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 lard pirates dawt cawm  §  Kingdoms of Amalur Demo Review (Less Facetious Edition) / by Spoony Spoonicus
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 ~Spoony Spoonicus on 01:18pm 01/31/12 (01:51am 01/25/12) in 48m3s  §  2439 eyeballs
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Alright, so it turns out the visual blackout was a bug with AMD video cards which is, allegedly, fixed in the full version of the game. Fair enough. Per the recommendations of the Steam forums I went under the game options, disabled post-processing and vertical sync, and now the game is actually quite visible. And what do you know, it's actually not bad. I actually have to commend the way the demo is set up - after the requisite introductory scene, you're actually given free reign over the game world for a 45-minute run. You can spend that time however you want, whether it's doing quests, fighting enemies, or just taking in the atmosphere. Hell, it even lets you carry over any cool stuff you find to the full version if you sign in to your EA account before starting play.

Much has been made of the many names behind the game, most prominent among them R.A. Salvatore (writing), Todd Macfarlane (character designs) and Ken Rolston (a major designer on Elder Scrolls 3 and 4). Fortunately, it's a combination that works out well - the game world is huge and intricately detailed, the dialog and game universe are vast and well written (and equally well acted) and the character design hedges on bizarre, but is rendered in a familiar style (not unlike the Warcraft games).

The game itself plays like a blend of Elder Scrolls and any of the numerous high-octane action games of late - combat is fast-paced and centered around juggling, attack combinations and timed button presses. Occasional rapid button-tapping also come into play during finishing moves, usually as a way to earn some extra experience (and thankfully not as annoying "quick time events" which turn the battle radically in the enemy's favor if you fail them). Another mechanic the game introduces is "reckoning mode", whichplaces the action into slow motion for a brief period and allows you to deal more damage to attacking enemies and perform particularly brutal finishing moves for extra experience.

Case in point

As the game goes on and you gain levels, you of course unlock more moves to potentially extend your combos and do greater damage. A couple I encountered were the ability to momentarily hold down the attack button, then release to quickly close the gap between myself and an opponent. More fun was had with another ability which let me grab an enemy from afar, drag him closer and then unleash a combo on him. Not unlike a certain Mortal Kombat character, in fact.

Between combat, the game world provides plenty to see and do, with detailed environments that conceal plenty of hidden secrets, tons of characters to interact with, and in the vein of the Elder Scrolls games, plenty of stuff to lockpick and loot. Salvatore's writing credit pays off here - hell, it's fun just to talk to characters and read all the various journals you find laying about for the weird stories they tell.

I only endorse being a bastard when it's profitable

There were still a few rough spots to be found. First being the interface, which is clearly modeled around a console game interface and not particularly optimized for the PC - no Windowed option, very large fonts, having to click on tiny buttons (no keyboard shortcuts) for all of the menus, not to mention the Mass Effect styled "dialog wheel" (which would occasionally "stick" on a certain option until I tabbed out of the game and switched back). The game does support PC gamepads, but it's something to keep in mind for all the mouse-and-keyboard fanatics out there. There were also some minor graphical bugs - characters would occasionally not animate while speaking, and I spotted a HOM effect or two during the early dialog scenes.

Overall, these issues are relatively minor and the game is quite a fun blend of edged action and exploration within an interesting game world. Give it a go if that sounds like your kind of experience.

Besides, who doesn't want to brutally kill some Bronies?
 rawks  §  rad comments, dogg.
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a cherry