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Amalur dev: RPGs need to cut their ties to Dungeons and Dragons

"Sophisticated and complicated don't have to be one and the same"

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a mammoth role-playing game with a difference: it's got the same wealth of background options as certain lumbering peers, but it manages the rare feat of translating that scope into greasily real-time combat choices.

This reflects lead designer Ian Frazier's views about role-playing at large. He thinks the genre is still hobbled by its pen and paper heritage, and needs to stop being complex for the sake of it.

Pushed for comment on executive designer Ken Rolston's recent declaration that the game delivers a "fresh take" on role-playing, Frazier pointed to its massive but easily understood gameplay environment. "One of the things about Reckoning is that Ken always talks about it being a guided open world."

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"So it is open, you can go where you want, but all the little things we do - all the little usability bits, the sparkles and shader effects and so forth, make sure you know where there's an alchemy reagent you can harvest, you know where there's a quest you can get to.

"All those things just make it easier to play - not in terms of combat difficulty, but in terms of navigating the world. Getting to the candy. I think that's what he's talking about, in terms of moving forward.

Personally, Frazier thinks RPGs could do with more of this kind of user-friendliness.

"Another thing is RPGs... I love the genre, it's my favourite genre, but they have been really mired in their tabletop roots," he went on. "This whole idea of rolling dice. It has to be this random system! It has to be slow and really complicated! Sophisticated and complicated don't have to be one and the same, is what I'm getting at in a nutshell.

"I think the combat in Reckoning, although I'd love to take it even further, is a good first step. I love D&D, but computer games don't have to be D&D. We can stop rolling dice, we can stop pausing every five seconds and plodding along - we can just have fun on a moment-to-moment basis in the way that an action game can have fun on a moment-to-moment basis. Ken may be going for something different, but that's what I'm talking about.

Amalur's unlocks ladder will, however, cater to those who don't want to live by their reflexes.

"You may have noticed just looking at the ability trees, we deliberately try to pace out things so that if you are terrible at action combat, or you just don't like action combat - one, you can obviously lower the difficulty, but two, we have as many, more in fact, passive abilities as active abilities for you to lower. So if you want to put 20+ on Chakrams and button-mash, you can!

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"I don't recommend it, I think it's more fun if you try to do more of the actiony things, be more tactical about it, but you don't have to. We were trying to support the gamer who just wants to button-mash, push through and see the story, and also the gamer who wants the God-of-War-esque experience.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is out on 10th February in Europe. Here are eight things to do in the demo.

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