Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
developer: 38 Studios
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Feb 07, 12
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It's time to take a breather from all the shooters and third-person action adventures. The shortage of single-player RPGs has definitely increased the public's thirst for the genre. So, here we are. Big Huge Games bravely dives into risky RPG waters with its latest offering: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Emphasizing open-ended gameplay, Amalur has the potential to lure in any gamer and even RPG buffs. It was clearly an ambitious project that brought together industry veterans such as Ken Rolston (previous worked on Morrowind and Oblivion), writer and game designer R.A. Salvatore, artist and writer Todd MacFarlane and others. Anyhow, with so many familiar, creative minds behind it, the game caught our attention and doubled our expectations.
As the player, you are hurled into the world of Amalur in a most bizarre and morbid fashion. I really enjoyed this approach the developers took towards the introduction. My character is a nameless hero who awakens on a pile of corpses with no knowledge of his past. With nothing but the tattered shirt on his back, he sets out, unbound by the chains of Fate and free to choose his own Destiny, without taking a predetermined course, as is the way of things in Amalur. In addition to not having any recollection of his past, my nameless hero was forced to fight his way through a bunch of evil-looking warriors called the Tuatha. As I continued to explore the vast new world before me, seeking new tasks and looking for adventures, I realized that the Tuatha were always a few steps behind me, waiting for the right moment to strike. Luckily I've met a few characters who were more than willing to help me understand why the Tuatha have made me their enemy.
As we mentioned before, the story was penned by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore. On the whole, the rich setting seems like perfect groundwork for a terrific role-playing experience. You're an anonymous character, gradually evolving and discovering the beautiful and mysterious world around him.
There was a fly there, I swear. There... got it!
My turn to slice!
At first glance, things seem just right, don't they? After the brief introduction sequence, players get to customize the appearance of their character and choose from a variety of options regarding race, basic abilities and class. Races are divided into Ljosalfar, Varani, Almain and Dokkalfa, each with its own set of bonuses that may help you create your hero. There are three basic types of abilities to upgrade - Might, Finesse and Sorcery. Leveling up also involves improving other character facets, such as Persuasion, Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Sagecraft, Detect Hidden, Dispelling, Lockpicking, Mercantile and Stealth.
So, if you're looking for strong RPG elements, action-oriented combat, plenty of exploration and crafting, well Kingdoms of Amalur delivers on almost all fronts. The combat revolves around a whole range of abilities, which you can perk up with time, thus unlocking additional moves and skills. As you progress through the game, you can determine your own fighting style. When confronting enemies, it's possible to utilize magic, close-combat and ranged combat (bows and arrows). If you wish you can stick to one of those categories or you can simply combine all three, for a more diverse approach to taking out foes. Being diverse in combat is essential, in fact, because it can potentially unlock new 'Destinies' which may, in turn, add welcomed bonuses to attack and defense. Choosing the right equipment is also of great importance. Rouges, for instance, should stick to daggers, because there are plenty of backstabbing bonuses involved and they are the only weapons that allow you to pull off a sneak attack when sneaking up on enemies. Longswords are ideal for Fighters who prefer melee attacks with fast and average speed, while Greatswords are best suited for all-out warriors who prefer slow, but deadly crits and a lot of damage. Bows and magic are your best bet for keeping foes at a distance. However, the fun really begins when you use all these methods simultaneously - melee, ranged and magic.
We've invested a lot of our time into Kingdoms of Amalur. There's a tremendous number of quests to complete and a wide range of regions, villages and towns to explore. There's no denying that you can enjoy the ride; up until the moment when the game's repetitive nature shows itself.
In an attempt to deliver as much content as possible for an open-world single-player RPG, the developers have focused very little on things that matter the most. Interesting characters, unique quests, getting out of different situations - basically, diversity. Now, when it comes to RPG fundamentals (weapons, skills, exploration etc.), there's more diversity than you can chew. Still, a deeply immersive world, rich dialogue, a well-thought out plot and a solid quest structure, are all part of a solid RPG experience. After spending days in Amalur, we can safely conclude that this game has little to offer in that regard. The NPCs are uninteresting and are merely there to provide you with yet another quest that again throws you into the action (i.e. combat). This even goes for key characters and story-driven quests. Each new task you are given encourages you to visit another area, while the task itself holds little of interest to the player. Even quests that are meant to shed some light on who you are and what the hell you're supposed to be doing, are quite dull and they boil down to the same thing: find someone, kill whatever comes at you in order to progress. Okay, fair enough, quests vary a bit more later on, but it takes too long to get to that segment of the game. Quests seem repetitive more than half way through the main story.
Explore to your heart's content, you'll find many cool things, from cool weapons and items, to God knows what else, great art, beautiful sound and terrific music, the freedom to tailor a character to your preference, fun and challenging combat;
Simply going through bland action RPG mechanics, the main story needs more subtlety, absence of difficult moral choices that have serious consequences, quests need more variation, most of the tasks feel pointless and downright dull.