The demise of 38 Studios has been a well chronicled one, but perhaps you're interested in knowing exactly how much money the now defunct developer used prior to shuttering earlier this year. According to WPRI, that figure exc...
Jun 07 //
Samit Sarkar Rhode Island officials are hopeful that the state can get some return on 38 Studios' assets, which it now owns. Jonathan Savage, legal counsel to the Economic Development Corporation, told reporters today that the state has had discussions with investors offering upwards of "tens of millions of dollars" for 38's former intellectual property. "We're going to do everything we can to maximize the return on our investment," said Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Here's hoping Rhode Island gets something for its trouble, since the state's taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $90 million through 2020.Bankrupt 38 Studios will be liquidated [WPRI via Joystiq]Criminal probe launched into 38 Studios [WPRI]Schilling's 38 Studios declares bankruptcy; law enforcement investigating [Providence Journal via Joystiq]38 Studios liquidation valued in tens of millions by RI, gov. will get every penny he can for taxpayers [Joystiq]
The death knell has sounded for 38 Studios. Following the layoff of its entire 379-person staff two weeks ago after missing a $1.125 million loan payment to Rhode Island, the developer of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and the...
After effectively gambling with this month's rent money in a bid to pay for next's, things were looking pretty bleak a for Curt Schilling's 38 Studios. Running into financial difficulty following the release of Kingdoms of Am...
Hey guys, if you missed today's LIVE LIVE LIVE Destructoid Show, here it is. Tara's out -- I honestly have no idea where she went -- but Anthony Carboni was good enough to fill in.
The big news today: Indie Game The Movi...
It's a very sad day in the gaming industry, as 38 Studios has laid off its entire workforce -- including Baltimore-based studio Big Huge Games -- due to the financial turmoil the company has been in. That's 379 people suddenl...
It's been a busy day for 38 Studios. Amidst the company's recent financial issues, the future of its massively multiplayer online game Project Copernicus wasn't looking so bright. They've decided to go ahead and just put up ...
Kingdoms of Amalur was hailed by Electronic Arts as a success, partly responsible for the publisher's strong first quarter financial results. Meanwhile, the folks that actually made it are in debt, and the financial future of...
Apr 25 //
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Teeth of Naros (PC, Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3)Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge GamesPublisher: 38 Studios, Electronic ArtsReleased: April 17, 2012MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points, $9.99
The "Teeth of Naros" story can be started relatively early on in one's journey through the world or Amalur. Whereas "The Legend of Dead Kel" made players reach the city of Rathir -- a mid-way point in Reckoning -- before being able to embark on their new quest, "Teeth of Naros" can be accessed from the area of Ettinmere, south of your starting location in the lands of Dalentarth.
The Teeth of Naros (Naros is the name of a troll god) is a mountainous area, locked off from the rest of the world, where giants of all sorts reside. The Kollossae, a race of giant living Greek statues, had once split off from their other giant kin after surpassing them in cultural development, intelligence, and control over magic. Of course, not all is right in the Kollossae's refuge, and only the Fateless can help them out. Again.
As stories in Reckoning go, the story of "Teeth of Naros" is better than most of what you're subjected to in the main game. A tale of faith, fate, and the corruption of religious fanaticism, it's an okay story even if almost all major events in Reckoning are more or less centered around the same themes.
The Kollossae had once built a city -- Idylla -- to be worthy of their god Ethene's attention. Unfortunately, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, they tried to raise their city to the heavens before they were "ready," and disaster has struck. This incomplete floating city is a hub with a few areas where the Kollossae reside, yet it's strangely small for what is supposed to be a miraculous city made by giants.
Idylla floats above the lands of the Teeth of Naros, which hosts enemies such as bandit Kollossae, giant dodos called Pteryx, Jottun, and trolls. Compared to the island of Gallows End from "Dead Kel," however, the Teeth of Naros is a bit of a boring area to explore on the surface. As a mostly circular area, you'll spend about an hour or more running around and doing a few mop-up quests before you get to Idylla itself, but it's your regular Reckoning fare of mowing through mobs. Slightly more interesting is the optional underground dungeon of Nerotelos, which offers some choice loot if you can make your way through its maze-like structure of stairs and jumps.
While the quests and stories in "Teeth of Naros" offer a decent romp for Reckoning fans -- helped by a few small yet entertaining sidequests involving debates by force, and a general sense of complete and utter boredom that the Kollossae suffer from in their isolationist plight -- the main draw for most players will be the new loot.
Within the first hour or two, you'll finally find better items than what you could've found in both Reckoning and "Dead Kel" -- the latter of which didn't offer great loot to start with. Whether your destiny of choice lies with the sorcery, might, or finesse trees, the weapons, armor, and accessories that drop in "Teeth of Naros" are great. They'll very likely offer an improvement over what you may have used before, although none of the new items or armor sets are going to beat a fully crafted set that gives you critical hits of three million damage.
A new addition to loot in "Teeth of Naros" is the Primal damage attribute. When using a weapon that deals Primal damage, you have a chance to trigger a Primal damage buff which lowers all magical resistances of enemies for a few seconds. In theory, you could use these Primal weapons, as well as other items that give bonuses to Primal damage, to trigger the Primal damage buff, and then lay waste to enemies with weapons and spells that deal elemental damage. In practice, however, you'll already have much better weapons than any of the Primal damage-dealing ones you will find in "Teeth of Naros," and an Archmage's meteor spell will instantly kill almost any new enemy you'll find (on Normal difficulty) whether they have resistances or not.
One major drawback of all the new loot is that there is no stash in the entire DLC area. You'll find plenty of new set items, weapons, and other gear that you may want to put away for a future respec of your character, but the result is that you are just overburdened all the time. While you can warp to one of the cities outside the Teeth of Naros area and stash your gear there, it's an annoying omission. A merchant will sell you a backpack to increase the inventory by 10, but the stash itself remains limited in size. It would have been nice if the stash was finally made to be infinite in size by this point, but alas you'll still be stuck with scrolling through hundreds of scrolls, books, various quest items, and equipment of all sorts.
