Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review By: Andrew Bohnenberger
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
By: Andrew Bohnenberger
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a single-player fantasy action role-playing game developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games. The game was released on February 7, 2012 and published by EA Partners for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. With big names like Ken Rolston, R.A. Salvatore, and Todd McFarklene attached to this game, does Amalur have what it takes to compete with the Elder Scrolls,Fable, and the Dragon Age Series?
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's main story revolves around your unnamed character discovering that they are dead and being resurrected through a process known as The Well of Souls. As your character is not pre-destined by Fate he or she can choose to carve their own path as they explore Amalur's game world. Amalur's story is told through cut scenes with a dialogue option system which is a hybrid of Mass Effect's dialogue wheel and Skyrim's Radiant menu Story system. The dialogue wheel serves as the game's mechanism to make choices where as the menu system is used to gain more information from characters about specific game lore. Here lies the first problem with the game, the story is the weakest aspect of the whole game and really drains out the whole experience. First and foremost the fully voiced cutscenes while having great voice acting, the lip syncing is clearly out of sync which really took me out of the whole experience. It was clear to me that this part of the game was not as polished as the rest of the experience, leaving me to believe that it was intentional that the developers gave you the ability to skip the cut scenes in order to get back to the combat. The choices you made in the game were usually never interesting as they didn't have much consequences in the overall main story. The lore given to you through the various characters throughout the world was often your standard generic fantasy story telling with complicated character names and things that I often could not keep track of or distinguish from one another. Even if you put a gun to my head, I couldn't tell the diffence between a Dokkalfar, Ljosalfar, Fae, or any other made up race they introduced to you in the game. This game inherently made me a racist as the only stories and characters I could relate to where those of the human races. I simply could not follow most the faction quests with these races, leaving the non human factions quests some of the worst stories in the game. I was really surprised to see that with the likes of Ken Rolston of Elder Scroll fame acting as the game's executive designer and R. A. Salvatore creating the game universe and lore, that this was the weakest aspect in the experience. I think with Skyrim showing that you can take a different approach in make a fantasy setting compelling with their introduction into the Dragonbourne lore and Dragon Age's ability to make compelling races like the Qunari, there is no excuse to rely on the standard uninteresting tropes of the genre.
Now that I got the bad segments of the game out of the way, I can focus on everything else I loved, the first being the games gorgeous graphics and art style. With Todd McFarklene,creator of Spawn, leading the art and animation teams on this game I think that they nailed it with this beautiful, luscious, and colorful fantasy world. Think of the game world as the best parts of World of Warcraft and Fable intertwined into a one cohesive environment. The game world was split up into 5 distinct regions and each area's terrain was varied. Each area felt distinct whether is was the forests of Dalentarth, the plains of Erathell, the stone scapes of Detyrem, the twisted overgrowth of Klurikon, or the Crystalline landscape of Alabastra. The game ran on the Havok engine and unlike Skyrim had little to no technical bugs besides your occasional tendency for your character to get stuck on dead enemies. I find this to be a great accomplishment for open world game as expansive as this one.
I want to start off the gameplay section by making a bold statement, this game has the best combat system ever created in a fantasy role-playing game! Within a couple hours of playing the game it was apparent that the developers over at 38 Studios and Big Huge games were able to mix two of my favorite genres in the same way Borderlands did for me back in 2009. The combat can be defined as borrowing the best elements of God of War, Darksiders, Fable, Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta. While the combat system does not rely on the light, heavy mechanics found in most action games, the ability to equip a primary and secondary weapon left the game always feeling fresh. This is probably the first role-playing game where I used all the weapons and that all the weapons felt good. The game features weapon sets for each of its three playable races with the ability to switch out these weapons at anytime throughout the game. The might or warrior class had the Longsword, Greatsword, and Hammer. The Finesse or rogue character had daggers, longbows, and faeblades which were curved slashing blades with high critical hit rates and multipliers, but offered higher base weapon damage at a slightly lower speed than the daggers. Probably, the most surprising and interesting weapon set was the Sorcery class which featured staff, chakrams, and sceptre. The most interesting of three of course being the chakrams which is a mid-range weapon with a circular blade and a handle where the character holds it from in order to launch at enemies. The chakrams had that visceral feeling of Kratos double-chained blades from God of War. As your leveled up in the game you could dump points into skills that