Developers: Big Huge Games and 38 Studios
Publishers: 38 Studios and Electronic Arts
Genre: Fantasy RPG
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (played)
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Some games are praised for being innovative. ‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’ will not receive any praise for being innovative because it is not. What KoA:R has done is taken all the tools and parts constructed by others and made an almost flawless RPG. The developers are not Dr. Frankenstein, who stitched pieces of the dead to create his monster; they took the fresh fleshy bits of other known RPGs and wove them together to produce an imaginative game filled with fast action and a gorgeous fantasy world.
There are not many flaws in the game. Navigation could be smoother and have a lot less scrolling. When you play a time-intensive game such as this, ease of navigation can make the difference in how you fight and play the game. There is a radial menu available, but you have to take the time to map it yourself. Finding what you could put in the radial menu takes time because of the way the inventory is organized. If you like using multiple potions during a fight, the radial menu has a purpose, but I don’t, so the radial menu went unused, and I never had a moment during the game when I wished I had spent time filling it. The rest of the interface is very comprehendible. Pressing start brings up the menu where you can change settings, save the game, look at the map, check your quest log, review moves, access your inventory, and level up. As you play, a small map is in the upper right corner, and your meters are in the upper left corner of the screen. Tutorial prompts will appear during parts of the game. Once you become familiar with the game, I suggest turning the tutorial prompts off (this can be done in options) because the prompts sometimes appear during battle and block your view of the fight.
The leveling up process is understandable as long as you know what “finesse” is. At the beginning of the game, you get to create your own character, but you do not have to choose a class. This gives you the opportunity to decide later if you want your character to be a mage, a warrior, a rogue, or a combination, which is a feature I appreciate because sometimes magic works better in a game than a sword and a shield. When you level up, you first allot a point to develop a skill like blacksmithing, alchemy, or persuasion. Then you have three points to spend to advance your character’s class, but the classes are not mentioned by name. There are three categories: might, sorcery, and finesse. The first two obviously correspond to the traditional classes of warrior and mage, but “finesse” isn’t a widely-used word. The word “finesse” means to subtly handle a situation and to be tactful, and the word suggests that you can develop diplomatic skills, but this category is the rogue class. Diplomatic and tactful are qualities I do not readily identify with rogues, which are quick, nimble, and sneaky. I figured out what “finesse” meant in the game because of my experience with other RPGs, but others might have trouble figuring that out. Also involved in leveling up is selecting a destiny. A dual-path destiny was available to me, but I switched destinies from time to time. I did not notice any apparent change in my character or how my character fought in battle when I had a different destiny.
‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’ is a game for a wide variety of players; it is a good entry point for those new to the RPG genre. The game is set in Amalur, a world inhabited by Fae, Gnomes, Sprites, and other fantastical creatures. The world has a rich history, which was created by R. A. Salvatore, author of the ‘Forgotten Realms’ novels. Salvatore’s Amalur is populated with distinct characters that have their own quirks, views, and mannerisms. Each culture is richly developed, and each town is different from the next. In this fully realized world an interesting story takes place. Without giving too much away, you play as a hero who has to stop Gadflow. Seemingly unstoppable, Gadflow zealously wants to convert everyone into believers of a new god. Those who resist die. Many feel as though all hope is lost because they think fate cannot be changed. The ideas of fate and destiny are a huge part of the story. Can what has been written be changed? Are destinies set, or can a force undo what has been foretold? These questions drive the story forward as your hero interacts with others and takes part in events.
The game is open world, so you can take your hero straight through the main quest or get lost for hours in sidequests. It is up to you how involved your hero becomes in Amalur. Depending on how you play, you can spend 30 to 60 hours or more with the game. Some of the sidequests have nothing to do with the main quest, but I was surprised how many felt connected to the main story, so I ended up doing many of these because it expanded and enriched the main story. The sidequests range from fetch quests to in-depth quests that have multiple stages. The writing makes the quests engaging; I never got bored on a sidequest.
In addition to the outstanding writing, sidequests didn’t bore me because the scenery is spectacular. The game made me feel as though I was inside a painting by J. M. W. Turner. Turner’s paintings glow, even his night scenes, giving his work an ethereal quality. The game looks like a glowing painting, but it is not an annoying, obtrusive glow that makes the game too bright. The artistic style gives the game a soft look, juxtaposing the tone of the story. The story is dark, serious, and bloody; the game earns the mature rating. Many games accentuate scenery with invasive music, but the musical score in KoA:R is subtle. There is music, but it does not have a strong presence in the game; you walk for long stretches of time with only natural sounds for company, so combined with a lack of a grand musical soundtrack, the game’s artistic style made me feel as though I was in a waking dream. Since the story questions if a predetermined fate has to be taken as reality, the style fits.
Many battles are fought in this dreamy setting. The action is fast. You can dive and roll to avoid attacks. The game is not turn-based, so you can switch between enemies and alter your strategy effortlessly. You have primary and secondary weapons, and if you level up your character along a certain path, you will get special moves. I opened a two-class path; my hero, Quynn Kali, is a rogue mage, so I was able to use magic and weapons. I did not mind encountering the same species of enemies repeatedly; fighting many Tuatha, Brownies, and bandits made the world feel like it had been around for thousands of years, giving the different creatures time to reproduce, to populate, and to become established in Amalur. One of my favorite parts of battle is Reckoning Mode. Killing foes will fill up the fate meter. When the fate meter is full, you can hold down both triggers and enter Reckoning Mode. Time doesn’t stop, it slows, so enemies can still harm your hero, but you move regularly, giving you the opportunity to inflict a lot of damage. When a foe is almost dead, you can finish with a special move. The special move will deplete your fate meter, and this mode will end once the fate meter is empty. I enjoyed entering this mode when surrounded by multiple enemies. I would get a foe to the edge of death and move on to another; when all the foes were near death, I would use the special move. With the special move successfully executed, the mode would end, killing the rest of the enemies.
Battles are not the only way to occupy your time in Amalur. You can talk with many citizens; if you engage in lengthy conversations, you learn a lot about the cultures and history of Amalur. You can collect various materials for crafting. A unique part of the game is when you make potions. To discover recipes, you experiment; sometimes the result is a concoction with unknown qualities that can be positive or negative and that are revealed when you feel adventurous and drink the potion. Other crafting activities include blacksmithing and sagecraft. If you like making your own armor and weapons, don’t sell the gear you loot; instead, salvage the junk and forge your own gear. Shards can be combined to make gems, which can be slotted into certain weapons and armor, bettering your gear’s stats.
Crafting, fighting, and adventuring—KoA:R has all the tenants of a standard fantasy RPG without feeling repetitive, rote, or recycled. I was reminded of different games as I played (‘Skyrim,’ ‘Dragon Age,’ and ‘Fables’), but the connection to the other games was positive; I felt like I welcomed a new member to the family. I recommend this game to lovers of RPGs and to those new to the genre or new to video games. There is more to this game, and I could go on, but this review needs to end at some point, so I’m going to leave you with this. Whenever I play a game, I ask myself how likely I am to play the game again. I have three standard responses. The first one is, “Someone would have to pay me to play this game again.” The second one is, “If there is absolutely nothing out and I can’t find anything else, then sure.” The last one is, “I can’t wait to play this game again!” So, do I want to play ‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’ again?
I can’t wait to play this game again!