I’ll tell you what, all these RPGs that I review just make me look like a lazy ass, especially epic-long action-adventure RPGs like EA’s latest Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Unfortunately though, while there is a ton of content, the game-play is actually quite repetitive and uninteresting. You can certainly tell that the developers of this title have worked on MMOs in the past because there is a very distinct World of Warcraft-feel from artistic style to the focus on meaningless quests and collection of mounds and mounds of gear. While this wasn’t the best game for me, I’m willing to bet that a lot of you out there actually will really enjoy it.
Reckoning opens with a cutscene showing you dying on the battlefield and then springing back to life on a gurney where you customize your character. You are the Fateless One, the first mortal to ever be revived at the Well of Souls who, get this, can’t remember who you are or how you died. Unfortunately, the Well is under attack by the Tuatha, or immortal Winter Fae who are trying to wipe the mortal races off of the face of the kingdom, and you’ve got to escape. On the way out, you run into a Fateweaver who is essentially a fortuneteller capable of revealing when and how mortals will die. He tells that you are unique in that your fate is not defined and that you have the ability to alter the fate of others.
With this information, you set out on a mission to discover your identity and determine why you have these new powers. This of course turns out to involve a lengthy series of quests that involve raising an army to stop the resurrection of a god-like being set out to destroy the world. There is nothing in this story that hasn’t been done before and it really wasn’t interesting enough to hold my attention throughout much more than the first few hours of the game. Several primary companion characters will join you on and off throughout your adventures, though you’ll never be in control of them. These characters are probably the most interesting in the game though.
Like many modern RPGs, there is a massive amount of dialog sequences that you’ll participate in, but I didn’t feel like my choices in the dialect had any actual effect on the story, and what’s worse was that my character didn’t have any voice acting. There are so many characters in the game and everything is voice acted, so why not have an actor for the main character. This really bugged me and I feel like it alone was what ruined my immersion.
So while the quests and dialog are rather bland, the art direction is absolutely amazing, though not all that unique. The graphics are average as far as other Action RPGs are concerned but that art direction of the environments is just stunning. Unfortunately, other portions of the game’s presentation are lacking. Cutscenes and Dialogs don’t seem polished, as there are harsh cuts and breaks between scenes and paragraphs – some simple cross fades would have done wonders. I think what annoyed me the most though was how plagued the game is with load times. It’s not that the load times take a long time; it’s simply that there are so many of them. The developers probably should have called this: Kingdoms of Load Times… or perhaps Kingdoms of Shit-Loads-of-Side-Quests.
The Character creation system allows you to customize your appearance by selecting one of 4 playable races. From here you are free to build your character to your choosing placing points into a combination of three classes with 22 abilities per tree. The might tree is of course the warrior tree focusing on slow heavy attacks with lots of armor, the finesse tree is based on stealth and speed and the sorcery tree is your spells. As you level up, you can place points into any tree, allowing you to really create some unique builds to suit your desired play style. Additional customization comes the form of Destinies that allow you to select a series of passive buffs and alternate abilities. Overall, I felt that the character creation and customization options were built rather well, but there really aren’t that large of a variety of moves and abilities to use in combat.
You can only map 4 abilities at a time to the controller, which means you’re going to be spamming them over and over. Granted, there are special moves that you can unlock as well that are triggered with certain key presses or after events like holding up your shield or rolling, but overall, the combat really gets stale pretty quickly. The gameplay really is nothing more than a button masher.
As you “get creative” with your kills, a reckoning bar will fill and when full will allow you to enter Reckoning Mode which lets you simply decimate all of the foes on the screen, slowing them down to a crawl and significantly increasing your damage output. While the concept is pretty neat, it does nothing but trivializes even what was to be the most challenging boss fights on the normal difficulty setting.
I played the game for 24 hours which allowed me to complete the main story and 44 side quests on the normal difficulty setting, but I have to only assume there is a shit-load more to do still. There are side-quests freaking EVERYWHERE. The game-world is quite large, perhaps on scale with something like Fallout 3 and a fast-travel system allows you to quickly move between the destinations you’ve already discovered. Luckily, the game lets you continue to play after you complete it so that you can work on maximizing your character and hunting down the coolest looking gear.
And herein lies Reckoning’s most addictive and drawing feature to me. This game is all about the gear. With a loot system similar to World of Warcraft and various other MMOs, you can spend an eternity hunting down and crafting the coolest gear. From the start your character can wield all of the weapon-types in the game, which will give you a nice variety of combat play styles to try out as well. That’s just one of my favorite aspects of RPGs though – pimping out your character in the coolest looking gear you can find – and in Reckoning, there is simply tons of it. One thing I didn’t understand though is why your character doesn’t have his shield out at all times. It only shows up when you block, which was just weird to me.
So in the end, this really wasn’t that great of a game to me, yet at times it was strangely addictive. The problem is that I could only play this for a few hours a day because I just got bored due to its repetitive and uninteresting design. What sucks is that the game’s art direction is so beautiful and it has lots of concepts that could be cool, but is bogged down with extremely bland game-play. Now, take this for what it is worth, but to me, MMOs are just dated and boring since I spent so many years of my life playing them. I just can’t get excited for a game like this, BUT I am willing to bet there will be some of you out there that actually like games filled with meaningless quests and grinds for gear and gold because you’ve been tricked into believing you are getting your monies worth. If you want to play single-player World of Warcraft, you should absolutely check out Kingdoms of Amalur, because that’s EXACTLY what it is. For the rest of us, I’d certainly give this title a big fat pass.
Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge Games
Publisher: 38 Studios, Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: February 7, 2012
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