Review: Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

February 9, 2012, By Christian Davis

I’m just going to admit it now; Finishing Kingdom of Amalur in a short amount of time and still getting a good feel for the game is impossible. So, I didn’t complete it. I put around 30 or so hours into this game and I really felt that I put a sizeable dent in it. It’s not that I was lazy when playing the game; I came to the realization that I simply didn’t want to finish the game yet. I couldn’t just blaze through a game of this stature; especially one that I was enjoying so much. There are so many side quests, faction missions, and locales to explore and experience, I wanted to savor each second I spent playing. Rushing through would only give me a mere glimpse of what this game has to offer. So when you play Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning, take your time and bask in the joy and fun that is unfolding in front of you.

When you begin playing Kingdom of Amalur, your character actually starts off dead. You died in a war and you were getting thrown into a big pit of dead bodies of other unlucky soldiers. Thanks to a bit of science however, you’ve been brought back to life. You start the game inside of a mountain and surprisingly there is a lot of scenery to be seen just inside of here. So when I finally made it outside of the murky death trap I was revived and was greeted to a bright and vibrant world,  I could tell that a lot of hard work went into creating this vast and gorgeous land. You’ll end up visiting small towns and densely populated cities to open plains and amazingly secure fortresses. Each location looks and feels different when traversing through them and it never gets dull.

The real charm of the game starts as soon as you meet your first resident of this troubled world. The population that compiles Kingdom of Amalur is likeable – the ones that you’re suppose to like anyways – and after the first few sentences, you feel like they have quite a bit to say. Each time you ask a question you get a pretty lengthy response which also opens up more dialogue options and your interest just keeps building and building. You learn a lot about the game’s lore if you take the time to talk to all of these characters. The history of small gangs and character back stories are all there with unique voiceovers. The only character in the game that doesn’t speak is your own.

You’ll meet a variety of civilians when touring the various locales; everything from humans, elves, gnomes and the magic bound Fae– who end up being what the story centralizes around most. They are seers of fate and can identify the destiny of each character in the game, except for you. Since you were brought back from the dead, your fate is now a big blur and this allows you to change yours and those of the ones around you. Your goal is to stop a strain of Fae known as the Tuatha, who believe in a new god and want the world of Amalur all to themselves. Yes, it’s not the most original story.

To take on these guys, you have to do what you do best; take on quests and level up. Quests in this game are pretty generic. Kill the spiders so this girl can get her flowers, go find this person and bring him/her back to me, go get my lost ring from these bandits, etc… You’re just the errand boy for many of these characters and for some that can get a bit boring. The payout for doing these tasks aren’t always what you want either. You’re always hoping for a rare weapon or piece of armor, but it’s usually just plain ol’ gold. Though, that’s not to say they didn’t try and spice things up a bit. For instance, there is a side quest where you have to take this amulet to a fountain to remove its curse. While holding this amulet however, you’re cursed and attacking enemies will damage you in return. Wouldn’t you know it, the place you need to go is littered with some of the most difficult enemies. It was a very tense experience because I knew trying to defend myself could result in my own death.  So I ran as fast as I could.

There are literally hundreds of side missions at your disposal, all of which are optional. Even the missions that you’re given when joining one of the several factions don’t ever have to be completed. I’m currently in three factions and I’ve only done a couple for one of them. You definitely have the freedom to do what you want, when you want and that goes for the main quests as well. I’ve hardly done any of the main story quests while playing. All my other time has been spent exploring the landscape and completing these side quests. For a good while, I forgot there was even a main quest until I ran into my guide by accident.

Obviously I’m not just skipping through the world completely care free. There are enemies everywhere and they’re just waiting for you to leave the town that you’re in and step into their neck of the woods. There’s even a nice feature where the enemies will jump you and with large numbers. Once I was attacked by four large trolls, three bears, and two giant spiders. The first time an ambush like this occurred, it made me jump in my seat. The spiders burrowed from underneath the ground and the other came out of hiding from behind trees and large boulders. That initial scare was soon followed by panic as I had to fend off these creatures. It was really fun and caused me be a bit more attentive while navigating.

