Big Huge Games and 38 Studios have found a neat work-around for the dilemma of scaling difficulty levels and gating.
Systems designer Will Miller told The Average Gamer that Reckoning is divided into regions of varying difficulty, to gate the player from accessing endgame loot and equipment, which can make earlier encounters too easy.
But instead of fixing each region at a specific level of difficulty, which can ruin the fun for players slightly too high or too low powered, Reckoning attaches a range of difficulty levels to each area.
"When the player first enters one of those regions, we clamp all of the region’s NPCs to the level of the player, provided he’s within the range," Miller explained.
"So if you’re a level 20 character and you go to a level five to ten area, we clamp it at ten. And if you’re too low, we clamp at the low value. So if you’re one of the players who tries to run way ahead of the game trying to get the 'sweet loots' further away from where you’re supposed to be, you’ll quickly run into regions that clamp at much higher levels than you are.
"Enemies don’t level with you always – when you encounter them the first time, that’s the level they’re gonna be at for the rest of the game but we intelligently decide what that level is."
Reckoning thereby avoids the eternally powerful enemies of games like Oblivion, but gives the player more chance to come across enemies of an appropriate level than in a fixed-difficulty game.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the first game from 38 Studios, a single-player RPG introducing the world featured in an upcoming MMORPG. It's expected on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in February 2012.