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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
Developer: 38 Studios and Big Huge Games
Publisher: 38 Studios and Electronic Arts (EA)
Platform: PC, PS3, 360
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
This review is based on the 360 version of the game
It has been a while since we've seen a brand new IP in the RPG world in the past few years. Most of the games that have come out have been sequels to previous games (Fallout New Vegas, Dark Souls, Mass Effect 2- you name it and it's a sequel to a previous game). However, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning sought to break the mold of constant sequels, and in that respect they did succeed, but when it comes to a rather unique spin on the fantasy RPG, they could have done more.
The plot is your basic prophecy trope of a game. You're also being hunted by a group who wants you dead, known as the Tuatha. R.A. Salvatore (the game's writer) was in charge of the plot and he did not move away from what he knows best-- elves, prophecies, and incessant dialogue. The dialogue options for your character are text-based only. But whenever the camera focuses in on him or her there is no emotion there at all. If anything, your character looks like a dullard.
To be fair though, with RPGs you do indeed expect a fair amount of dialogue. But the problem is you don't really learn anything new from talking to Person A and Person B. They give you the same exact amount of info only said in a different way. This is a failing on the part of plenty of RPGs so I can't exactly fault this one game in particular without faulting the others it counts as a peer. While talking about dialogue, there is also the matter of the fact that the voice acting is very dull in tone. There were only a few people I spoke to that had any sort of emotion behind what they said.
The Reckoning mode is pretty awesome. I love that you use ghost weapons to rip your enemy's soul from their body.
Many people I have spoken to have been pretty positive about the combat system. It doesn't do anything extremely different from other action RPGs, but it is pretty fun and intuitive. You can use weapon attacks but you can also use various magical powers that are hotkeyed to the face buttons. With a right trigger plus the press of a face button you're off and running for being able to use your powers. But be aware of that mana store.
The combat is very streamlined and the developers touted that you couldn't just spam attacks or else you'd wind up dying. This is true to some degree. There are some enemies you can just bash and bash and eventually you'll kill them. Others require careful tactics to prevent the death screen from popping up. Some enemies can poison you, others can knock you off of your feet. The larger the enemy the more you have to adjust your combat style.
To help you in the endeavor of fighting multiple enemies at once, the game gives you the ability to trigger something called "Reckoning Mode." It is similar to the "bullet time" that Max Payne is well known for, yet adapted to an RPG. Once the Reckoning Mode is triggered, everything around you takes on a blue-ish haze and your enemies slow down. Your attacks are also boosted, allowing you to easily take down the more giant of enemies. And when you have knocked down as many as you can, you then have to suffer through a sort of Quick Time Event to finish him off. The more you knocked down during Reckoning Mode the more experience you gain after you exit. However, it takes quite a bit to build up the fate (what you get when you kill enemies) to this point. Overall, the Reckoning mode is a fun touch.
The level of detail on the armor and weapons is pretty neat. Shown: Omniblades and Shepard's Full Armor for completing the Mass Effect 3 demo
This is a fantasy RPG, kids, and with that you have fantasy weapons. However, unlike many other fantasy RPGs, the developers have added one of Xena the Warrior Princess's well known weapons-- the rings of pain known as Chakrams. Like a bow and arrow, the Chakrams are classed under 'long-range weaponry'. Unlike a bow and arrow, however, your Chakrams swing back to you like a boomerang.
All of the weapons you can use have their own skill set. As you level up your character you can put points into these skill sets. Swords (of which there are many types as one might expect), chakrams, and other such weapons get special techniques. These techniques can also be beefed up as you put in more points to that skill. Likewise, your magic is increased in such a manner.
No matter which type of character you have, there is going to be magic inside of them. While your warrior may not be throwing out lightning balls (which he actually can), other techs may be using the magic that is inherent in all creatures; elves, fae, and human alike. However, the real downside to the magical abilities it that you need opportunity to execute them, unlike in other games. If you're being hounded and pounded on you won't be able to fire off that ball of fire. Trying to do so will just make it harder on you. This is rather frustrating when you have an ability that is great when you're surrounded by enemies, yet at the same time those enemies aren't giving you a single inch of breathing room.
Can anyone tell me how I'm able to use earth-based attacks on flying creatures?
I will admit that I don't play World of Warcraft. So to have so many people compare the graphics to that game... well, it confuses me. Many other games use a cartoon-y style. Heck, I've compared Amalur to a more grown-up Fable that has been given a better combat system. The areas you found yourself in can be quite gorgeous but I would compare them to the environment in Avatar. Very vibrant colors but overall not adding to the immersion factor.
Many RPGs boast about being open-world. Some of them are actually as such. Kingdoms of Amalur is... open-world lite. It wants you to believe you can go out there and do anything you like, but you can't. It simply isn't as open-world as Skyrim is. Once again, it's a lot more linear like Fable. Does this make it a lesser game? Not necessarily. You just find yourself being very constrained.
Overall, the game is a fun experience. The combat speaks for itself and if you're looking for a game that does action-RPG combat in a fun manner, then Amalur does it. If you're looking, on the other hand, for a game that gives you a story that sucks you in and makes you care about things, you should probably look elsewhere. If you're a fan of R.A. Salvatore then you will be very familiar with the overall world. The looting isn't as varied as other games and they make things a bit difficult when it comes to being able to expand how much you can carry. But honestly? It was a fun romp. You'll probably find yourself playing it a couple more times to get a feel for the other races, if not so much that you can choose different character builds.
+ It does what it set out to do by becoming a unique RPG IP in a deluge of sequels.
+ The combat is a lot better than expected and rather deep.
-Graphics are a bit sub par
-The story is not engrossing in the slightest
Overall: 7.5 (out of 10)
While it has been touted as Fable for grown-ups, it can get rather tedious and the player probably won't care about most of the background story, if any.
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