Just like in "The Legend of Dead Kel," you'll be able to continue questing after completing the main storyline in "Teeth of Naros" which is a nice touch of Reckoning's DLC, but these quests aren't as good this time around. The handful of small sidequests on offer mostly involve fetch quests or running around a lot, and while a few of them are slightly funny, they are nowhere near as entertaining as building your own keep in "Dead Kel."
It's also a bit confusing what audience "Teeth of Naros" is targeted at. You can access the new content early on, but most of the loot at level 40 is better than what you find in the end-game with the same character level. I didn't have a save game from this early in the game to compare how much the loot scales with your level, but knowing that you can find some of the best items in this piece of DLC, I would never even think of entering it before I reached level 40 again in another playthrough. Then again, what would you use the items for if you've already finished both Reckoning and "Dead Kel"?
All that said, if you haven't finished the main game yet, "Teeth of Naros" will give you a fun, focused distraction away from the primary conflict, and the Kollossae are a distinct race that still fits well in the world of Amalur.
Although you'll spend nowhere near the promised "at least 20 hours" of time in "Teeth of Naros," it's not a bad adventure for Reckoning fans; just not a great one, either. The main storyline will take you around four to five hours if you take the scenic route and complete a few sidequests along the way, and after finishing the main story of the DLC, you're looking at perhaps an hour or two of sidequesting, tops.
If there will ever be end-game DLC with more challenging areas for veterans players of Reckoning, perhaps the new loot in "Teeth of Naros" will make it worth picking up in preparation. Until then, this is a piece of DLC reserved for either the most die-hard of fans who just can't get enough, or for players who need the distraction and change of scenery before they finally finish the core game.
The second piece of downloadable content in the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning saga has arrived to further pad your already ridiculous list of quests. The previous DLC, "The Legend of Dead Kel," was a varied and fun adventure ...
A set of new achievements already hinted at new downloadable content for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, set in the Teeth of Naros area. EA and 38 Studios have now officially annouced the DLC to be titled "Teeth of Naros," a l...
A list of achievements for yet to be announced downloadable content for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has appeared on Xbox 360 Achievements. The five achievements look similar in nature to those found in the recently released...
Mar 26 //
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - The Legend of Dead Kel (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PS3, PC)Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge GamesPublisher: 38 Studios, Electronic ArtsReleased: March 20, 2012MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points, $9.99
Dead Kel is somewhat of a notorious and undead scallywag, enough to deserve his own legend in Rathir. He has been raiding precious supply ships important to the war effort, so it's up to you to embark on what sounds like a suicide mission; travel to the island of Gallows End from which no ship returns, and hunt down Dead Kel. As if your prospects couldn't get any worse, you are accompanied by a new character, Captain Brattigan, who is as naive as she is a nymphomaniac who can't swim, with a reputation of wrecking her ships to boot.
It comes as no surprise that you end up shipwrecked on the island of Gallows End, which isn't quite worth calling a continent, but comparable in size to the desert lands of Detyre. You are not the first to crawl ashore on Gallows End like a drowned rat, as other shipwrecked survivors from decades past have carved out a living on the island in the form of the small village of Cape Solace. All is not right, however, as the village is full of zealots who are mysteriously tied to a deity named Akara, who protects them from the rage of Dead Kel.
The main quest of "The Legend of Dead Kel" is your standard Reckoning fare. You are sent to different locations on the island in your quest to find the dread pirate and a way home across the seas, and encounter a few of his boss henchmen in the process. Along the way, you learn more about the God Akara, the village's history and religious rites, and unweave a few strands of Fate wherever you go. If you enjoyed Reckoning, you'll simply find more of the same kind of combat and exploration in this DLC's main quest. However, it's the side-quests, additions to the Reckoning formula, and the small touches which provide the most, and more novel, forms of entertainment.
The side-quests provide some of the more humorous conversations and thought-provoking quests in the entire game, with many a darker and adult theme permeating life on Gallows End, even if these themes are ultimately not explored to their full potential. Messages in bottles can be found across the idyllic shipwreck island, and pieces of treasure maps can be found in chests to lead you to dig spots for shiny new loot. While the search for collectibles keeps you occupied and eager to explore, much of the fun in "Dead Kel" comes from the completely optional renovation of Gravehal Keep; a ruined fortress of the Dverga, a race of Dwarven mariners who last ruled the island.
The monster-infested Gravehal Keep looms over the Cape Solace, which can be claimed for your own. What is without a doubt the best addition to Reckoning is that you can upgrade and populate this ancient fortress to turn it into our own castle from which you can eventually rule like a king.
With each upgrade, which costs materials you'll easily find while completing quests, a new wing or shop will open up and new NPCs will offer distractions. A scout can be sent off to collect various items and materials from unsalvaged wrecks, a combat trainer will present you with gold if you quickly kill creatures in a makeshift arena pen, and a bona fide animal trainer can provide you with pets if you supply him with meat, fish, and bugs.
These pets offer bonuses to your stats depending on which one you choose. Feed them some more food, and these bonuses will increase. It's a silly bonus addition made sillier when you send the animal trainer to find and domesticate one of the new enemies in "Dead Kel," the Root Golem. This is basically a troll, but a kind that can tunnel underground to move towards you, or grab Boggarts from below the earth to throws at you. Yes, it's Maokai from League of Legends.
Eventually, Gravehal Keep offers a host of characters, like a librarian who will translate ancients books you find on your travels on Gallows End, NPCs on the island you can direct to seek safety in your keep to serve as shopkeepers and armorers, and other characters who will offer rewards you wouldn't expect after having played through Reckoning. Some of it is fan service, while other elements such as being able to sit on the throne and listen to petitions make stabs at Fable III's end-game. The thing is, while the whole range of activities supplied by Gravehal Keep can feel a bit like doing fetch quests at times, much of it is supremely fulfilling to waste your time on, and a lot more entertaining than being the King ever was in Lionhead Studios' "innovative" title.
More than anything, "The Legend of Dead Kel" offers no shortage of fun and silliness. Captain Brattigan is crafted to be annoying with a high-pitched voice, yet you can't help but come to like her. This is quite an achievement, since not many characters in Amalur are actually likable or even worth remembering the name of. (Go ahead, think of five memorable characters with actual clothes.) Gallows End becomes a home away from home in the world of Amalur, where the island's areas aren't just spaces to run through as you mop up quests in an efficient order, but instead become the locales where you found a hand inside a crab, or where you were asked to provide meat to feed chickens.
