It might just be me, but 2012 seems a little light on big tent-pole titles. 2011 would be a tough year to beat, true, but this far out the only notable games I can think of are Mass Effect 3 and Halo 4. I’m sure I’m missing some, but beyond that I’m not too sure if there’s anything to look forward to.
Demos dropped today for a couple relatively unknown games hitting early this year, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and The Darkness 2. Kingdoms of Amalur is a new one for me, but it’s got some well known names behind it like Big Huge Games, Todd McFarlane, Curt Schilling and R.A. Salvatore. Big Huge Games made one of my favorite RTS games of all time, Rise of Nations, then kind of dropped off the map for a while.
Reckoning, which I’m going to be calling it for brevity’s sake, is a Western-style RPG that’s very reminiscent of Fable and Dragon Age 2. It controls more like a brawler, but you have all the RPG trappings you’ve come to expect from games of this flavor. You can pick one of three archetypes (warrior, rogue or mage) and min-max from there, but thankfully the game doesn’t lock you into one specific class. I actually really enjoyed my time with Reckoning, which has fun combat, a beautiful world, and an engaging story (despite all the obtuse fantasy terms). I can already tell it’s one of those games that sucks you in very quickly and doesn’t let go. I just love the art style in this game, which is stylized and helps differentiate it from similar games in the genre. Even the most basic weapons and armor look bulky and bad-ass and the spell effects are flashy and powerful looking.
I have a couple of minor nitpicks, mostly concerning the inventory and the conversation systems. Reckoning straight up lifts Mass Effect’s dialogue wheel, but doesn’t give your character a voice. Maybe I’m too used to that, but if you’re going to copy someone’s ideas, at least go all the way with it. That’s a minor annoyance compared to the inventory, however. Like most RPGs, you get a huge stash of loot to manage, and the screens to do so are big and clunky and move kind of slow. You can put consumables like potions on a wheel to use in combat, but you can’t put various types of weapons on there, meaning that during the tutorial I had to constantly hop in and out of the menu to use the various gadgets the game was trying to show me. Once you nail down your class I expect that this smooths out, but it was kind of annoying.
That said I’m really looking forward to Reckoning after playing this demo. Like I mentioned above, it’s a game that just grabs you and pulls you in without any difficulty, something that only BioWare and Bethesda games have managed to do. Hit the jump for the other demo I tried.
The other demo I checked out was The Darkness 2, the sequel to Starbreeze’s 2007 comic-based shooter. You start the demo being nailed to a cross by a disfigured villain who wants to get at the titular Darkness, the source of your supernatural powers. The game isn’t afraid to be over-the-top violent and brutal, demonstrated aptly by the copious amount of blood and dismemberment.
Maybe I’m just jaded, but the game didn’t really click with me the way Reckoning did. There’s so many scripted sequences (like being blown off your feet in slow motion upwards of four times) and even using the Darkness powers couldn’t make up for how pedestrian the shooting feels. Sure, you can tear guys limb from limb, eat their hearts and pick up pieces of the environment to make impromptu shields, but I felt like I was just going through the motions.
The Darkness 2 does have a really unique cell-shaded art style, aping the look of the comic series it’s based off of. That’s really all this game has going for it in my opinion, though. The original game was lauded for the attention it paid to the story and the way it built up the relationship between the main character and his girlfriend (even allowing you to watch the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird with her) but I don’t think the sequel will offer anything in this area. This game gave me kind of Duke Nukem vibe in that it’s going to try and shock you with how gross it’s being as opposed to offering you any substance. There’s a place for these types of games, certainly, and if pulling guys apart with living tendrils sounds like a good time to you, The Darkness 2 might be right up your alley.
I’m glad that I was able to try out both of the games before their respective release dates and I’m going to go put money down on Reckoning as soon as I can. Who knows, The Darkness 2 may turn out to be a great game with a terrible demo; if that’s the case, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Has anyone else tried these demos? What did you think?