Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning Review-pressions

I think that before I go into any great detail about Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning  I should explain that this is an awkward mixture of both a review and an impressions. You see I have experienced the majority of gameplay that KoA has to offer, but where it apparently scores a lot of points is in it’s story and unfortunately I’m only about 5 hours into the main story (there are A LOT of side quests). Thus while this will function as our official MMGaming review of KoA it also will be open for change should the story impress me enough to change it.

Okay now that’s out of the way I can say another thing. I’ve been thinking of and planning this article since I was about 6 hours in at level 7. I’m now around 16 hours in and level 15. However in that space of time my opinions of the game have changed rather dramatically. I put this down to the whole “no pain no gain” clause that is inherent with large singleplayer RPGs. You have to spend a fair bit of time getting into your character and the story and the game world before you actually properly start to enjoy yourself. And it took a little bit longer than expected in KoA. However I persevered and now I’m pleased to say I AM into it!

Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning is a new singleplayer RPG by Big Huge Games in association with 38 Games and it’s supposedly the first in a series of big RPGs. It’s their Mass Effect/Elder Scrolls type thing. Now the first thing about KoA that needs to be mentioned is it’s size. I think I’ve said it on MMGaming at some point that a speed playthrough of all the quests (side quests and everything) but not a 100% completion of the game, and this is WHILE having done it all before, and so knowing where to go for everything, would take around 200 hours.

That… is… bloody… HUGE! The map is divided into around five major areas with lots of smaller areas inside them. There are around 30 smaller areas in total and of those I have completed about 4. I say completed in that I’ve done every quest I could find and doing my utmost to get every secret I could find as well. But I’m absolutely certain I’ve missed tonnes of stuff, and I might well have to go back the various places. Basically, even if the 200 hours is an overestimation (and I’m still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt), I think this might well be one of the longest RPGs I’ve played in a long time.

The graphics and and overall style of the game remind me a little of World of Warcraft. Slightly cartoony graphics but not exactly a full on cartoon game as it has an awful lot of realism and depth to it.

The gameplay is reminiscent of a mix of World of Warcraft and Fable. Both are third person, over the shoulder games. It’s like WoW in that you have a bar with all your major abilities and spells and you switch between them to use them. And it’s like Fable in that a lot of the combat involves smashing the same buttons furiously to hurl magic or blades around the battlefield in flurries of death and awesome.

It’s by now you may have noticed I’m doing a lot of comparisons to other games. And in honesty, I did make an unfortunate amount of comparisons when I was first playing the game. And even more unfortunately, for KoA, an awful lot of those comparisons were me saying “something else did that better”.

Case in point, the dialogue and talking. When you talk to an NPC (and you can talk to an awful lot of them… an AWFUL lot), they will say something followed by a bunch of options being presented to you at the bottom and you choose what you want your character to say next. While it’s a classic system for an RPG, in KoA it just feels badly done. It’s also a game featuring a silent protagonist. So while you may choose what to ask about, your character never actually talks. And it just ruins the flow of the whole conversation. Now in Skyrim, your character is silent. But the options presented to you make it feel like you are having a proper conversation with the NPCs, it seems like a dialogue. In KoA it seems like a series of short monologues, all directed at you with you choosing which ones to listen to. And that definitely takes away from the immersion, something which can kill an RPG stone, cold dead.

Another thing about the dialogue actually. It bothers me that all the “questions” you can ask about various different things (the place where you are, the people, the magical Fae etc, etc) actually have no bearing on the game. I suffer from something I like to call “Innkeeper Syndrome” where I feel the need to ask every NPC every question that is offered to me. This is because I worry that if I don’t then I might miss some important or cool little side-quest that might net me some decent story, experience or loot. However in KoA, it slowly dawns on you that unless you enjoy listening to people talk at you for hours on end then there’s really no point talking to them unless it’s to do with a quest.

There are other poor aspects. The lockpicking mini-game features you swivelling your pick around the lock and then “opening” it slowly. If the pick starts to shudder and twitch then you stop and change the position. But once again, it just doesn’t feel that good and unfortunately, Skyrim used the same system and did it better!