It experiments with additions we might see in the Amalur franchise down the line, and a sense that the developers working on the DLC had a lot of freedom to come up with, and flesh out, as many crazy ideas as they could. Unless they were directed to do so, which is arguably just as good.
On the downside, Dead Kel himself is remarkably boring. The story behind how his fate is tied to Gallows End is decent if unsurprising, but the resolution of the main quest leaves you unfulfilled and wondering if there couldn't have been better ways to decide how Fate is inevitably disrupted by your hand. It's hard to turn an undead pirate captain into the blandest part of an island adventure, but somehow they've managed to do so.
The new loot is a mixed bag, depending on how much you've already played Reckoning. Weapons are not as good as you may have already crafted or found, although some of the new items feature some cool new designs. For the loot-hunters, rings and amulets offer a safer better bet of finding improvements for your build of choice, as does the wealth of blacksmithing components you'll collect throughout your adventures on Gallows End.
What could have easily been "just another bunch of quests on a new location" has been crafted into a variety of enjoyable elements to occupy yourself with. It's quite long, too, easily taking you six hours or more to complete nearly everything there is to do on the new island. Moreover, it offers an excellent opportunity to try out a new build if you've been stocking up powerful equipment in your stash, but never bothered to commit to a full respec of your abilities before.
The additions to the Reckoning formula and the distinct style of the island of Gallows End serve to turn "The Legend of Dead Kel" into the DLC equivalent of a tropical island vacation. It's a fun trip to a relaxing setting far away from the Crystal War, which lets you explore yet another piece of the Amalur's world at your leisure.
One might wonder if a game like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning really needs a downloadable content expansion along the lines of "The Legend of Dead Kel," given the enormous amount of quests and content already available i...
Feb 17 //
Maurice Tan For the purpose of this guide, I'll focus on a Normal difficulty playthrough and on a general playstyle of XP efficiency. Reckoning allows for a lot of different playstyles -- although most of them involve a lot of button mashing -- so this isn't so much a guide for the best builds as it is one that is simply intended to help you choose what you'll want to work towards.
Loot. Every. Thing. A set piece can be in any chest or under any hidden pile of rocks, so look everywhere you can.
Don't worry about gold. Sell your excess baggage and the purple items you won't need, until you get a nice amount of cash. You won't likely spend a lot of money, since you'll find the equipment in the world or you'll craft it yourself. Once you have enough (a couple of hundred thousand is plenty), simply salvage everything through Blacksmithing. More about that later.
You should use the Fateshifting ability as often as possible. It can be tempting to save up Fate for that one big encounter or that one boss, just so you can get double XP for the big fish. That's smart, but just don't overdo it. More often than not, you'll save up a full Fate bar and fight through 10+ encounters just so you'll have a full bar when it will yield the highest expected bonus -- or to help you deal with finishing off that boss. In that time, you could've used your Fateshifting ability and filled up a new bar, provided you use different special attacks to generate Fate efficiently. Being conservative with your Fate bar isn't a bad thing, but after 8+ hours you'll have a good idea of how the dungeons and big quest encounters are paced, so use Fateshifting when it seems likely that you'll get plenty of chances to fill it up again.
The four abilities
One of the downsides of Reckoning's ability system is that you effectively only have access to the four abilities you map to the face buttons. You can cast sustained abilities and remap them afterwards, but it's worth keeping this in mind when you start investing in more than four abilities; there's a good chance you will never use those remnant and excess abilities from earlier in the game.
The Finesse tree
The rogue's ability tree. Meant for the sneaky and stabby-stab types, the Finesse tree is actually more about dealing damage through hit & run attacks than it is about being a thief in the purist sense.
Weapon of choice
First off, you'll want to decide whether to go for Daggers or Faeblades. To be honest, there's not a very large difference between them if you're mashing the same attack button over and over. Faeblades have a wider reach, so they tend to hit more enemies with a single combo. Faeblades also tend to do more damage than Daggers when you find them along the way, but they are slower -- if marginally so.
While it's mostly a matter of what feels best to you, my personal preference goes to the Faeblades. The dodge-attack from Precise Weaponry III lets you spin upwards and attack enemies all around you, while giving you extra Fate once you've upgraded this ability. While the Dagger's charge lets you poison more enemies in a group, the charge attack for either weapon isn't that great and doesn't usually do more damage than using that time to perform basic attacks.
If you're serious about the Finesse tree, you will also end up with a few sustained and passive Poison abilities. If you mix the Finesse and Sorcery trees you'll have enough mana to always keep Envenomed Edge -- the poison attack buff -- active at a 15% mana cost. Combine that with the wider reach of the Faeblades, and you're more likely to poison everyone in a group without ever having to think about it. Again, when it comes to just attacking enemies, there is not a huge difference between Faeblades and Daggers, so just experiment with what feels the most fun to play with.
The Arrow branch is a different story. A good bow can absolutely destroy enemies at range, but you have to pace yourself given the limited amount of arrows and the short delay before your quiver fills up again. Arrow Storm does not do a huge amount of damage so it's not a must, but you'll want to put points in every other Arrow branch ability if you're going to make an Archer character.Sneaking and backstabbing
Being all sneaky might sound intriguing. It's not. Although you'll come across a dozen or so enemies that would be better off dispatched with backstabs so nobody notices you, Reckoning is about creating your own personal über hero. A successful one-hit backstab will save you about 10 seconds of combat at best, not counting the time required to sneak your way to your target. You can dodge while sneaking, which makes sneaking a lot faster, but in the end it's not a very effective ability to put points in. If you really want to play a rogue who assaults people from behind, you could try combining backstabs with Smoke Bombs and some of the other wide-area stun abilities found in the other ability trees, but it's not as effective as simply slicing and dicing your way through your foes.
Besides the Weapon Mastery branch and the damage output for your weapon of choice, you may want to give Shadow Flare a miss. It doesn't do a lot of damage, and being able to push away some enemies is actually counterproductive to a melee Finesse class. Why push them away when you can hit them instead? Putting one point in Shadow Flare does unlock Enduring Agony later on, which gives you a great bonus to all typical Finesse attacks.
