Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

  • Released on Feb 7, 2012
  • By 38 Studios for PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning review
This game's fate is sealed... as a great one


*note that the screenshots are of the console version and not the PC version - there's a difference in how the look of the commands are laid out. The console version has the four face buttons while the PC version has the ten numbered keys. Now onto the review*

I've always thought of EA as a wildly inconsistent publisher. Seeing the EA logo on games' boxes make me think of three things - it'll be excellent (Dead Space), it'll be too mediocre for words (Dante's Inferno), and goddammit will you stop milking this already (Madden). That's discounting any thoughts of first day DLC that's actually a part of the main story (Mass Effect 3) and online passes (don't get me started). But yeah, seeing the EA logo on a box can usually spell disaster either to your free time or to your wallet. Thankfully, Kingdoms Of Amalur is an excellent game that only eats up your free time due to there being a lot to do. Not as much as Skyrim, but it's still going to eat away at your life until you feel like you've finished.

You start off as a soul inhabiting a dead corpse, which is a part of an experiment to bring dead people back to life conducted by dwarves. You'll then learn that the Faelands is a kingdom whose citizens' lives are determined by fate, as told by fortune tellers known as Fateweavers. But because you came back to life, you've defied fate and can determine your own via levelling up certain passive and combat statistics. Eventually, you destroy something that throws everything out of whack and then the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. Too bad the Tuatha - dark elves who can reincarnate after death - are after you for coming back to life, but then again, you need a recurring antagonist or more, or else, this quest wouldn't have many obstacles to overcome. Not to mention that it uses the old "amnesia" plotline, but to be fair, maybe you come back to life at the expense of your past life?

So yeah, the story basically revolves around finding out why you've cheated fate while determining the fate of others. The story itself is paced alright, but it's the writing that'll keep you interested. It's written in a way that makes it feel like a refreshing tale despite it really being a common "save the world" storyline laced with the whole "amnesia" plot device. What really gives it some flair are the lore stones found in the Faelands, as they tell you about the world in a rather silly way, complete with some exaggerated voices and somewhat outrageous dialogue. I mean, it knows where to tone it down and make it seem serious when it's not really... but yeah, the story in this game is one that'll keep you very interested.

The way that you go about changing fate is through completing a series of quests - main quests, faction quests and sidequests. The main quests relate to the story and tend to involve you going around the world to talk to people so you can go to dungeons and find out more about why you're still alive while saving the world. Faction quests involve raiding dungeons to either save people or kill bosses, or both. These tend to have their own interesting storylines that has some ties to the main story without feeling imperative to it; just more or less a reaction to the events of the main story, really. That, and they're just a lot of fun to do... possibly because of the stories, or because it lets an action oriented RPG really spread its wings and fly - either way, these quests rock the house.

Then there are the sidequests, which are plain annoying. The dialogue feels like it was manufactured on a line just so that there's some justification behind fetching items for that person - and that's basically all they are; fetch quests. Whether you do so by looking through a dungeon or kill certain enemies... yeah, it's like a job, in which you just look forward to the payoff, which involves money and maybe an item. That, and since completing them all takes up a good 30 hours, you'll end up wishing you had them back. The major problem is just how unimaginative they are - the main and faction quests feel as if they were put into the game to allow you to let loose and have fun with the combat; these quests just feel like they were put in the game because it's "obligatory" to pad out the game, and you can definitely tell it's the case since the dialogue is just terrible not just by comparison, but even on its own.

In saying that, looting is pretty important. In dungeons, you'll find various weapons and armor, each with passive effects that can either turn the tide of combat, or at least just give yourself a bit more oomph than you already have. You'll mostly encounter stat buffs (ie. strength, defense and speed) and elemental properties (like fire damage or resistance to fire attacks), but the important thing is that you keep it up in hopes of finding stuff that'll help you, either in combat or with blacksmithing - more on that later.

Combat itself is combo driven - that is to say, you perform a series of hits to kill your enemies. You can do this either through mercilessly clicking on the left mouse button, or by timing each click. How you time each click determines what kind of combo you do - from the usual slashing combo, to one that ends by launching the enemy up to space (or just in the air), and as you level up that weapon class, you'll not only do more damage, but also learn more combos. Not too many more, but in a game like this, having the option to smoothly do a few combos is enough. I don't need a WRPG to play like Ninja Gaiden, unless there's a ninja class, which there isn't. To make it sweeter, you can equip two weapons and switch between them, depending on the situation - for instance, you use a big sword for big damage, and chakrams for ranged combat. Things like that really accentuate how smooth the combat is. Really, you'll only find yourself going to the menu to either ditch crappy loot, or equip a better weapon in that weapon class. You can also use spells, which can be mapped as shortcuts (either the face buttons on a controller or the numeric keys on the keyboard) and used as elemental ranged attacks, often chained with weapon strikes to give it a bit more flow.

