Late to the Party: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

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Price I Paid: $4.00

Available On: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.

It’s a humbling experience when I start raving about something only to change my tune before it’s over. It’s the same feeling I suspect new parents have after two months of insufficient sleep from a crying newborn. Understandably, you might think that you know what I’m going to say about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and stop reading now, but don’t. It’s not because I get paid when you click to read the full review (because I don’t get paid anything for this), but because there was so much the game did right. Despite my wavering feelings for it after twenty-some hours, you may find it to your liking.

Let me take a few paragraphs and justify why I was so adamantly captivated during the first twentyish hours of the game.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had the smoothest transition between using magic, ranged, and melee weapons I have ever experienced in a game. I could combat roll into a crowd of enemies, fire off a bolt of lighting, smash the stunned enemies with my slow, powerful hammer, quickly cut approaching enemies with my daggers, dodge another attack, sprint away, and blast all of the now huddled together enemies with a burst of fire. I felt like a 100% certifiable badass, and it was great. The weapons vary in speed, power, and range, and I loved finding my favorites and using their particular advantages to thwart all who opposed me.

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There are few things in life as satisfying as blasting an ettin off of his feet.

The different spells and abilities felt unique and served their own purposes. The fireball spell worked differently than the electric bolt spell, despite both of them primarily being damage spells. I could throw out a chain and pull enemies closer to me, erect a magic shield, raise a skeleton, cause an earthquake with my hammer, do sneak attack damage when stealthing, and many other things that all had their place in combat depending on what you were fighting and your combat style. Each ability had different timing, radius, and damage, but they all felt unique enough that they didn’t act like reskins of other spells or abilities.

Also, you could completely redo every point you spent. If you were not using an ability or you wanted to try something different, you could. It cost gold, and it cost more gold each time you did it. The monetary value attached to it made it seem more substantial and required proper thought before acting. This mechanic allowed for more experimentation, let me try things I usually avoid in RPGs, and let me try different builds.

If you get enjoyment from focusing on the details (I don’t, but whatever, you might), you can spend a good amount of time brewing potions, upgrading socketed weapons, and deciding what kind of bonuses you get each time you level.

In addition, escort missions always had the person in front of you and running slightly faster than you did. They’d show up on a map, and they stopped when you got too far away from them. Side quests were mostly interesting. Some were more unique than others, but even the “go here and check on this” side quests offered enough context to get me invested in their lives so that I wanted to know how their farm on the other side of the map was doing.

 

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The look on this wolf’s face says, “I regret every decision I have ever made.”

 

Finally, there was the beautiful art design. I didn’t realize Todd McFarlin (creator of Spawn) was one of the art designers when I first got the game. The stylized creatures and armor designs are beautiful and complement each other. Everything, even down to the environmental details, felt like it all belonged in the same world. With how massive the world is, that is pretty impressive.

But like a cake made with spoiled eggs, all the lovely frosting and other tasty ingredients can’t cover up what’s wrong at its core.

As interesting as the story of my character was, I realized that after 27 hours of play, I knew almost as little as I did 5 hours in. While the side quests were interesting and fun, there was nothing that connected me to the core of the story. I never felt like I was revealing anything new about the main story, even when I started exclusively doing the main story quests. No matter what I did, it always seemed to lead to a new question that made me go further into the world rather than answering a previous question. The incredibly massive map I once saw full of potential suddenly became a daunting landscape full of more questions and no answers (like an episode of Lost). Part of this long span of time failing to expand on the story might be from my side questing, but even when I fought the urge to help villagers stop monsters from eating their faces, I never accomplished anything remarkable.

In a similar vein, the plethora of spells and abilities started becoming a problem. All of your abilities and spells work on the same hotkey system, which is limited to four slots. There are so many spells and abilities, and you can pretty much max out any of them in two levels. This forces you to choose new spells and abilities. Unfortunately, you have to switch them out in the menu or stop using some of them. That is incredibly annoying to me. I want to have access to everything, or I don’t want it. Once you max out an ability, you have to start picking ones you’re never going to use because you have to spend your points.

 

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These little buggers are called Brownies. Every time I killed one, all I could think about was an Abby Howard comic about sadness brownies (http://www.jspowerhour.com/comics/36)

 

Combat also started getting boring as the game progressed. You can only have two weapons equipped, each one mapped to a different button, giving you two attacks to choose from. That became a little boring because each weapon only had one attack. There are a lot of abilities to give you more attacks, but some of them take up the same hotkeys as spells do and others use clunky mechanics that I couldn’t get work most of the time.

While I found my character and her role in the world extremely interesting, the world itself seemed, for lack of a better term, like typical fantasy fare. There are fae, gnomes, and humans, and they all act as if their character motivation came out of the D&D Player’s Manual. As engaging and interesting particular aspects of the world were, the world as a whole felt like something I’ve seen several times before.

All of that is what got me to quit, and I’m not sure I’ll pick it back up. However, if those things don’t bother you, or if it sounds interesting anyway, I would recommend the game. It’s a game I’d love to let a friend borrow and try out, but you can’t really do that with Steam. And honestly, for $5, it was a good investment for 20ish hours of fun and a few hours of tapering enjoyment. I’m not upset that I bought it, but I wish I knew about a review like this one before I did so.

I heard tale of a world-ending army readying to march upon the land, and I ignored them so I could help villagers with tasks they could have completed themselves if they bothered to get off the couch.

5/10, enjoyed letting the world die while I saved a dog.

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