The four abilities in the Poison branch can be a mixed bag, but the first (Envenomed Edge) and last (Paralytic Poisons) abilities in this branch are worth exploring. Not only do you get bonus damage over time, but the ability to get a chance to stun poisoned enemies later on is something that costs very little, yet gives you oh so much. Poison resistance mostly keeps you from doing less melee damage against poisonous attackers, while the ability to make the odd corpse explode in a poison cloud is not terribly useful to melee Finesse players. You'll often combo enemies away from the last corpse.
Blade Honing is a must-have for melee characters. Just getting an increase in Critical Hit damage doesn't sound like much on paper, but in practice you're going to end up with very crit-heavy weapons once you start tinkering with Sagecraft and Blacksmithing. Because Blade Honing also works for Longswords and Greatswords, it's the main reason to bother with the Finesse tree if you are focusing on a damage-heavy Might character.
Execution, the high-level passive ability, is mostly useful for Archers. You'll do passive bleeding damage with every arrow by the time you unlock this ability, and most Daggers and Faeblades don't do that much bleeding damage unless you craft them that way. Combine the fire rate of your bow with the multi-shot of your bow's charged attack, and rack up the bonus Bleeding damage.
Gambit, which lets you throw 7 traps in an area in front of you, is great for all types of players, especially ranged ones. It stalls a group of enemies for a little bit, but most of all it's a lot of fun to see them bounce from trap to trap. At 80 mana, it's also a very expensive pleasure that doesn't do very good damage by the time you unlock it.
Frost Traps, (poison and smoke) Bombs, and Lunge simply depend on your playstyle. If you're going pure Finesse, these abilities will give you the crowd control you need to manage a large battle. Bombs stun enemies and project a poison cloud once upgraded, turning you invisible in the process so you can sneak in a quick backstab, but the question is if you need enemies to be stunned. If you're fine handling groups on your own with basic attacks and dodges, you won't need these. There's something to be said for Poison Bombs since you'll inevitably have the +70% Poison effect from Enduring Agony, but the bombs are very slow to reload and require you to be near a group of enemies for maximum effect.
Frost Traps can be used to plan ahead and lure enemies into your traps, followed by ranged attacks with your Bow (or Chakrams). If you're more of an offensive type of melee player, just put your points into damage abilities instead. When building an Archer, you'll want these traps to give you the necessary breathing space between quiver reloads, though.
Lunge costs far too much mana to be effective. It reaches about twice the distance of a dodge, and after putting 5 points into it you get a measly 100 Physical Damage in return. For the melee rogues, you're better off just using the dodge-attack abilities for your Daggers or Faeblades.
In general, mana can be a problem for a pure Finesse player. Most Finesse armor doesn't give you a lot of mana or mana regeneration, but you don't really need all that much if you play smart. If you forgo spamming Bombs and Gambit, and ignore Lunge, you'll be fine with the sustained cost of keeping up your poison and critical hit buffs.
Similarly, health can be an issue if you don't have access to the Healing Surge ability from the Sorcery tree, or its bloodsucking Faer Gorta minion. If you're going pure Finesse, make sure to put some points in Alchemy for health and mana potions or, better yet, just buy a ton of them since gold is not a problem in this game.
Another option is to create your own equipment to fulfill these gaps in your build, socket specific health and mana regeneration gems into the odd useful socketable piece of armor, or use a few rings or an amulet to give you that regen. Since you'll also find more useful rings and amulets that give you bonus damage and XP, you might just want to stick with a socketable regeneration gem or the potions solution.
The Sorcery tree
I doubt I need to tell anyone how to be a mage, but there are a few nuances to the spells you can pick.
Weapon of choice
There's not a lot of choice here. The Staff is your main weapon, and your Chakrams keep groups at bay. You can use the Scepter if you must, but the mana drain for every attack is a downer. It doesn't hit and stagger groups of enemies as nicely as the Chakrams do, so you're probably better off ignoring the Scepter altogether.
The Chakrams are worth looking into for every player, as they are perhaps the most effective secondary weapon in the game. They don't seem that powerful if you focus on the stats, but they hit anyone in a long wide strip in front of you and the damage output in groups can reach ridiculous proportions. A full combo of attacks will also make the discs hit enemies in close proximity around you when they fly back from the final attack. Time it right, and you'll evade getting hit in close combat just by sticking with the Chakrams. The dodge-attack move from Arcade Weaponry IV is also a fun way to juggle anyone who happens to get in your way.
The downside is that in order to unlock the dodge-attack, you'll need a point in Arcane Weaponry III. This ability lets you do a delayed attack for your Staff and Chakrams, but it bounces you backwards when you do this with the Chakrams. This in turn puts you further away from the enemies you want to hit, but what's worse: it takes too long to recover from the dodge-attack and leaves you open to attack. Especially when in Fateshifting mode, it can happen that you try to time your Chakram attacks to hit single enemies at range and sometimes you'll accidentally do a delayed attack when you turn to swap targets. It costs precious time, so learn to work your way around it if you can.
Still, the mix of physical and elemental damage combined with the reach and damage potential make the Chakrams a worthwhile addition to any arsenal. Use some fire damage Chakrams to deal with most of the annoying enemies you want to take out at range, and never worry again. Finally, the charge attack for the Chakrams can be risky, but it gives you a lot of Fate when executed in the middle of a group of enemies.
The Faer Gorta minion is the main attraction, since it's a skeleton that gives you health while it distracts enemies and staggers them. Did I mention it's a skeleton? Trust me, you'll want one.
For the dedicated Sorcery player, the Tempest (lightning storm) is arguably the weakest spell. It takes forever to charge, doesn't have a very large radius, and the damage is not very high. If you ignore the entire Lightning branch, you can put the remaining points into Skillful Defense from the Might tree instead. However, the Storm Bolt does have the ability to stun small clusters of enemies which can be helpful to close the distance when playing with a mixed class.