Just to give it more flair, you have Reckoning mode, which lets you slow down time, kill a bunch of enemies quickly, and then initiate a quick time event where you must mash the button shown on screen. I have to say, though, this was definitely for the console crowd... because mashing keyboard keys and mouse buttons just doesn't really feel as right as mashing controller buttons. Thankfully, it's just to increase how much XP you get, and as you mash it, it goes up in increments of 25%, until it hits 100%. But I'll be damned if it doesn't look cool... just taking a dazed enemy and impaling it in different ways... yeah...

When you gain enough XP from slaying enemies, you'll be able to level up. Starting with passive skills, you can level up crafting skills (for blacksmithing, spell creation or alchemy - yes, they're separate), persuasion (to help tip certain situations in your favor when given a choice as to what to say during a scene), amongst other skills that help you outside of combat. Then you'll level up weapon classes, like chakrams, big swords, small swords, hammers and other such weapons... while are put under three styles - Might, Finesse and Sorcery. As you level up weapons, you'll also level up the styles, and as you level up the styles, you'll fain additional fates. These give you stat boosts that are relevant to the way you level up, so there are a fair amount of choices you need to make in order to make the perfect warrior for yourself, while being somewhat restricted. Thankfully, the restriction makes sense since you can't really have the fate of a sorcerer when you've put nothing into sorcery skills and weapons.

It'd be naive of you to think that looting is the only way to get equipment and trashing or selling is the only way to get rid of stuff. Nope, because you can perform some crafting - whether it's equipment, spells or potions, as long as you have the appropriate items and have levelled the skills up a fair amount, you'll be making some pretty slick stuff. As you'd expect, you'll be making equipment that's better than what you've found with attributes that buff your stats and give you elemental properties if you include certain ingredients, and just plain gives you better equipment (sorry, but that's the only way to put it). Same sort of deal all across the board, just that you're given more spells and potions with far better properties than simply healing and curing statuses. It's a system that's easy to use and

What first wow'd me in this game are the graphics. The Faelands are rich with color. Various greens, yellows, blues and such really do help make this world look fantastic, especially with the right amount of shading. It also helps that each area feels distinct from one another - the forest, the plains, the stonelands, the overgrowth and a crystal wonderland of sorts each stand out, as do the designs of the models. Each of them may seem generic at first, but as you progress, you'll start to see that they're actually fairly imaginative. I will admit, the character models look like something out of a 360 launch game and some textures are a bit flat, but it's nothing that'll put a damper on your day (and if anything, in some cases, it helps that the models look a bit outdated from a technological standpoint) and it does help out with reducing load times, lag and glitches for an open world game. Eh, I say take the good with the bad on this one, guys.

The sound department is a bit on the weak side of the fence, and it really has to do with the music. It's got that epic flavor to it, with a symphony and everything, but nothing really stands out as particularly excellent, or anything that'd make me go "WHOA". All it does is just provide the correct ambiance, which is fine, but it feels like it wants to be remembered for something more than that. Ah well. The voice acting is charming, and actually not too shabby. It's obvious that the actors had some fun with it, particularly the people behind the lore stones. Sure, some characitures are painted here, but this isn't quite a realistic take on a fantasy setting unlike, say, Skyrim or The Witcher; it's a fantasy RPG that knows it's a fantasy - nothing more, and nothing less. Thankfully, it's not a final fantasy...

To put it simply, Kingdoms Of Amalur is a lot of fun. Poor sidequests aside, each quest was a joy to go through and each combat scenario was fun to fight through, particularly because it was very smooth. Finding lore stones and listening to them was enjoyable. Listening to the dialogue (outside of sidequests, that is) was intriguing. The colorful Faelands was one very well worth exploring. I could keep going like this, but at the end of the day, this is a game that needs to be played. In a sea of dull/neon grays and browns in modern WRPGs, this game really stands out as that colorful family member that you look forward to spending time with on family visits.

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