Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Impulse Purchase: Kingdoms of Amalur

There's a distinct possibility I might be in the process of being assimilated. By Steam.

I managed to ignore Steam for many years. Then, when I finally caved and installed it, I went a few more years using it only very occasionally.

Now find myself looking at it most days, picking through the suggestions and "ignoring" most of them, fiddling around with the screenshot folders and generally treating it as a resource rather than a potentially explosive package someone left in my porch overnight.

Today I did something I have never done before. Actually, two things, but the other is health-related and I am doing my best to keep that stuff out of here. I spotted something on sale on Steam and I bought it.

The offer I noticed was 75% off of Kingdoms of Amalur plus all three DLC packs. £7.99 for the lot seemed like a good deal and I have always been curious about 38 Studios precursor to the doomed MMORPG Project Copernicus. 

Rather than jumping straight on it, I took the time to see what was in the DLC packs. It didn't seem like much I'd want. The base game was itself on sale at 75% off at £4.99 so I decided to buy just that. Steam gives the game a rating of Very Positive from over 9,000 reviews but what really swung it for me were two specific comments:

 "The most underrated open world rpg there is. Massive open world"

and, from a negative review, 
"This game is incredibly easy and lacks any combat depth. Even on the hardest setting, it offers no real challenge after the first 5-10 hours or so. Potions have no cooldown, you can carry hundreds of them and they are easy to find. Crafting in the game allows you to make gear so strong you are practically invincible. The Fate mode allows you to lay waste to a boss without any effort. Even with self-imposed challenges, the combat is repetitive and shallow.

I would still recommend this game if you are someone who doesn't mind easy games, and wants a colourful fantasy world to explore"
Since I am exactly that person it seemed fated, so I bought it.

It took a surprisngly long time to set up and I had to make an EA account to get it running, even though the game doesn't appear to use it once you've made it. (I already have one, too, something I'd forgotten, so now I have two I'm not using).

Eventually I got it going, watched the highly generic intro, made a highly generic character and spent an hour going through a highly generic tutorial. In a cave. So far, so little to say, although I will put in a word for the voice acting, which is well above par.

The game really didn't want me to change any settings so I did the whole tutorial in the wrong resolution, which did the game no favors at all. When I finally made it to the outdoors I was able to correct that and suddenly everything looked a lot better.

One obvious problem is that it's virtually impossible to hide the UI. You have to download and install third party add-ons which, by some accounts, don't work anyway, so I'm going to have to put up with screen clutter if I post any screenshots. Unless I crop hard, which I probably will.

If I end up playing it to any substantial degree there will be a First Impressions post here at some point, no doubt. Only seven years late but so what?


  1. Interesting. I know 38 Studios bought the game itself as part of purchasing another studio, the reworked it to match the Copernicus lore. But I don't know how much it would play like the MMO they were working on.

    It has been like 7 years since 38 Studios collapsed under the weight of its own hubris, it might be time to dredge a bit of that up.

    1. The history is confusing. Wikipedia says "developed by Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, who also published the game with Electronic Arts. It was the only game released by 38 Studios before they filed for bankruptcy." The rights were eventually purchased by THQ Nordic in 2018.

      I got the impression from somewhere that BHG pre-existed 38 Studios, who bought them out specifically to make KoA so 38 would have something to bring in money while they plodded away at Copernicus. A brief check, though, shows BHG is still operating, having closed in 2012 but then re-started as a new company with the same name in 2013. That studio is now owned by Nexon...

      There's a lot to untangle but I'm not sure I'm motivated enough to do it. If i get into the game I might, though...

    2. My memories of the time say something about this being a project to tide the company over with some cash flow while Copernicus was in progress, and that it rather failed to repay the investment, draining cash from the company rather than bringing and additional in.

      But 38 was on a buying binge for a while. At one point then bought out a site that would email you information about WoW once a week, thinking to turn that into an aspect of their game as well. Basically, they bought it, killed it for WoW players, then never did anything else. I am pretty sure I have an angry blog post about that somewhere.

    3. Oh, here we go... pardon the many comments today... it was the Azeroth Advisor they bought, back in 2010.


    4. Hehe! Comments are good! And you got plenty on that Azeroth Advisor post. I'm still puzzled why no-one ever bought the Copernicus property and finished it. Maybe it wasn't far enough along to be worthwhile but yo'd have thought someone could have extracted some value out of it.

    5. Somebody bought it, but actually finishing it is another tale. One of the most common comments from software devs having to work on somebody elses code is, "It would be easier to re-write it from scratch." Software development is pitched as a science, but it is as much art as anything. Taking over a large and complex code base and even getting it to compile can be a challenge, and all the more so given how out of date Copernicus is now. And when 38 got shut down the team was complaining because the game was only a year away from launch... but wasn't beta, or even alpha ready yet, which means it was probably two years away at least. All we ever saw of it was three screen shots and a fly through video that could be representative of nothing for all we know.

      Copernicus represents a lot of work for a team to just figure out and get going again, and wasn't even close to being done yet. It will remain a bit or MMORPG lore, but if somebody tries to stand it up and make it walk I will be very, very surprised.

  2. IMO the worst part about the game difficulty is no scaling, even if content was hard you will outlevel it by doing even the minimal amount of quests. It's also pretty easy to see why exactly people consider it offline MMO: quest hub design, quests themselves being mostly "go there and kill that", copypasted dungeons, primitive dialogues and pretty much nothing else. Honestly, it's very shallow experience for single player game.

    1. Those are some of the reasons I bought it. I have very mixed feelings on difficulty scaling - it can be useful but generally I find it annoying. I don't like ARPG combat so the easier it is the better, so I have do as little fighting as possible. Ideally, KoA would have a "tourist" mode with no combat at all and I'd just be able to explore the world but being able to one-shot everything will do as a substitute.

      This is, of course, assuming the world is worth exploring in the first place. The reviews I read seemed to suggest it was but we'll see.

    2. I wasn't talking about difficulty scaling, rather about level scaling (though, on second thought, there's no functional difference). Quests go grey too fast to enjoy most of the game's content.
      As for world being worth exploring... Well, there are some great moments that play with main concept of the game (your character being the only person who has control over his fate, that's also the thing that allows you to use your special ability). The world itself is pretty boring though with low visual variety, especially dungeons that have 3-4 templates or so.

  3. I've been wanting to play this game for a while now but I've always been busy or distracted every time I happen to think about it. An offline MMO that I can actually beat before the treadmill moves everything forward really does appeal to me. Although I wonder if I will soon regret what I ask for.


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