Reviews: Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning

Game of the year at least

I would just like to preface this with saying that I'm playing the PC version, so there may be bugs I'm not aware of for the consoles.

This was an impulse buy. I saw it on Steam, played the demo, and bought it for 60 bucks. I hate it when I do that, and I always regret it. I ended up with Tiberium Twilight that way.

I don't regret buying this game for a second.

Amalur is absolutely beautiful—in every sense of the word. Everyone except the player character is professionally voiced, and Scenery Porn abounds. The entire world feels magical, vibrant, and alive. But at the same time, the graphics engine is low-powered enough to not cripple your machine. My PC isn't exactly an old clunker, but its definitely not cutting edge either, and it hasn't slowed down for even a heartbeat. The plot is deep and engaging; not just the main plot, but also the many (MANY) sidequests. At one point you save a village that is under siege by an ancient spider-queen, who was freed from an eternal cycle of rebirth and defeat by a fey-king's jilted lover—and this is just a minor quest chain in an easily forgettable zone. I'm fifty hours in, and I think I've just passed the halfway point.

The gameplay is likewise incredible. It uses a talent tree and class system easily comparable to World Of Warcraft (though not without twists), but combat is completely real-time. Tactics are important, especially at higher difficulty levels, though once your character gets to a certain point difficulty starts to peter off. You also don't have to worry too much about mistakes in character building. There are a few special NPC's scattered around who can reset your talent and skill points.

There are a few problems:

Gameplay Problems: As noted above, combat starts getting too easy, even at highest difficulty. Switching between the local and world maps should be easier. It would also be nice to be able to unbind the camera, if only to be able to look around at the gorgeous scenery better.

Story Problems (no spoilers): Everyone goes on about how alien the fae are, how impossible they are to understand...but they're not, really. Other than being dedicated to playing out the roles of ancient heroes, they're really not all that strange.

I'm out of space. Very good game, huge time sink.

Ripping Off Better Games: The Game

I watched the Let's Play of this game by Day Nine and Felicia Day; they looked like they were having fun. I enjoyed both Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends; and hey, R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane. How bad could it be?

Well, it's competent, and there are some good choices, but they're all cribbed from other, more successful titles. Even worse, they grabbed the mechanics but not the logic behind them. "Let's have Action Commands for Finishing Moves! God of War did!" Yeah, they gave us Quick Time Events to create tense, spectacular Puzzle Bosses; Amalur's Button Mashing only lets you earn bonus EXP from an already-defeated boss. "Let's have a dialogue wheel with nice & mean options! Mass Effect did!" Yeah, but that game featured a Karma Meter and embraced Multiple Endings; Amalur offers Railroading. Item Crafting, the "versatile" Point Build System, Socketed Equipment, the profusion of Fetch Quests, the occasional Persuasion check... They seem like Shout Outs to other games.

Creator's Apathy is blindingly obvious. Camera Screw is prevalent, solely because someone insisted on adding an auto-targeting feature. As Zero Punctuation pointed out, much of the Scenery Porn is lost because the camera spends its time pointed at the ground. The worldbuilding is pretty deep, but with a Featureless Protagonist and incredibly-bland NPCs, the Eight Deadly Words take over. And you know how the Player Character is Immune to Fate and can Screw Destiny? Imagine how cool it would be to actually be able to shape the lives of the game's NPCs... and then keep imagining it, because you gets no plot- or story-relevant powers, just a lame Bullet Time Super Mode.

In video games, what you do never matters—it's a video game, for crying out loud. But some games are better about disguising that fact than others. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is not one of them. It's the Mockbuster version of better games. It's the equivalent of slapping a Formula One paint job on your minivan and expecting to go faster. Play accordingly.