Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Review

 I’ve had somewhat of a rocky start to my relationship with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. I had played the demo prior to its launch and decided for various reasons that I’d pick it up as soon as it was available. That’s something I typically don’t do these days, but the game showed a lot of promise and had a lot of big names attached to it. R.A. Salvatore had worked on the story. Todd McFarlane had worked on the art. Ken Rolston had worked on the game design itself. I’d say of the three, you’re more likely to not recognize Ken Rolston, but he was previously the designer of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and IV: Oblivion which is a big deal in video games. This all amounts to high expectations across the board for story, design and game depth. Unfortunately, I fear my own expectations were too high.

Amazing Visuals
I spent the first ten hours or so really disappointed with the story and characters of the game. When I play a role-playing game (RPG) I’m usually pulled through the game by a desire to know what’s going to happen next. This is not so in Amalur.  I often found myself simply not caring what happens next. The story was failing me, and the characters were typically bland and unremarkable. The lore and the story of Amalur are certainly interesting but their method of delivery feels rather forced and boring. I believe it’s because I’m constantly being spoon fed story via exposition, but very rarely just experiencing the story as it unfurls. Many of the story’s segues feel more like a “while you were out” memo, such as coming back from a quest to find the king had been kidnapped and I’m the only one left who can save him. The fact I was not being absorbed into the story the way I hoped led to another question. What was driving me?

Situations like this!
I was getting close to 20 hours on my gruff character modeled after a Viking warrior, and I thinking of starting a new character to begin this ride all over again from scratch as a lithe, stealth assassin. Clearly something was hooking me. Typically when a game is disappointing I can’t wait to just finish and check it off my list of games to beat, or get so bored and discouraged I simply walk away. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on the other hand had me already thinking of my next character. This is when I knew something out of the ordinary was occurring. I know 10 to 20 hours is a lot to ask of a player these days, but I feel something magical happened to me in that time. While grumbling about how the story needs to feel more involved, I was growing addicted to the unbelievable combat system.

I was forced to admit that I absolutely love Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. I can’t seem to put it down. I find myself playing through, not caring about what happens next in the story, but what kind of awesome battles I may have where I travel next. I’m hoping beyond all hopes that any new Downloadable Content (DLC) provides more character combat abilities and more difficult fights. I found myself thinking early on that this was what the “Fable” series should have been delivering by now, rather than spending time developing hand-holding with ugly NPCs. This kind of fast-paced, timing-is-everything, skill-based combat system is exactly what makes an action-based combat system so much fun. It definitely raises the bar for other games in this action-RPG genre. 

Dodge that spear, man!
Because R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane and Ken Rolston are all accomplished veterans in their fields it was easy to think that I was going to get something as well written as a book, as visually stimulating as a comic, and the depth of gameplay I’d come to expect from Elder Scrolls titles. Instead, I’m forced to remind myself that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is 38 Studio's first game title to hit the public. While they didn’t pitch a perfect game, they have created something that is extremely fun and well put together. I hope that future content for this game adds more depth and particularly difficulty to the late-game combat with many additional combat-centric challenges. I also look forward to see where this series will go in the future and what other kinds of games they may make together. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning nails it when it comes to addictive, deep and fun combat and character customization.


I wanted to take a moment to announce something I started over the weekend. I call it "A Breton in Skyrim" and is a reader-guided adventure of realistic living in the game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I have a few posts up and leave reader polls to see what Genjo, the Breton, will do next in his life.

He must eat and drink. He must sleep. These rules are enforced by a mod.
He walks most places, meaning he may not get as far as you'd expect in a day's travel.
The final rule is that when his time comes to die, so too will this blog project.

I make no promises about how often I'll update this site, but people seem to be reacting positively to it so I'll try to dedicate some time to it every week. Thank you for checking it out.



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