I’ve been privy to play a lot of new RPGs, and to be honest Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was the first in a long time that I was really excited about. All of the hype had gotten to me, and I really wanted this to be a truly magical experience. As a kid, I read a lot of R. A. Salvatore’s books (The Cleric Quintet, all of the Drizzt books, and The Icewind Dale Trilogy to name a few) however I had never read any books on the world of Amalur that he had created. I was like a blank slate going into this when it came to the lore, and it felt great – refreshing to find all of this stuff out to the point that now I want to go and actually read the books. Unfortunately, the game – much like the world it is centered upon – is in a war with itself.
When talking about the amount of lore that this or any RPG has in it, the most common delivery method to get the player interested is through quests; and boy howdy does Amalur have a ton of quests. I don’t know the exact number, but there are well over two hundred in it. You can walk pretty much anywhere and there will be people with yellow exclamation marks over their heads to let you know they want you to do something. While this in itself isn’t such a bad thing, because having a ton of quests is something that the Elder Scrolls games have made a staple, the problem comes when you make some so interesting that you think that Mr. Salvatore wrote them all himself, and then make others that feel like a sixth grader penned their stories. Yes, I know not all can be gems, but in Reckoning the only truly good quests are the main story and the faction stories which end up being at MOST twenty five percent of the quests (and that’s probably being very generous). To say that the other stuff is all filler would be disingenuous, because it’s not all crap like “fetch quests” – although those are in there. It’s more like they really wanted to put these quests in there, but just had the “B-Team” write the dialogue.
Another problem with the quests, is that the rewards don’t scale at all, so you could get a quest at the beginning of the game (the first town you go to) to find ten books and choose to follow it. The last book isn’t until basically the end of the game, and when you return it your reward for letting these things eat up precious inventory space is some measly gold – not even a drop in the bucket compared to what I had amassed by playing normally. It’s issues like this that, while they may not detract from the overall enjoyment of the game, do make you question why you’d ever really care to do more of those quests. Something else that you’ll notice right away in every quest and cut scene, is that the lip synch is just god awful. If you’ve ever played a Japanese game with English dub then you’ll know what to expect – the problem is that this is an English game, so it’s pretty inexcusable.
On the surface, Reckoning will make you think that the game is an open world game, but in reality that’s just a very clever ruse. Once you get into it you realize that you are funneled from area to area through some narrow points which there are no getting around. The game doesn’t let you jump over obstacles – hell it won’t even let you jump from a ledge unless there is a specially labeled “jump point” where you are. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – games have done this since the beginning – I’m just making sure that you the reader knows this isn’t as open world as you might hope; especially after coming off of a game like Skyrim. Each of the areas in Reckoning have their own feel to them, and they all look absolutely amazing. The art style is like an ultra colorful comic book come to life, and I hope that the forthcoming MMORPG keeps it the same, because it is really a treat to behold.
The combat is another area where the mechanics of Reckoning tries to trick you into thinking it is deeper than it actually is. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – quite the opposite for me – but don’t be fooled into thinking because people say deep, they mean more than repeatedly tapping one or two buttons. By spending points when you level you can unlock more “moves” for your weapons, but those are just “hold the attack button”, “block then attack”, or “dodge then attack” moves. Nothing like a God of War style combo system. Now there are a decent number of weapon types all with their own dynamic, which DOES increase the depth. I primarily played a mage so I had access to your normal staves, but then I had two other slick weapons. The first was a scepter, which is in reality a wand – it uses a tiny bit of your mana to fire a blast of magic at a distance; kind of like a bow for the modern wizard. The third weapon I had were chakrams which were like circular boomerangs of death. I really wanted to try some of the other weapons, but once I got a good pair of these my mind was set on what I was using. What is nice about the combat system is that you can set up a primary weapon, but then you can also have a secondary weapon mapped to another button. Since I played my review copy on an Xbox 360, my primary (chakrams) was mapped to the “X” button, and my secondary (scepter) was mapped to the “Y” button. This made it really easy to switch what I was doing based on my target’s range – I just really wish there were some deeper combos I could have done; something like two chakram hits followed by a scepter blast for knockback or the like would have been amazing.
At any rate, Reckoning is what it is: a way to get people who never read the books interested in the world, and hopefully encourage them to play the MMORPG when it comes out. It’s not a bad game – but it’s not an amazing game either. Had they left out half of the garbage quests that they put in, the game might have ended up a lot better. Hell if they would have just worked on the stories for a tiny bit longer on those things this game would have racked up there in the amazing category. Fort what it’s worth though, Reckoning is fun to play, and while it may not be a grab for a lot of people at full price, I would definitely say not to let this one slip by once it goes on sale.
The Bottom Line: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an extremely fun game, and as long as you only work on the main and faction quests, and don’t try to make things more than they are.
- The whole “Choose Your Fate” and “Twist of Fate” system is a hell of a lot of fun to mess with
- The artwork is absolutely astounding in Reckoning
- The combat while not exceedingly deep is extremely fun and satisfying
- The lip synch is so poorly done that there’s really no “synch” to speak of
- The overabundance of “filler” quests is easily noticed from the first town onward
- Only being able to jump from place to place at designated areas is damn well irritating
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a multi-platform game available for the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 (version reviewer), and the PC – and can be found at retailers all over including Amazon for $59.95