unlocked various ability trees for each of these weapons which were found in a moves list in the game's menu system. I really enjoyed the ability to air juggle enemies in the air while unleashing sets of combo multipliers in order to to finish them off with critical hits. Besides abilities tied to weapons in the game, each class had different active abilities or they could map buttons in the game will holding down the right trigger. Might abilities include quake in which created a tremor you could smash into the ground in which you could chain in succession up to three attacks, Harpoon which allowed you to snag and pull enemies toward you, Battle Frenzy which allowed you to enter berserker rage to deal greater amounts of damage, War Cry which allowed you to reduce damage,and Wrath which allows you to jump skyward and hurl enemies along with you in the air while you pummel them downward. Finesse Abilities include Shadow Flare which you shoot a burst of shadow magic that woulds and staggers enemies, Envenomed Edge which adds temporary poison damage to you weapons and arrowheads, frost traps which you could lay four traps at a time that would freeze and cause ice damage to enemies, lunge which allowed you to lunge at enemies from behind, gambit which is a acrobatic leap where you could distribute explosives across the battlefield that damage an launch enemies, smoke and poison bombs. The sorcery abilities are storm bolt which launches a burst of electrical energy to stun enemies, sphere of protection which creates a magical barrier that reduces damage taken, mark of flame which targets enemies and unleashes explosions, meteor which summons a meteor strike, summon a Faer Gorta which is a skeleton warrior that fights by your side for a duration of time, healing which you can use to recover hp, ice barrage which sends a scatters blast of ice shards at the enemy, and elemental rage which combines elements of fire, lighting, and ice into chained attacks. Besides active abilities you could also level up passive abilities such as increased damage or damage resistance. Other level mechanics include upgrading one point into 9 key areas each level. The areas included are Alchemy,Blacksmithing,Detect Hidden, Dispelling, Lockpicking, Mercantile, Persuasion, Sagecraft, and Stealth. Alchemy allows you to uses Reagents, which are flowers you find throughout the game, using Recipes to create potions at Workbenches. Blacksmithing allows use to use components to create weapons and armor at forges. Upgrading this skill allows you to improve repair kits used for the durability of items. Detect Hidden allows you to find hidden treasures throughout the game world, gain more gold from enemy drops, and see enemy locations on the mini map. Dispelling allows you to unlock magical treasure boxes infused with wards that can curse you character. Lockpicking skill decreases the difficulty in opening locks on doors and treasure chests. Mercantile is used to buy items less and sell for more. Increasing this skill also allows you to receive more gold from destroying items, an option in Amalur to sell items for a lower prices without returning to town. Persuasion allows your character to unlock more dialogue options during conversations. Sagecraft increases the potency of shards and gems used to imbue qualities on weapons and armors. Lastly, Stealth allows you to remain undetected when approaching enemies in order to commit stealth skills with daggers or faeblades as well as pickpocket. Throughout the game you also gain Destinies which are cards that determine the stat bonuses for your character class. You can change your character class on the fly at any time as well as change classes by re-specing your character by resetting your attributes. Your attributes can be defined by one class or multiple classes defined by two or more attributes. I found that all the systems work exceptionally well together which would make role playing veterans as well as action game fans satisfied in customizing their character. The only minor complaints I had with the gameplay was that there could have been more enemy variation and better camera positioning. By ten hours in the game I found myself facing all the enemy types and later enemies were just variations of the enemies I fought earlier in the game. I often found myself struggling to keep the camera behind me while fighting multiple enemies due to the fact that the game gives you full camera control rather than taking it away and panning out appropriately. Also I was frustrated with map when it came to finding merchants for certain items. Instead of separating merchants that sold potions with merchants that sold armor and weapons they categorized them all in one category which made you have an arbitrary fetch quest to find what you needed.
Kingdoms of Amalur is well worth the $60 dollar price tag. With 13 main quests, 6 faction quests, and countless side quests, you will find plenty of ways to level up your character and explore the world. If you are looking at breezing through the best content, the main quest line and faction quest will take around 25 hours to complete. Of course there is plenty replay value if you are looking to customize you character differently or make other choices throughout the game's story.
Kingdoms of Amalur is hands down the first roleplaying game to nail how combat should feel going forward in the genre. The only drawback to the game is that the story and lore are not as memorable as its fantasy role playing counterparts like Skyrim, Dragon Age, and Fable. Otherwise if your are looking for an action role playing game with excellent loot,role playing systems, plenty of content, and a beautiful, luscious, and colorful fantasy world, Kingdoms of Amalur is the game for you!!
Buy: If you are looking for role playing game with God of War's combat in a Elders Scroll package.