Ding-dong! Ding-dong! It's time for the troops to shuffle into a side-room as we ring the bell for another Eurogamer Podcast in this, the 99th instalment of our irregular vowel movements. We're moving dangerously close to our 100th episode (and as you rightly pointed out last week it's not quite a centenary, but well.... It's felt like 100 years) and to celebrate we're talking about two recent high-profile RPG offerings.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. It's an instantly forgettable title. And it's not just meaningless and profoundly generic, it's saddled (like Dragon Age: Origins before it) with the exhausting suggestion that this isn't the birth of an exciting fantasy universe so much as the launch of a new franchising opportunity.
Having spent 15 hours or so in the company of a near-finished preview build of 38 Studios' brisk role-player - out next week - I can confirm that it deserves much better than this limp nomenclature. And yet, it's true that the title fits it like a glove.
'Kingdoms of Amalur': the game's universe is exactly the derivative mishmash of worn high fantasy tropes that you expect after reading those three words. It's been rubber-stamped by some big-name creatives (fantasy author RA Salvatore and comic and toy king Todd MacFarlane), and I suppose it's possible that "every building, tree and creature has a clear and defined history within this immersive world," as the literature claims. But this land of elves (sorry, Fae), dwarves and men initially offers nothing to distinguish itself beyond a similarity to Blizzard's Warcraft that's not so much striking as actionable. (I could swear that I met the Night Elf druid from the original WOW trailer. She even had the same clothes on.)
Do you believe in fate? And perhaps that's not up to you anyway, eh? Well, 38 Studios - founded by ex baseball pro Curt Schilling - is staffed by the likes of Ken Rolston (Morrowind, Oblivion), Todd McFarlane (Spawn) and RA Salvatore (loads of nerdy fiction), and whether or not those guys believe in fate, it was certainly mathematically improbable that a game they worked on together would be anything other than a high-fantasy role-playing game set in an open world.