreover, they built it with a combination of houses and crafted objects (dressers and suchlike), and some of their work therewith was truly impressive. The actual PaxLair city will no doubt include some of that same innovation, but now at least it will have some static features that will survive wipes when and if they happen in the future. It's worth noting, too, that whereas Valemark was located in the Hidden Vale (http://sotawiki.net/sota/Hidden_Vale) region of the game, PaxLair proper will be located on mainland Novia (http://sotawiki.net/sota/Novia). The PaxLair city layout will, I gather, be used as a template for the design of future player-owned cities; Portalarium worked with PaxLair (and, in particular, community member Winfield, who is the governor of PaxLair) on the layout and design of the city in no small part because of the PaxLair group's long history with *Ultima Online*. It also helped, I suppose, that they were the first to purchase a **Metropolis**-sized player-owned town. OUTTRO: Reckoning Main Theme, from the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Soundtrack
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