[Review] Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

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The combat system in most RPGs has never extended much further than simply taking turns or merely swinging around some type of lethal weaponry at the push of a button. When I heard about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and its combat, I couldn’t believe that people were drawn to the game based simply on the combat elements alone.

I was expecting a mediocre game with fun combat, but with the basic mix of RPG elements added to it, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have made KoA: Reckoning by far one of the most enjoyable action RPGs I’ve ever played.

Story

The games story is fairly straightforward. You’re a fallen soldier who has returned from the dead; you have no memory of your past and have found yourself in the midst of a terrible war against an evil group of immortals known as the Tuatha.

The Tuatha want nothing more than to wipe all mortals from Amalur. The Tuatha are part of a larger group of beings known as Fae, who aren’t all necessarily evil.

While the story itself remains fairly generic and overdone, the dialogue features some good voice acting which does help to make things a little more engaging. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent me skipping most of the interactions I encountered, including the main quest.

Combat

The combat is awesome and intense. Weapons are varied from long swords to hammers, daggers, staves and everything in between. A special set of circular blades are specific to Amalur, but all of the weapons carry some brutal animations that never get stale or repetitive.

38 Studios have added some depth beyond just swinging around a sword by introducing combos which can be unlocked for each weapon type as you level up and add ability points to those weapons.

You also have something called Reckoning mode. While the name sounds a bit silly, it takes you into a type of “rage” mode where time slows down, making the task of killing multiple enemies easier to deal with.

The mode also allows some very stylish and vicious finishing moves. Tapping on a particular button during this process will grant more experience points and a flashier cinematic. All of this makes combat the best part of the game.

Build your character

Leveling works much like most RPGs. When you level up you are given a certain amount of points to spend on new abilities. Abilities are spread out into three main categories: might, sorcery and finesse. You can pool your points in any manner you like allowing for a fairly customisable play style.

Another attractive feature is the looting. Much like Diablo, you’ll find yourself searching every chest for better loot. I created a mage/warrior build, but I still loved picking locks on chests to find the goods inside. This also encourages exploration of the world and its dungeons.

Amalur also manages to provide depth in their open world. It doesn’t have the sense of history that the Elder Scrolls games have, but you still feel like the world has been there for thousands of years.

Dungeons dot the map, which are mostly explored through the main or side quests. The style of the dungeons vary from ancient ruins and mines to abandoned castles and other RPG standards.

Quests are mostly found through NPCs in the game world. While the game certainly sticks to some of your typical RPG quests like finding a lost apprentice or fetching an item, you’ll find some that are unique to Amalur.

Helping to heal a friendly Fae, stopping a shipment of potent potions and even trying to help a wolf who has been turned into a human are just a few of the odd quests I’ve come across.

The environments are beautiful and vibrant. Big Huge Games and 38 studios have used a wide array of colors to create locations that pop off the screen. Forests contain massive trees that would rival that of a red wood. Towns are lively with NPCs strolling through the streets on their own errands and guards are placed at interior and exterior locations.

Both player and NPC animations are fluid and respectable. Your character definitely appears to glide slightly while running or walking along the ground, however this does not detract from your immersion in the game.

The only blemish I found in the game’s animation was the NPC’s facial animations. They appear like marionettes with their lower jaws flapping up and down. It can make the dialogue a little off-putting, but once again it isn’t game ending. There could’ve been just a little more polish.

Verdict

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I didn’t really expect Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to draw me in as much as it did. I wanted to believe that the combat alone would not be enough to draw me in, but I’ve definitely been proven wrong here.

The additional blend of core RPG elements has turned Kingdoms of Amalur into one of those games I have found myself repeatedly  going back to even though it may require some polish.

If you’re an RPG fan, you’ll definitely want to give this game your attention.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC) is available from GameFanShop.com

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