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Platform

Xbox 360

Genre

Role-Playing

Publisher

Electronic Arts

Developer

Big Huge Games / 38 Studios

ESRB

M (Mature)

Released

February 7, 2012

 

 

- 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 gaming landscape
- 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 quest-initiating character
- 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

 

 

Review: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)

Review: Alan Wake's American Nightmare (360)

Review: Batman: Arkham City (PC)

 

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

kingdom of amalur reckoning          kingdom of amalur reckoning

 

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.

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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

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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 and alchemy).

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 characters.

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.

 

kingdom of amalur reckoning          kingdom of amalur reckoning

 

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.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(March 2, 2012)

 

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