- Especially early on in the
gameplay with lesser item strengths/powers, combat battles
especially against fiercer opponents can be extremely
challenging and intense
- Dozens of hours of gameplay across an unbelievably expansive
- Fast travel option saves tons of wasted travel time,
particularly when needing to traverse across a large expanse to
reach the desired destination
- Outside of the Main and Faction
missions, gameplay can evolve into nothing more than gathering
an item, returning it to the character that sent you on said
mission, get another item to gather, returning it yet again to
the requesting character; repeating this same mission gameplay a
few times until the final objective is returned to the
- Sometimes gets a case of the “visual invisibles” – characters
that should be on-screen are caught in clipping issues and are
actually “invisible” momentarily when they shouldn’t be
- Too much loading time; moving from one map point to another
during fast travel, or simply entering buildings, requires
loading wait after loading wait
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of Amalur: Reckoning
Score:8.5 / 10
When you create a game that’s similar in
style and substance – a fantasy world dungeon crawler role-playing game
to the juggernaut Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, especially when your game is
slated for release just months following Skyrim’s hugely successful
unleashing, you need a lot of elements to come together to make sure
your game doesn’t get overshadowed by Skyrim’s massive eclipse.
Electronic Arts wove those elements together nicely with its release of
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on the Xbox 360.
To give the game the best chance of competing against Skyrim, an
all-star cast was assembled to create Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
Todd McFarlane designed many of the creatures and monsters roaming the
land. Famed fantasy writer R.A.
Salvatore wrote the story of Amalur.
Oblivion designer Ken Rolston served as the executive designer. And
funding the project was the development house of 38 Studios under the
majority ownership of former baseball player Curt Shilling – he of the
famous Boston Red Sox “bloody sock” lore – who just happens to be an
overly avid gamer.
The result is a very
good game that isn’t quite up to the
overall excellence of Skyrim as an RPG, but combines gameplay that takes
familiar elements Fable’s visual look and interactions with characters,
God of War fighting gameplay, and of course RPG components a la Skyrim
such as gold/item collecting, weapons/armor upgrading, magic wielding
along with skills building/implementation (blacksmithing, sagecrafting
R.A. Salvatore’s Amalur storyline follows the adventures of the Fateless
One – a once-dead mortal brought back to life by the Well of Souls via
the gnome scientist Fomorous Hugues, thus escaping his “fate” of death.
That becomes an important plot point, as by escaping his own fate, he is
able to affect the fate of others, and he becomes the most important
living-once-more being in the Faelands and involved in the Crystal War
that is currently underway across the five regions amongst the four
races. A rich history of the land, people, creatures and background of
everything Amalur is found in the dialogue-heavy conversation branches
that gamers will be able to have with literally hundreds of non-playable
In the beginning, gamers can customize their character, and choose the
Fateless One’s destiny – do gamers want a warrior type, hacking and
slashing across the land of Amalur; or a stealthy thief, more proficient
at stealing items and avoiding direct battling against enemy factions;
or a sorcery destiny, where magic is more preferred than might. That can
be changed during the game if someone chooses to follow another path of
destiny, too. However, as much as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning tries to
be a Skyrim-style RPG, it really plays more as a God of War brawler with
a splash of RPG flavor.
Combat is the real appeal of the game. With
an admitted borrowing of God of War’s multi-enemy combat interaction
that infuses the ability to use magical attacks and a fate meter, that
once filled and unleashed, pulls everything into a “bullet time”
interaction sequence that allows gamers to annihilate multiple enemies
at once as long as the meter hasn’t depleted, finishing in a
over-the-top death-knell finale for the unfortunate enemy at the
receiving end. And there’s battle after battle to enjoin just by
traveling across the land. Enemies appear from nowhere, popping up en
mass to attack the Fateless One, ranging from small “mostly harmless”
creatures to bigger, badder, brawnier beasts that can be both scary and
dauntingly tough to defeat.
But there are plenty of RPG decisions to be made, although the RPG
elements are leaned more to the side of an “RPG lite” game such as the
recent Dungeon Siege III than Skyrim. Gamers of course will be gold
looting and item collecting, especially for weapons and armor that that
is crucial to survival against enemy forces. Gamers will find tons of
treasure chests strewn across the land, and it is in the Fateless One’s
best interest to unlock the chests, which fall into a few categories:
the freebies that simply have to be opened, the one’s that require
lockpicks and skill at using them, and finally, chests that are guarded
by magic that must be dispelled to acquire their contents.
Fallen enemies also can be looted for gold, items, weaponry and armor.
And getting better and stronger armor and weapons – which like every
other item in the game can also be bought via the various merchants
throughout – is absolutely crucial to advancing deep into the game,
especially when the final boss battles during the Main missions are
initiated. Using Blacksmithing, Sagecrafting and Alchemy skills is also
important, as gamers can craft weapons/armor, gems that can increase
weaponry/armor strength and magic elixirs (especially health potions
that come in handy during hot and heavy life-depleting fights).
Magic can also be used, but in the heat of battles, it is extremely easy
to forget those abilities are available, and it really is much easier to
just build up your Might skills and uses weaponry against foes than
trying to fling magical attacks at them.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s gameplay is what you would expect for a
traditional dungeon crawler: undertake quests/missions, go exploring
across the realm (yes, including caverns, caves, mines and castles
complete with dungeons), collect items and gold, get more
quests/missions, until finally squaring off in a final battle. The Main
quests are the most involved, challenging and satisfying, complete with
cut-scenes driving the quest forward and ending spectacularly with a
massive boss to defeat, although it’s not exactly easy at first to
figure out the proper strategy to dispatch of the humongous boss.
Faction missions require side-taking, and if that decision as to what
side you eventually favor isn’t thought through, it could be annoying
throughout the rest of the game as the jilted faction will aggravatingly
attack you as “punishment” for picking the “Hatfields” to their “McCoys”.
Outside of the Main and Faction missions, however, gameplay can evolve
into nothing more than gathering an item, returning it to the character
that sent you on said mission, get another item to gather, returning it
yet again to the requesting character, repeating this same mission
gameplay a few times until the final objective is completed and returned
to the quest-initiating character.
And seeing how the gameplay can last a very long time (I clocked in
around 60 hours of gameplay time, with just a handful of minor missions
left to complete), that can get tedious. That wouldn’t be too bad,
except throughout Kingdoms of Amalur’s adventuring, there’s just too
much loading time; moving from one map point to another even during fast
travel (which allows gamers to warp immediately to previously visited
sites on the map), or simply entering buildings requires loading wait
after loading wait. Other than that, there’s only one more minor
technical issue: sometimes the game gets a case of the “visual
invisibles” – characters that should be on-screen are get caught in
clipping issues and are actually “invisible” momentarily when they
shouldn’t be, but it really doesn’t affect the gameplay at all.
Offering much more action-heavy gameplay and battling with weapons and
magic than Skyrim, but lacking some of Skyrim’s RPG complexity, Kingdoms
of Amalur is still a long-lasting, adventurous game that will provide
plenty of fantasy-infused dungeon-crawling fun.