If wreaking havoc with spells if your jazz, focus on Elemental Rage, Meteor, and Winter's Embrace instead. Meteor slows down the action and does massive amounts of damage. Follow it up with Elemental Rage to stagger the enemies even more, and then charge up and cast Winter's Embrace (ice storm) while they recover. If anyone is left standing, they will be slowed by the freezing attack and you can wipe them out at your leisure.
Because these three elemental damage spells only leave the Faer Gorta as the fourth ability, you probably won't use Healing Surge very often once you reach level 30+. Any small-to-medium amounts of health you lose can be returned through the Faer Gorta, and during combat you can rely on health potions to escape death.
If you are still low-level, you'll have to micromanage your spells a little bit more until you get to the massive damage dealing spells. Mark of Flame in particular requires a bit of positioning and skill. Damage-wise, your Chakrams should outperform the Storm Bolt, but as a pure Sorcery player you'll end up with points in the Storm Bolt simply to unlock the later, more useful branches. Since you have it, you might as well use it in the meantime.Equipment
Your Sorcery equipment should provide you with all the mana and mana regen you need to keep casting during any regular encounter. Some extra (elemental) resistance is always nice to keep you from worrying about the ranged spellcasters that are harder to evade, which you'll get from most types of equipment. If you want, you can tailor some socketable equipment to give you bonuses to health and mana, or elemental damage output.
I suggest just trying out what playstyle works for you, and tailoring your equipment around it. If you tend to dive into the action and take a lot of damage, add some extra health and health regen to your build. If you hardly ever get below the 50% health mark, opt for damage output instead.
The Might tree
The Might player will be slow but unstoppable. You know what a knight is, right? There you go, then.
Weapons of choice
Another case of "how you like to play" here. Personally, I found that Greatswords are where it's at as your primary weapon. The charge attack lets you mow through enemies and adds some mobility thanks to the whirlwind attack. Greatswords tend to have the second highest amount of single hit damage as well, but lack speed. Longswords are faster, but come on now. Do you want to be Eddard Stark or some hedge knight with yet another peasantly Longsword?
Hammers are a good secondary weapon because of their moveset. The do more damage than the Greatsword, but are too slow as a primary weapon. In fact, some players might find them too slow altogether. The block-attack and parry-attack can be a good counter with the Hammer, but it's far too easy to get hit by surrounding enemies. It's the same for your charge attack. On paper, it's powerful. In practice, you're going to need some time to get skilled at timing all the Hammer moves.
With 109 points in Might, you might be better off with a Hammer than a pair of Chakrams as your secondary weapon, though. You can unlock the Chakrams if you want, but the question is whether you want reach to hit those faraway foes or pure melee damage output whenever you can get away with it.
Most of the Might player's abilities are Passive, letting you focus on dishing out damage instead.
Relentless Assault is your most useful active ability, keeping you from being staggered in mid-combo. Adrenaline Surge keeps you alive when you are low on health, plus it stacks well with the Bloodlust upgrade for Relentless Assault to give you back some health through attacks.
Battle Frenzy should be active at all times. It's not so much the added damage bonus you need, but the Stoneskin and Celerity upgrades can be very helpful during large fights; it gives you that edge to stay alive and mobile. Having said that, if you're not purely speccing for a Might build, Battle Frenzy isn't always very useful unless you know you can kill a lot of enemies in a row.
Concussive Force gives you 60% bonus vs. stunned enemies, which is excellent in combination with a Smoke Bomb or the Finesse player's poison stuns. Quake on the other hand is an early skill that you might not use that often later in the game, especially once you unlock Wrath. Quake itself does too little damage, and the only benefit is being able to stun groups of enemies. Once stunned, they'll suffer bonus damage from your attacks thanks to Concussive Force. But from the moment you unlock Wrath, you can simply roll into a group, mash the assigned button to stagger the group, and then deal massive amounts of damage all around you.
If anyone is left after Wrath, throw in a War Cry to reduce their armor, or make them panic if you upgrade the ability with Terror. The downside of panic is that you'll need some Chakrams to hit them from afar unless you want to run after the little buggers.
Finally, Harpoon is simply a low-level ability to mess around with. You can use it to snatch single enemies from afar, or to close the distance to a group of larger enemies, but the damage is negligible. Since it also costs you an Ability slot, you're not likely to use this later in the game.
Arguably the best thing about a Finesse/Sorcery build is the bonus you receive from the mixed Destiny. Your dodge move is replaced with a Poison Blink (teleport) which doesn't just poison everyone in your path, but also gets you out of buggy situations when you are stuck behind an NPC. The bonus to Piercing Damage, Elemental Damage, and Critical Hits from the Destiny means you'll want to try out a Faeblade/Chakram build.
The Chakrams usually do Elemental Damage and stagger a lot of enemies in front of you. When they get close, wipe them out with your Faeblade (or Dagger) combos. Then Blink a lot and use the special attacks to gain bonus Fate so you can Fateshift more often for bonus XP.
In the process, you'll unlock the health siphoning Faer Gorta to control the crowd, meaning you won't need those points in Frost Traps or Bombs. Casting costs will also be low thanks to points in the Sorcery tree, and you'll have enough mana to sustain your active melee buffs from the Finesse tree. The downside to this build is that it can become a bit repetitive. Any direct damage spell from the Sorcery tree pales in comparison to the damage output from your weapons, and at best you'll hurl a lightning bolt here and there since you put a point in there to progress through the Sorcery tree. Because you won't have the required amount of ability points to unlock the high level fire and ice attacks, a lot of the battles are going to feel the same; expect a lot of button mashing and looking awesome while doing it.
A more radical approach is to just ignore all the melee Weapon Mastery abilities from the Finesse tree in favor of bow abilities, and put points in the Sorcery tree to unlock Chakram bonuses, the upgraded Faer Gorta, and the Spheres of Protection. That way you usually don't have to worry about health, and it only costs you 80 mana once in a while to summon the critter again. The big drawbacks for this build are that you require a high level character to get the most out of this build, the lack of melee damage output, and the amount of points you'll have to put into Sorcery just to get that Faer Gorta and failsafe shield. You'll also lack the points to become a master Archer since you will no longer be able to unlock the ultimate Finesse Destiny which gives you the bonus to ranged damage. If you want to go ranged, you're better off focusing on damage output in the Finesse tree and Destinies.