Dispelling traps on chests and the like is an absolute pain in the arse. What you are presented with is a ring with small symbols on it, and a dial which circles around it at speed (over the symbols). And the aim is to click your mouse at the moments the dial goes over each symbol and then do them all quickly. However, with me I have to click when the dial is about a quarter of the circle away from the symbol, and I’m not the only one with that problem. Whether this part of the game is just poorly optimised I don’t know, but it’s absolutely annoying as fuck.

While the combat feels solid (if a tiny bit repetitive at times) there are some aspects which are a definite problem. The biggest of which is blocking. Upon pressing shift your character whips out his/her shield from his special invisible shield pocket and deploys it, allowing him/her to block a portion of incoming damage. However, again it feels poorly optimised as unless you can time your blocking to before the enemy character starts to attack you you never seem able to get the shield up in time. While right now this isn’t much of a problem for me, I worry that by end-game it could well prove an issue.

Another thing that genuinely bothered me immensely was the camera angle. The camera is always right up behind your character and angled slightly down, and while it may seem like a nit-pick you’d be surprised by how often I found myself wishing I could change it (which you can’t). Simply to see more of the world around me or to be able to see what I was doing more easily.

One final niggling issue I had with the game was that for all it’s massive open-world at times it felt awfully restrictive. The lack of a jump function especially seems to make the game feel hemmed in, and the various specific “jump down” points (like in Fables 2 and 3) only serve to enhance that.

All this said, the game is growing on me. Perhaps it’s not quite up to the same level as other massive RPGs but it’s definitely a pretty good game. The gameplay slowly started to grow on me and I now find myself enjoying slashing and blasting my way through enemies. Enemies scale with you so you never really have an “easy” fight but nor are there really ever fights where you feel completely overwhelmed.

Once you get the story going it, as all good RPGs do, starts to draw you in with you becoming more and more immersed in the game’s world. The main story slowly is starting to take shape (it’s not too clear yet) and it’s building up a pretty damn cool idea. In a world where everybody is tied by their fate and destiny, you alone are completely free to decide your own fate and change the fate of others. It’s a damned cool and pretty interesting idea!

The quests are all nicely varied as are the enemies and various “zones”. Actually it’s worth saying that the whole game is beginning to seem like a truly massive fantasy epic with such a wealth of characters, lore, enemies and places that you could happily explore and examine everything for a very long time.

Character customisation is extremely well done. With you choosing from a set of “lesser” skills every time you level up (stuff like Blacksmithing, Stealth and Detect Hidden which are important outside of combat) before moving on to levelling up through a classic RPG/MMO talent tree to get new spells and abilities and upgrade the ones you have. It also functions in a way similar to the original (and best) Fable where you choose between 3 different trees “magic”, “might” and “finesse” Or “mage, warrior, rogue”. But you can also mix and match between the three (instead of focusing on one) and still feels like a valid option. This is especially true thanks to your “Destiny” which is where you can choose a “card” which gives you extra bonuses based on the amount of points you have in varying trees. For example after getting 6 points in both the  Finesse and Magic tree I was able to choose a “Disciple” card which gave me bonuses associated with both mages and rogues.

The extra content of the game, outside of the main quests and even outside of the side quests also are nice little touches. I particularly like the “Lorestones”. These are stones scattered around the world and when you activate them they recite little parts of a story to you. They also come in sets some sets scattered around a small zone, some scattered around the whole world. And when you have activated all of the stones and the story they tell is finished you get a little bonus for you character.  It’s clever and nice and I like it very much.

Overall Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning is a really good game. It’s not the best RPG I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly far from the worst and it’s grandness and epic scale ought to be enough to draw most RPG fans, simply because you will be able to keep playing it for a VERY long time (so trust me when I say you’ll get your monies worth). Now, as I said this is subject to change depending on how I feel the story progresses but currently my rating for the game is:

 Rating: B-

Whether my opinions will change when I get further into the game, nobody can know. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game slowly starts to convince me that it is EVEN better than what I said.

ALSO! Check out the “Let’s Play” I did on the game:

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