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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review

Greg Tito | 7 Feb 2012 16:30
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The interaction between combat and leveling is brought down, however, by a simple user interface problem. Spells and abilities all use mana, but the user interface only has space for you to use four abilities in the thick of battle. That essentially means any points you spend purchasing more than four active abilities are wasted, which seems silly given that the strength of the system is being able to snipe abilities you like from each tree. Worse, there is a radial menu with plenty of slots available, but you can only map inventory items like potions there. Why? Were the designers just taunting me by waving this unused real estate in front of me when I needed it for all my spells?

Some abilities don't work as advertised, which compounds the problem. My Storm Bolt spell is supposed to turn into a Tempest when I hold down the button, but no matter if I tap it or hold it down, the long casting time of Tempest is triggered. I don't know if that's caused by a bug or not, but I didn't appreciate cutting down the already slim offensive options. The rest of the game was relatively bug-free, in contrast to a lot of other expansive games.

The otherwise helpful loading screens don't tell you to only invest in four abilities, but, don't worry, fate is on your side again. If you buy a skill you don't like or can't use, or you just want to completely revamp your character, you can pay a Fateweaver to erase all the points you've spent so far. Doing so is possible because your character has apparently been reborn outside the Fate that governs all living things in Amalur. Even the repecs are connected to the lore.

The action is supported by all of the common pursuits like crafting and treasure-finding, and Reckoning's waters run deep here, too. Finding new weapons or armor drives many an adventurer, and those people are rewarded handily in Amalur. You will likely sell much of what you find, but unlike many games, there are plenty of items worth buying from shops, some of which cost hundreds of thousands in gold pieces. It's nice to have a reason to save up gold again.

Standard vocations like alchemy and blacksmithing are presented with small innovations, while a new concept like dispelling warded chests puts a refreshing spin on collecting loot, even if the minigame associated with it is damnably hard. I especially liked the Detect Hidden skill, even though it meant spending hours picking through the same rock piles and wooden logs scattered throughout the world. Amalur is so beautiful that I needed little excuse to explore it.

While there are many choices in how to succeed in playing your character, Reckoning does not give many chances to express yourself in playing a role. Because the protagonist isn't voiced, dialogue choices are generally cosmetic and characters don't treat you any differently if you are a jerk. A select few quests are resolved differently based on how you accomplish them, and the Persuasion skill offers some interesting options, but shaping your narrative comes more from choosing what you don't do. Which factions you align yourself with inform your story, just as ignoring the scholar who wants you to collect 10 lascivious books means you don't have time for frivolous tasks. That's fine, but I wish there was more interaction with how the story unfolded than just choosing which order you completed quests.

The world of Amalur introduced by Reckoning is - to take a cue from the psuedo-Scottish accents prevalent there - frickin' huge. You can get lost for a hundred hours or more looking in each hole and completing each side quest, but even the main story will easily gobble up a quarter of that time before you know it. Reckoning may not revolutionize the roleplaying genre, but it delivers a consistently good package that will keep you entertained throughout.

Bottom line: Reckoning surprised me with its energetic combat, rich story, and dazzling visual style. The weight of all its parts threatens to pull it down, but the rigid skeleton holds strong.

Recommendation: Don't pass on Amalur just because it's a new IP from a new company. Fans of RPGs with a focus on action won't be disappointed.

This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Game: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Genre: RPG
Developer: 38 Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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