 

Of course, your character is able to handle these enemies with all of the abilities and weapons at his or her disposal. When I first started out playing the game, I had picked up a magic staff and started to really focus my leveling attributes in the sorcery section. After a set amount of points were distributed, I unlocked these really theatrical attacks such as giant ice boulders, hail storms and lightning strikes. They were not only powerful, but really cool to watch. Everything was fine until I got this really badass sword. The damage output was pretty high but if I had been focusing on that warrior attributes, it would have been an even deadlier weapon. So, I decided to change my stats to cater to a warrior play style the second I reached another town.

One of the best parts about Kingdom of Amalur is the fact that you’re character is fateless, so that means you can change –with a fee—the type of character you want to be. It’s a great way to find out what your niche is and it keeps the game feeling fresh. After a while I’ll probably end up changing to a more rogue based character that specializes in sneak attacks and daggers. Or I could try and master several at once and be a well rounded character. The choice is yours.

Engaging in combat is very tight and really packs a punch.  You really feel the hits that you’re landing and it gives each kill some well earned satisfaction. The fighting is very responsive and quick and they can definitely get pretty intense. The best part about the combat is the unique “Fateshift” kills. When disposing of these deadly creatures and people, you slowly fill up a separate meter. Once filled, the world will slow down and  you’ll character will gain a significant damage and speed boost. Once you inflict a certain amount of damage on a character you can then activate a brutal finish blow. For example, I took the sharp tale of this scorpion-esque creature and shoved it in its own mouth.  Immensely satisfying.

Of course, what’s a hero without his weapons?  There are a plethora of weapons and armor to choose from and find in the world of Amalur. They range from your basic long swords to great swords as tall as you. Then you have the magic infused staffs which bring out a flurry of elemental attacks or you can try your hand at using the mana draining specters which can keep enemies at a safe distance.

Depending on the amount of money you have and character level, you can just go and buy the weapons you want. The later areas that you discover in the game will of course have better weapons at exceedingly more expensive prices. If penny pinching is not your preferred route, you can always build your own weapon through the blacksmithing ability.

As you navigate through the world you’ll pick up sword hilts, metal blades, sharpening tools, or leather straps for example. These are all essential items to properly using your blacksmithing ability. Combining these certain items will create your very own unique weapon. If your level isn’t high enough to build something substantial, conjure up your own potion at the alchemy lab that will improve your blacksmithing skill. If that’s too much work for you, go ahead and level up your Detect Hidden skill and just run to any of the treasure chests that you see on your mini map for surprise items. The higher the level, the more items you’ll be able to find. It may take more time, but there’s nothing wrong with free stuff that you could sell to make even more money.

The mini map is your primary means of navigation in the game and for the most part, it works perfectly fine. Then there are times where you think you’re going in the right direction and end up going in the complete opposite. The mini map always stays magnified and never pans out to give you a full look at your surroundings. I continuously had to pull up the full sized map to verify that I wasn’t wandering into some forbidden territory. Though this is a minor complaint of the game, it is something that will affect your play sometimes.

The lock picking skill tree is virtually useless. There are an endless amount of chests that can be unlocked and all have varying degrees of difficulty. The only problem with this is that it doesnt matter what level you are. You can always unlock the more troublesome chests as long as you have enough lock picks.  Even so, lock picking wasn’t very difficult to begin with. I found that by directing my pick to the upper right or upper left corner of the lock, I had a pretty high success rate.

Other than the aforementioned problems, I really had no major gripes with Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning. Running through the various landscapes in this gigantic world and doing absolutely nothing was fun and exciting. Simple things like leveling up or developing your own potion with different herbs and shards really gave you a sense of accomplishment and kept you motivated. That’s what you really need in a game like this—the urge to keep playing and discovering new things. Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning does that with ease and finesse. Sure, the game isn’t the most original out there, but it’s so much fun, you don’t care.

 

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