If you're feeling particularly risky, combine your Faeblades or Daggers with the Might tree. What you'll want to go for here is the Battle Frenzy ability to deal increased damage as you slay enemies, and the upgraded Relentless Assault ability so you won't get interrupted and steal health with your quick strikes. The Finesse weapons will give you the speed to dish out a lot of damage, and since you won't put any points into any of the Might tree's weapon masteries, you'll gain some more durability from the other abilities. After all, you need to put points into something in order to unlock the higher level Might abilities.
When you do run out of health, Adrenaline Surge kicks in to let you deal even more damage, at which point you can simply use Relentless Assault again to steal that health back. The reason for the Finesse weapons is that they are simply faster and tend to keep you close to your enemies, whereas the Greatsword will usually make encounters with more agile enemies very annoying. You won't die easily, but in order to benefit from a Battle Frenzy trigger it's better to stay close to your foes. The Piercing Damage from your weapons offsets the lack of a War Cry Might ability that reduces enemy armor, and the bonus to Critical Hits from the upgraded Adrenaline Surge is a killer combination with your crit-heavy weapons. For even more damage, throw a Smoke Bomb to stun a group and then destroy them with your +60% damage bonus against stunned enemies from Concussive Force. Ouch!
This build has a few options. Pick your favorite Might weapon (Greatsword/Longsword/Hammer) and combine it with either the Scepter or the Chakrams as your ranged secondary weapon. You'll still want your typical Might build with extra health, resistance, and Relentless Assault. Battle Frenzy is an option, but with a slow weapon you might not find that much use for it depending on what types of enemies you are fighting.
For the Sorcery tree, choose between an elemental branch or the trusty Faer Gorta. You should be beefy enough to not require the minion to distract anyone in combat, and he costs a lot of points to become effective. At best, you'll unlock Elemental Rage or Tempest -- the latter of which takes too long to cast to be effective for my liking. The benefit of going for Tempest is being able to use the Storm Bolt to stun enemies and close the distance.
The Sphere of Protection might be a bit overkill unless you want to play as a tank. If you ask me, the Mark of Flame is too much hassle to cast and activate on a group, so why not try out the upgrade for Ice Barrage? Frostshackle increases damage, and adds to the freezing effect you could craft into your Might weapon. Enemies all around you will be even slower while your damage keeps increasing thanks to your Might abilities. Slow and steady wins the day!
As the Jack of All Trades, you're going to lose out on some of the more fun high-end abilities in each tree. At best, you'll wield a Might weapon for close range melee in combination with some Chakrams for long-range group attacks. You won't have enough points to fully unlock the Arrow branch, the Faer Gorta minion, or the elemental spells.
The Universalist Destiny gives you a trophy/achievement and unlocks all the Weapon Mastery branches, meaning you can tailor your last few skill points to fit your weapons and attacks of choice. The +20% damage bonus to melee, ranged, and magic attacks is nice, but you'll likely find more enjoyment in focusing on two ability trees at the most -- if you want variety, just respec your build.
Whatever class you'll tailor for yourself, you'll want a few skills maxed out as soon as possible. In particular, Blacksmithing and Sagecrafting. Once you have enough cash from selling equipment (200K should be enough), start salvaging every single item you can. The most powerful equipment has to be crafted, especially if you are going on a melee route. I've seen a build that crit for over 3 million damage on the official forums, which is about 1,000 times more powerful than you need to be on Normal difficulty.
Damage % components (Improved or Master Damaging Bindings) are a must, and for a nice overview of which weapons use what kind of components, check out this Wiki entry.
One trick people seem to use a lot is saving, salvaging an item with the specs they want in a component, and reloading until they get a component with the right specs. Another option is to insert a gem into a socketable weapon, then salvage it. The stats the gem provides can transfer to a component. Also, buy Repair Kits. It's cheaper than paying for repairs, and as long as you only use them when an item is reaching critical durability, you should have enough on you at all times. If you are one of the 1%, buy every single items in a shop and salvage the whole lot. You're probably better off doing this in the higher level shops of the game, of course.
Detect Hidden needs 5 points into it as soon as you can afford it. 2 points lets you see hidden treasures on the map, which is incredibly useful. 5 points lets you see Hidden Doors, which is also nice. You don't want to run around knowing there might be a piece of armor from a set behind that door you cannot open, do you? You can max out this skill if you want, which shows you all the treasures and lorestones on the map. If you tend to explore everything anyway, you won't need it. However, "collecting" all the lorestones of a type can give you a very nice permanent bonus, so it's up to you how anal you are about finding these map collectibles through mere exploring alone.
Because you won't run out of gold, Alchemy is not a necessity for most players. There are enough vendors around to just buy your potions. Besides, you'll often just forget to use the buff potions or you won't even need them if you aren't playing on Hard. Just keep a few special ones in your backpack for the boss fights, and sell the rest.
Lockpicking is useful for those locked chests, but you don't need a massive amount of points in this skill because lockpicking is easy. Simply try out if lockpicking works with the pick's initial position in the minigame, then try it 30 degrees to the right or left, and then try out the other side. 9 out of 10 times you'll find the right spot without losing too many picks.
Dispelling is another matter. With 4 points into Dispelling, you won't get the "dark sigils" anymore -- the penalty icons that kick you out of the minigame. It can still be hard to time it right, so if you want to open every single chest, put some points in here.
Mercantile is useless because you'll have enough gold. If you can spare it, just put 3 points into it so you get some gold whenever you have to discard white items in the middle of a dungeon. You'll feel less bad for destroying an item, and it lets you scan which items that are worth the least before you destroy them.
Persuasion is a tricky one. It can open up some dialogue options, usually just leading to a little more gold or items you won't need. Sometimes it will save you part of a questline, but then you could lose out on XP from killing monsters along the way. Unless you are a terrible thief, you're not likely to ever have to bribe anyone for your crimes, so don't worry about that aspect of the Persuasion skill. If they bust you, just go questing in another area for a day or two. Just put points in Persuasion if you tend to go through all the conversation trees in Mass Effect.
