Once more, I return with another genuinely heartfelt review, and one on a recently released game with some very mixed opinions regarding it. Of course, there are the two factions of the usual spammers who will rate the game in reviews either very poorly or very highly indeed, and of course- everybody is entitled to their own opinions. While this may be so, I encourage you to be influenced by this review, the Game Informer article on the game, and all of the other great user created reviews concerning the game that are out there right now. Please, don’t let some idiotic fools ruin your would-be/would-not purchase for you. Anyway, let’s begin.
I’d already been eagerly following any news and updates on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning months before the game actually released. Through all of the past issues with any details concerning the game- no matter how trivial, I absorbed them one by one, such as a shield-eating Like-Like’s of LOZ. When a release date was finally determined, I was at first ecstatic when I realized it would be released partway into February, then somewhat chagrined and disappointed when I released I would have to wait three or more months to lay hands upon this sure-to-be hit. Oh well, the life of a gamer is hard indeed. 😉
While Todd McFarlane would not have been my first choice as an artist for this particular game, and apparently not many others as well- i think he honestly did a great job with the visuals and backdrop, as they are both surreal and majestic, as well as colorful and vibrant at the same time. Having Ken Rolston on their game definitely lent the Reckoning crew their credibility and even more since the game turned out to be an overall success.
Throughout your search of the immense Faelands- or as I assume the root is intended, fairy-lands, you will encounter many side quests and a few key quests along your incredible journey. While not quite truly an open world, considering that you must be a certain level or have done certain quests to unlock new areas, Reckoning provides a structured world with plenty to do and everything to explore. The best moments of the game will be when you’ve unlocked most of the equipment and items, and can peruse the world at your own whim and will.
While the environments at first seem to be much the same and become repetitive, you are saved from mundane insanity before you reach the peak of things by a change in variety and the virons. You’ll see plenty of the overused and cliched fantastical mountain ranges, as well as gloomy, dark, and dismal swamps- though with a somewhat lighter tone, as shown in most of the game. While most plot lines can be guessed partway through, the intermingling of the various webs of intrigue and storytelling is always a strong point for Kingdoms of Amalur, and shows off the creative abilities of 38 Studios and co.
There is never a short supply of secrets as well as treasures and loot for you to acquire throughout your journey, and you will even find yourself returning to previously visited places later in order to unlock new items and purchase new equipment. To add a bit of depth to the otherwise ‘nonchalant’ attitude some may focus on the story with, there are some runic stones to be found in each major zone that detail the past events of the Amalur world. These are for the really plot-savvy places and adventurers, and really flesh out the backstory as well.
Much like Skyrim and other notable RPGs or open world games, questlines, when completed, can grant you tremendous boosts and when enough have been completed, you become virtually unstoppable in your fury driven rage. While the story focus of being able to change fates is a genuinely neat concept, that is all it remains as you fix each and every whiner’s problems and in turn see no visible change in the world. As GI has said in their very own review, “while this may work in an MMO, it does not in a single player adventure,” and this is indeed the essence of it.
I find that the story, while intriguing, turns out to be the biggest let down for what would otherwise be an amazing game. As previously mentioned, nearly any player can predict where a quest is going to a certain degree, and most are singularly focused and linear at times. While the majority of the quests are interesting and actually some fun to complete, many side quests fall down the path of the ever annoying ‘fetch’ or ‘kill’ quest groups, and even should they not- retain very little replayability means or even playability in the first place. Unlike other games that compel me to remember key characters and cinematic moments, truthfully, nothing major happens in Kingdoms of Amalur to warrant such a fantastic attraction, meaning that to some degree- the people meant to convey the writing and story have failed to do so.
Combat is easily the best, or at least one of the best components within the game and its formula. Swift, easy to master, and deadly. Having been compared to God of War already, the easy shifting of abilities and weapons, as well as the ‘fate meter’ gained by finding new ways to kill enemies or created outrageous combos, really make for an interesting set of events. Once you’ve filled up on the ‘fateshifting’ abilities, you can even see the improvements in your character as your brutal blows hit home more often, your speed and agility increase, and you gain experience faster.
While one of the key points of the game is to have an ‘open class’ based system in which you can allocate points to one of three groups- mages, rougues, or warriors, the interesting part is that there literally are virtually no classes in the game. While you can lean more heavily towards one style of combat and playing than another, it does not affect the playability so much as the skills you will learn and ways you will complete quests. This makes for a very fun replay in order to see how differently you could progress, as well as to see which skillsets work the best for you personally. Using the favored skilltrees of most games such as Reckoning, you can gain special points, or ‘destinies’ for merging trees and skills, as well as using a Mass Effect-like ‘restart’ prompt to retrain all of your abilities from ground zero.
The guilds within the game, while similar to most RPGs, are very fun to join and mess around with, as well as the various skills you can learn or attain through them. One that GI apparently found very amusing and to be more forgiving than most others in the general game type was the stealth through the Thieve-like Travelers. This opens up a lot of new possible approaches for combat as well as in quest lines, and whether or not to kill people or run past them unnoticed.
The loot is always frequently found after defeating your enemies, and has a great management system as well, however, the actual amount of upgrades and levels received from any of it is very low. This has been a sticking point for many people, and as most emulating games have realized before now- trying to copy Diablo or other dungeon crawls doesn’t always turn out for the best,a s shown here. Simply try to acquire an upgrade after collecting a few hundred pieces of loot and be prepared for disappointment.
Almost similar to other great open and/or semi-open world games, Reckoning can easily be compared to ones that are great but just fall a bit short overall on some key points. Comparatively, you could say that it is the Mercenaries 2 of its genre, as it delivers great thrills, has lots of content, but proves to be too far spread at times, and thus falls through a bit. By the by, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a pretty solid game and should be picked up if you enjoy single player adventure titles or RPGs. If that doesn’t sell you, just let the interchangeable equipment between Mass Effect 3 and unlockable gear change your mind for you!
Here is the Game Informer Rating Scale of things, in case you don’t understand where exactly I would place Reckoning at on my ratings list:
Concept: A widespread fantasy story about a tale driven by fate provoking actions, Reckoning is a masterpiece of adventure and thrilling combat, but doesn’t quite hit the mark on story-telling.
Graphics: The sometimes overdone fantasy universe has some lovely visuals as well as stunning yet cartoony looking areas, which is by no means a bad style or art direction choice- merely a mix of a few different ones.
Sound: Although the compositions of Amalur didn’t quite sell me, they weren’t terrible, but weren’t quite the greatest choices that could’ve been made to go along with the game. Battle sounds and ambient noise was well though through however.
Playability: While some quests and stories can be annoying at times, the combat and some other key points make up for that mostly and create a unique style of 38 Studios’ own creation, which ahs turned out to be somewhat addicting and very fun to play. Sometimes the game, depending on the system you play it on, can experience weird bugs, but at other times it runs perfectly fine.
Entertainment: The combat and open-class systems make for a very entertaining and thrilling game, although the story could have been better.
Replay Value: Moderately High
Once more, I hope this review has been of help to you or indeed done you some service. I shall revel in your comments, whether they be good or bad- and will enjoy writing more reviews for the benefit of the GI community and other gamers or interestees out there in the future!
Overall Score: 8.25