Goondu review: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

February 23rd, 2012 | by Chan Chi-Loong
Goondu review: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a good mashup of Fable spliced with Oblivion/Skyrim, flavored with God of War styled action.

Made by relatively unknown game studio 38 Studios, this RPG boasts an impressive pedigree.

Ken Rolston (Elder Scrolls series) designed the game, R. A. Salvatore (iconic author of many Forgotten Realms novels) created the game universe and lore, and Todd McFarlane (best known for art on Spawn comics) was in charge of art direction.

This all-star lineup alone intrigued me and based almost solely on that I got the game.

It took me some time to warm up to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning however.

Sure the game is really gorgeous eye candy wise, and on my close to three-year old PC the game runs smooth as glass, but I was halfhearted about the game in the opening few hours.

I felt like I had seen it all before. Standard stock amnesiac hero with an unknown past. Various varieties of elves (magic inclined) and human (combat inclined) races. Gnomes are techno-magical geniuses, pointy-eared dark elf-like fae are evil villains.

Worse was the linear and stilted storytelling in the beginning. Random strangers would come up to you asking you for help when it makes no sense for them to do so.

A stripped down conversation wheel (ala mass effect) which masquerades as choice, when choosing either would often lead to the same outcome.

It wasn’t bad, but I was unimpressed. I stuck it out for the next few hours, hoping that things might improve after I saw more than the initial town.

And to my surprise, it did.

It was only after I crossed the 10 hour mark that I really begin to enjoy the game.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a deep well of lore that takes time for the attentive player to soak up.

Once you start free roaming the world you get a sense of how truly vast the game map is, and just wandering around can be a joy all by itself.

And best of all, the branching side and faction quests ceased to be solely of the run from point A to B and slay monster C variety, and the main quest lines became more interesting as you meet recurring characters that actually have some personality.

Once I stopped thinking of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning as a deep storytelling RPG where player choice drives the story (rather than a simplistic choice A or choice B variety), and more as a fast-paced action RPG, I enjoyed it far more.

In other words, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is never going to achieve the emotional depths of Witcher or Dragon Age: Origins, but plays more like Fable.

An improved Fable with great graphics, more storytelling depth, expansive game world, and best of all, great action RPG gameplay (combat wise) that plays quickly and is pretty fun.

All the various weapons that your hero can equip each have their own special attack animations.

Don’t expect real-world realism though, as the game animations are all out of this world.

Huge oversized greatswords taller than your hero that you sommersault around with. Chakras that scythe circular swathes of destruction. Bow attacks that literally rain arrows from the sky.

It’s eye candy of the Final Fantasy variety, the type that players more accustomed to Japanese RPGs are accustomed to. Over the top, but fun nonetheless.

There are a few tweaks that I do like about Fable-plus (that’s what I tell my friends who ask me to sum up the game in one or two words).

The Fate system is great, as you can respec anytime to try out the gameplay of any of the three major class trees of might, sorcery and finesse. Feeling bored with smiting your foes with a sword? Switch to conjuring storms of lightning, or creep up on enemies and stealthily assassinate them.

The game is not riddled with deep choices, and players will probably not replay — at least I won’t — to try different characters. The Fate system allows you to experiment with the action gameplay, with minimal downtime, and suits the casual action-oriented RPG player.

Beyond fighting and exploring, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has other ways to occupy you like the mini sub-games of lockpicking and dispelling. I guess they are meant to break up the monotony of just fighting mobs when delving dungeons, but I’m pretty ambivalent about them. It’s fun the first few times but get old pretty quick. Luckily there’s an auto attempt option that improves as you put in more skill points in lockpicking or dispelling.

The alchemy, blacksmithing and sagecraft crafting skills are a little more fun as there’s much more variety to this. You can create all kinds of potions, great gear, and gems to socket into your equipment.

One thing that I dislike is the inventory management. You get too little inventory space and far too many junk items whenever you explore a dungeon. Junking items is a pain, and I wish they had implemented the inventory management more cleanly.

In a nutshell, even with all its flaws, I quite like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. It grows on you — the lore, the vast maps, the action-oriented gameplay.

If you want your RPG to be a deep storytelling experience, I don’t think you’ll find it here. The game practically hand holds you and tells you exactly where to go to complete your quests.

But if you want a fast-paced, graphically gorgeous action-oriented RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning definitely serves up the goods. I’ve had tons of fun frying foes with a flaming staff.


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