Finally, Stealth is only useful if you like to backstab enemies and steal items in the various Traveler faction quests. With a few points into Stealth, you shouldn't have much trouble stealing anything as long as you are patient enough to let the alert indicator fall back to 0%.
Trainers give you an extra point in a skill, permanently. It costs you some cash, but you'll always have enough cash. Trainers only allow you to buy a skillpoint if you already have the required amount of skillpoints in that skill, and higher level trainers require higher levels of skill. One trick to game the system is to buy the skills you can, respec at a Fateweaver according to the trainer requirements, and then buy the rest of the skills that weren't available before. Finally, respec to your old build with the added bonus of extra permanent skillpoints. You can't exploit this by going to the same trainer 10 times in a row with this method, but it's a decent way to actually use all that gold you'll collect.
It's also a bit lame and a slightly lengthy process, so it's up to you if you want to max out your character this way.
Progressing through the storyline
Finally(!), while you may have set out to create your ideal character based on those abilities and skills that match your playstyle, there is still one issue. Sidequests. There are hundreds of them! Chances are, you've played an RPG before and you don't mind a bit of reading, or you would never have made it this far. And in that case, you know you're going to accept all of those sidequests until you get sick of them. If you do that, you'll also likely ignore a few Story quests in favor of wrapping up the sidequests in the areas leading up to the Story quest locations.
Complete a line of Story quests, and fulfill a handful of sidequests and Faction quests along the way so you don't end up being underleveled at a boss. The reason for doing so is that Story quests will give you a permanent Twist of Fate bonus. (The Faction quest lines do so as well.) After you've received one of these Twists of Fate, then by all means go wrap up your sidequests and ignore the Story for a while. Some of the early-to-mid game Twists of Fate give you bonuses like +5% XP, so you'll want to have that before you start spending 10 hours on doing various sidequests. The easiest solution is to just make the Twists of Fate the points in the game where you take a break from the storyline, and use the permanent bonus to get through sidequests a little faster.
Above all else...
Just have fun with it! Experiment. Make a build that lets you be a powerhouse without wearing pants. A respec is practically free since you end up with millions of gold near the end of the game, but you can always save and try. Of course, that would be a very inefficient usage of your precious videogame time. But Reckoning is about finding what "clicks" with your personal playstyle, so don't feel obligated to stick with a certain build just because it has a higher damage output. Fun trumps all aspects of building your character, especially when you're going to spend 70 hours.
The piece of Amalur we've seen in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning may only be a slice of the franchise plans for a larger world, but it's pretty damn big already. As with any role-playing game, it can help to know what kinds of...
Feb 07 //
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge GamesPublisher: 38 Studios, Electronic ArtsReleased: February 7, 2012 MSRP: $59.99
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning does not beat around the bush. It knows exactly what it wants to be, what it wants you to feel, and what a Western RPG is when you boil it down to the bare essentials. It is a game designed, from beginning to end, as little more than an indulgent power fantasy, pure escapism where players get to be anything they want to be, and feel awesome doing it.
After creating a character using streamlined menus that allow them to pick a race, a gender, and some pre-set facial features, players wake up in the Well of Souls after having been killed and mysteriously resurrected. It's fairly typical RPG fare in what is a fairly typical RPG environment created by none other than R.A. Salvatore. It doesn't take long after the amnesiac hero's awakening before he or she is swinging swords, firing off arrows, flinging spells and stabbing unaware guards in the back. The small tutorial cave that guides players through the basics is over and done with fairly swiftly, before the budding hero is tossed into a colorful fantasy world with one ultimate goal: be amazing.
There are three basic schools of combat in Amalur -- Might, Sorcery and Finesse -- and each one fills a stereotypical role that will instantly be familiar to those who have played almost any other RPG. However, unlike most other games, players do not have to pick a class and stick to it. As a "Fateless" hero, one is able to sculpt and shape their avatar into the perfect killing machine, designed entirely around their favored play style.
Might, Sorcery and Finesse each have their own skill trees, and every time a character gains a level, skill points can be invested wherever the player desires. There's no need to commit to a single tree, either, so if a stealthy wizard is required, skills in Finesse and Sorcery can be obtained. Similarly, players can put points into all three skill trees to create a balanced hero, or a single tree for a truly specialized individual.
Fate Cards are unlocked depending on how many points are sunken into each skill tree. They bestow powerful new augmentations to better complement the chosen play style. For instance, putting points into both Sorcery and Might will unlock such Destinies as Battlemage and Paragon, which rewards physical mage combat by regenerating Mana every time a player takes damage. Should somebody want a character that purely specializes in Might, they'll unlock Destinies that boost melee damage, while Finesse characters can increase their sneaking and dodging skills. Completing certain quests also unlocks "Twist of Fate" cards, which confer permanent bonuses.
For a game so focused on choice, it's important that players don't regret their decisions, and Amalur puts a strong emphasis on the power to undo skills and start over. For a large sum of gold, characters are free to visit Fateweaver NPCs and reassign their skills whenever they want. All skill points spent up to that moment will be returned, and may instantly be reinvested for slight alterations or complete reinventions. The ability to re-spec isn't new to RPGs, but Amalur turns it into an art form, an integral part of a game that revolves entirely around creating one's perfect vision of a fantasy avatar.
All of this choice would mean nothing if Amalur were not an enjoyable kingdom to inhabit, but it thrills me to say that 38 Studios has created a rather splendid game to house its ambition. While it's not the most endearing game world, Amalur is beautiful and, at the very least, quite interesting. It's a world cobbled together by well-known tropes and populated with ideas borrowed from other, more venerable games, but the blend is as sweet as it is familiar. This isn't a game that sets out to innovate or break new ground; it simply sets out to be good, and that's definitely a goal it meets.
The world is littered with quests that can be undertaken or ignored at one's discretion, and the main story is complemented by a number of faction quest lines, each with its own self-contained plots and rewards. As one would expect, there are hundreds of tasks, ranging from simple fetch quests to dungeon-crawling assassinations, and while there's nothing unique about the litany of jobs on offer (in fact, some of the factions almost seem robbed from The Elder Scrolls' various guilds), they're all quite pleasant and they all contribute to the overarching purpose of gaining wealth, power and infamy. There's plenty of content, to boot. I have currently logged over forty-four hours, and I have many unfinished missions on the docket.
