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Video Game Review: Exciting Battles Save ‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’ From Lackluster World

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CHICAGO - Rating an RPG that feels more along the lines of a straight action game is a little difficult. “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” has a lot of things going for it in the heat of battle, but, unfortunately, there is a lot more to an RPG than how cool it looks when putting on the finishing kill of a giant monster. While the game is incredibly entertaining at some points, it is equally dull and uninspired at others.

Developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games and published by EA, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” begins with your unnamed character being carted down a hallway as gnomes talk about a magical Well of Souls. After your character customizations (some, but nothing substantial) and naming of your protagonist are complete, you wake up in a heap of bodies in the depths of a strange building. Quickly learning how to fight, you meet up with Formorous Hugues, a scientist who created the Well of Souls. Turns out you are the first successful reincarnation from the Well of Souls and you must escape the building, now under attack, as you may be the key to saving the world.

Very quickly you learn that your character has no fate. Unlike every other inhabitant of the world who is bound to a chosen fate, your character not only has no fate or obvious direction, but you can change the fate of others through doing good deeds for them. It’s not a very complex idea, but it establishes the necessity for you in the game and the respect you earn along the way.

Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Photo credit: EA

As the game progresses, there is one major storyline involving your fateless character fighting against the evil forces (known as the Tuatha) who are waging war against all mortal races. The Tuatha are a decent foe considering their great numbers and the beasts they have rallied to fight with them, but when you are a fateless badass with tons of awesome weapons to wield, they really are no match.

This is one of the coolest parts about “Reckoning.” The amount of variation in weaponry, upgrades, destinies, armor/items, and abilities makes for a very exciting amount of different ways to take on enemies. In the heat of battle or a lull point when running to a new destination, you have the ability to switch from a number of different weapons, giving you the choice to fight in a sorcery type with magic and a staff, or to switch to a rouge type with daggers in the middle of a fight. This is the benefit of being fateless: you always have the ability to change how you will fight and play the game.

Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Photo credit: EA

The same can be said about your upgrades, abilities, and destinies. As you level up throughout the game, you are able to choose different skill sets in the categories of might, finesse, and sorcery (essentially knight, rouge, and sorcerer). Giving yourself attributes in one category sets you on your way in one particular direction, but you still have abilities in the other two. You could also spread out your abilities and have decent power in all three categories. The game also allows you to change your destiny type, giving you added bonuses for the character you choose to be. You could place your destiny entirely in might, split the destiny between sorcery and finesse, or put an equal amount in all three categories.

As far as weapons, you can use mighty hammers or greatswords to strike down foes, light and quick daggers or faeblades that allow for multiple hits in a row or sneak attack kills, powerful staffs full of magic, or even chakrams (disc like blades that are used for melee but have serious range). You can also enhance each of these weapons by equipping them with gems that you either find or craft on your own. There is also the option to mend broken equipment or salvage parts of an old item to build an all new weapon through blacksmithing. This amount of variation is great because you don’t have to worry about making the right decision on how you want to progress through the game by choosing a class early on; you are able to try a little of everything and see what fighting style fits you best as you progress through the game.

There is no doubt that the fighting of “Reckoning” is a major plus for this game. There is a large amount of special moves and combinations you can upgrade to with each weapon, making for some thrilling animations and fighting styles during battle. While you will fight the simple bear, wolf, or rouge character, you will also encounter a variety of interesting beasts and creatures that not only look awesome, they fight in very different ways. Much of the credit of this game should be given to designing these variations of creatures, as progressing through the game will show you that the maps and world itself is something to be desired.

Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Photo credit: EA

After entering the third or fourth cave set in the game, I realized that the design of these different caves is almost exactly the same. Likewise, the interiors of houses and buildings in different villages, and the villages themselves are all extremely familiar. The world of “Reckoning” is rather boring to look at (which is a pity considering the amount of time you run around during the game) and the only saving grace is that the monsters and fighting is entertaining enough to look past the dull world.

The story of the game is rather simple and nothing too engaging, which is a shame considering this is an RPG. Side quests consist of going out and killing a couple of enemies or finding a lost person, and they’re rarely a new type of quest that you haven’t already done in the main storyline. The conversations you have with main characters and local villagers are more descriptive history about the world than exciting tales, and even when you get to choose what to say in the conversation, the path of the game will lead you in one direction. Basically, what you choose in conversation won’t really matter; the game is moving towards one climactic end no matter how you talk to people.

One of the special designs of the game is the Reckoning Mode which builds in a bar as you fight throughout the game. When your reckoning bar is full, you can enter reckoning mode on your choosing, which has your character moving in a sped-up version of battle where each hit you give is more damaging and your speed is so much quicker than any enemy. The mode is nice for fighting large groups, but it feels like a bit of a cop out for fighting major bosses. Saving my reckoning mode until fighting a giant Cyclops-like monster that is fifty times my size, I was able to kill the beast easier than fighting a few wolves without reckoning mode on. Also, if you can look past the fact that the bosses can be killed easier, you will find that some boss battles will not allow you to finish the boss off using the reckoning mode. In one particular fight, there was a natural run on the roof of a building that the fight had to go through. Turning on my reckoning mode at the beginning of the fight, I was only able to take down the boss’s health a little bit before each hit I dealt out had no damage on him. When the reckoning bar reached zero, I had to continue fighting the boss for the entire run of the battle, even though I had easily delivered enough blows that he would have been dead far before that point.

Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Photo credit: EA

I did have a bit of an issue with the amount of drops and upgrades you receive rather easily in the game. Fighting a simple bear or wolf, you may be rewarded with a drop that includes a weapon greater than any you are already carrying or armor that will protect you even more. There is no necessity to fix your weapons or craft new ones because you will easily find several usable weapons along your journey. In fact, you will end up throwing some of your weapons away with how quickly your backpack fills up with items you find on your drops. Moreover, there is a point in the game that you will reach where there aren’t any better weapons or armor to even receive. With tons of build-up to greater weapons, there is a sudden stop to the progression and you have essentially reached the cap of powerful weaponry or armor.

While the fighting and action of “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” (as well as the variety of fighting styles and creatures in the game) are nice, the game does hit its faults in its drab world and its lackluster storyline, as well as the lack of difficulty created by the ease of having powerful items or using your Reckoning Mode. As an RPG, the game does fail to create exciting backstories and a completely engaging narrative, but it is still very hard to hate this game. While it may not be the strongest fantasy-RPG ever made, it is still full of tons of action, great variation, and some exciting fighting styles. There is definitely a fair share of lull points, but they are countered with some very entertaining battles and awesome looking foes that you must face. It may not be the best, but “Reckoning” is worth the price of admission.

“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” was developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games and released by 38 Studios and EA on February 7, 2012. It was reviewed for the PC, but the title is also available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. It is rated M (Mature).

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Tim Martens

By TIM MARTENS
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
tim@hollywoodchicago.com

Jordan's picture

I disagree with you about

I disagree with you about the landscape being boring, i thought this game had one of the most beautiful landscapes i have seen, up there with skyrim. I do think they should increase the difficulty by a fair amount though, or decrease the drop rate of overpowered weapons.

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