I’ve got a bit of a confession — I don’t worship at the alter of Skyrim. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the amount of work that went into it, and sheer craftsmanship that it must have taken to make the kingdom of Skyrim so realistic — I just find myself getting bored very quickly. Maybe it’s the combat, maybe it’s just my taste in games.
It’s interesting then that with Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning, it’s the exact opposite. Thanks to an impressive combat system that would be at home in any pure action game, I searched out combat and found myself caring about the progression of my character, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about the world around me. Is it big? Sure. Interesting? Not at all.
Kingdoms of Amalur starts off with an impressive enough premise — you’re dead. Well, you were dead, before a device called The Well of Souls ressurected you into a nameless, fateless being. The key here is that since you have no fate, you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want — be a hero, be a jerk, fight for justice, rob people..it’s all up to you. In essence, you’re rewriting the destiny of Amalur with your choices.
At least you should be. Reckoning puts a lot of stock in the idea of just how important your choices really are, but more often than not that’s all it is — an idea. Playing through a number of Amalur’s quests, I did see a bit of change depending on what I did, but it never seemed like the game changing, back of the box bullet point that the game made it out to be. To put it into perspective, with Skyrim, I always felt like I was a driving force in the outcome of the game’s events, but in Amalur, I merely felt like I was an active participant.
That’s not to say that EA and Big Huge Games didn’t try. There’s an impressive amount of dialogue and NPCs to be found in Amalur, and from time to time, it’s well written and interesting, but like a good majority of the game, more often than not it’s your typical RPG fodder. People in this kingdom love to talk, and I often found myself trying to get through their monologue’s as fast as possible.
Like most RPGs, the citizens of Amalur will often give you quests in exchange for goods, and from time to time you’ll get a truly epic one, but more often than not they’re incredibly underwhelming. Find this, kill that, rid this place of that heinous evil thing — it’s all stuff you’ve done in your 0ther RPGS, and it’s a bit disappointing that Reckoning doesn’t really try all that hard.
Reckoning does have a saving grace though — and boy does it save it. The combat engine of Amalur is fun, engaging and does a great deal to advance even some of the game’s worst moments. Much like the combat systems found in more traditional action games, you’ll find the action in Reckoning to be incredibly visceral and fast paced. You’ll perform combos and incredibly entertaining finishing manuever’s (I still can’t get enough of ramming my sword down a belligerent enemy’s throat). It’s incredibly rewarding to find a weapon, become proficient with it and begin to upgrade it to learn new skills and techniques with it.
It’s the combat itself that expands the game’s other mechanics to become remarkablky enjoyable. Looting becomes not only impoortant, but satisfying when you’re standing over an enemy thatr you proudly eviscerated. For the first time in a long time, I actually cared about how my character was levling up in an RPG, and wanted to see myself excel in different specializations. By the end of Reckoning, I was a broad sword carrying badd ass, and I was proud of it.
Visually, Reckoning is anything but what you’d expect. If you had to compare it with another title, it would be the fable series, since the two share a very distinct cartoon style, which is interesting because the rest of the game attempts to be mostly serious. My major problem with the game’s visuals though is just how terrible the game’s lip synching is — it’s as if the developers didn’t even try.
The Blast Factor: Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning never seems to fully establish an identity to call its own — it just borrows from some of gaming’s top franchise’s and fine tunes the mechanics to its own liking. Saved by the remarkable combat engine, you’ll still have a great time with Reckoning. More than anything, it feels like a great start to a new franchise, and we can’t wait for the more cleaned up inevitable sequel.