Naturally, combat is a huge part of the experience, no matter which way you choose to fight. Players can carry two weapons at once, and can also select up to four special abilities or magical spells that are instantly deployed by a simple button press. General melee is a simple hack-n'-slash affair, although as new skills are unlocked, slightly more complex combo moves can be pulled off. Different weapons are better suited to different characters, with sorcerers able to use staves and ranged scepters, melee warriors gaining access to large, heavy weapons, and finesse experts wielding arrows or daggers. One face button is assigned to each weapon, so they can be switched on the fly to create versatile attack patterns. My own character, a specialist in Sorcery and Might, can send enemies flying back with a hulking greatsword, then continue to attack them at range with a pair of chakrams. Choosing two weapons that complement each other can make for incredibly gratifying action.
Special attacks and spells are used as seamlessly as weapons, allowing one to instantly stop swinging a sword and start pounding the ground to create earthquakes or fling balls of electricity. Performing well in combat fills a Fate meter that, when full, can be activated to unleash Reckoning Mode, which slows down time and vastly increases the amount of damage dealt. In Reckoning Mode, enemies are whittled to a sliver of health and left stunned, prone to a devastating execution that can generate bonus experience depending on how hard the player mashes a button. If multiple enemies are stunned before the execution is activated, then the experience bonus is chained. It's a simple system, but a pleasing one.
Combat is both fun and challenging, with a focus on efficient blocks and dodges that creates a more tactical edge than most button-mashing RPGs offer. Enemies are aggressive and players will need to be on the defensive just as much as the offensive. While it's a noble effort to inject a little depth into the game, it can become incredibly annoying. For instance, player attacks can be interrupted at any time, even if they're halfway through a lengthy spell animation. Meanwhile, many enemies can pull off attacks uninterrupted and will power through even the most deadly of abilities.
Perhaps the worst -- and most common -- grievance is had when fighting multiple enemies with fast attacks. It's not uncommon to get hit by an opponent and knocked right into the attack of another one. Some enemies even have their attacks timed to create almost seamless chains, with one blow ending just as another begins. For melee characters, this can mean blocking to an almost farcical degree, with there being almost no gap in an opposing assault. Just wait for an encounter with spiders, with those in melee range taking turns to attack while those positioned further away effortlessly lob projectiles. The coordination of the hostile forces can sometimes border on bullying.
One other gripe with the combat is that special abilities, even when leveled up, feel remarkably weak. Even those skills designed to deal with crowds have rather small attack radiuses, and when they hit, they seem to do little damage. They're also really good at missing their targets, while enemy skills home in and hit with 100% efficiency, even readjusting their trajectory mid-flight should you dodge! It would also help to not be restricted to four mappable skills at the maximum. One soon learns that it's a waste of points to unlock more than four active abilities, as they simply won't be able to use them all -- not without constantly navigating through menus to swap them out.
A final annoyance is the map system. The on-screen mini-map is practically useless, since it doesn't account for the lay of the land and the rather exasperating invisible walls that fill every path. The world map also uses a tiny gold ring to indicate where an active quest is, and it can be maddeningly tough to pinpoint.
These irritations are minor, but they will be with the player from beginning to end. It can grow incredibly frustrating, as players are often at the whim of luck, hoping the enemy attacks are aligned just right (or wrong, in their case) enough for an opening. However, when that opening is presented, that's when it becomes worth the hassle. Thanks to combat animations that feel incredibly meaty and impactful, a successful assault is intensely enjoyable. The game often reminds me of Monster Hunter, especially when using the oversized greatwords and hammers, as each attack feels weighty and bone-crunching when it connects. Once players level up and gain new attack combos for their regular weapons, the enemy oppression lightens up a little as well, allowing for a more even, and brutally enjoyable, battle.
Outside of skirmishing, there are more passive utility skills that can be enhanced with each level gained. Taking the form of many genre staples, characters can learn to pick locks, increase their mercantile abilities, or learn one of the crafting trades. There are three crafting systems, one for weapon creation, one for alchemy, and another focused on creating gems that can be slotted into equipment. To craft items, players need to find components in the world (or salvage them from loot, in the case of blacksmithing) and take them to the designated crafting system. Fashioning a new item is a simple case of choosing the right parts and hitting the button. It's rudimentary, but elegant, and well worth the time.
All of this takes place in a beautiful world, with character design by comic book artist Todd McFarlane. The human characters have a unique blend of realistic proportions and cartoonish features to create a rather pleasant cast that avoids the "uncanny valley" trappings of similar games. A varied palette of bright, contrasting colors makes this one of the prettiest-looking console games in recent memory, while a typically stirring soundtrack keeps things exciting. The voice acting is a little more spotty, with some decent performances marred by terribly forced accents.
At its heart, Kingdoms of Amalur doesn't offer much that hasn't been seen before. Earning gold to buy more armor and weapons, performing quests for experience, battling monsters and growing one's skills to become a godlike master of war -- these are all things we've experienced a dozen times before. However, never before has a power fantasy been delivered in such a direct way. Kingdoms of Amalur doesn't waste time taking things slow; it doesn't let too much waffling get in the way of acquiring more gold, more experience, more loot and more skills. While there's something faintly sterile and alienating about Reckoning's world, the focused purity of its intentions is reason enough to keep playing. You'll want that new magic helmet because it looks cool and will give you more health, not because you care very much about using it to save the city. The game is all about you -- how tough you feel, and how bad your ass is.
It's an honest, undiluted acknowledgement of what Western RPGs are all about, and I can respect that. Rather than try to be too deep or too meaningful, Reckoning simply presents players with a direct feed into the vein of empowerment and expects you to gorge until you're bursting. While the combat can often undermine that feeling of acquired strength, there's still enough rousing success to be had that keeps one returning for more.
For anyone who needs little more than a sword, a shield, and some monsters to annihilate, there are few games more committed to delivery. For those addicted to looting dungeons and crafting increasingly arcane magic gloves, there are few games more willing to serve the goods. For those who want an RPG free of pretense and utterly devoted to indulgence, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is your game.
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