Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I think every gamer can agree that the role-play genre has seen some fantastic games throughout the generations, but none have had as much of an impact as The Elder Scrolls series. Indeed when someone talks about the RPG, Skyrim is now the first game instantly mentioned as the ‘best’ game you could possibly buy in that particular genre. Well Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning valiantly stands its ground against other main stream role-play games by providing something the genre is not normally known for, excellent combat. This role-play game concentrates more on the action side of things, allowing players to engage in brutal battles and upgrade their character in interesting and unique ways. While the story might not be as engaging nor the world as enticing, this is a game that draws you in with the allure of great game mechanics ensuring once you give it a go, you’ll find it very difficult to stop playing.

Kingdoms of Amalur tells the tale of your customized hero as he weaves his own destiny because unlike the other characters in the game, you have no fate. You may wonder why this is so, but the story reveals pretty quickly that you are in fact dead and brought back to the realm of the living to pave your own history. Without sugarcoating the experience, Kingdoms of Amalur does not provide the most thrilling story and for the most part it is difficult to engage with certain characters, or even care about the various missions or quests you participate in. It is written however by R.A. Salvatore and there are moments where things do get interesting, but the emphasis really is free-reign over your movements and decisions. If you’re looking for a world filled with novels and travelers’ tales, then get back to Skyrim, because Kingdoms of Amalur forgoes that section of the RPG formula and opts for a more exciting route.

Instead of wasting all of your time exploring we want to be slaying vile enemies and here is where Kingdoms of Amalur really shines. A wide array of weapons and options to customize your hero intertwines with superb fighting mechanics that makes this RPG feel a lot more like an action game. Kingdoms of Amalur is fast-paced, a whole load of fun, brutal and versatile. You can roam the land with a broadsword, play as a sorcerer or mix and match your favourite skills. If you get bored of playing one style, there are ways to re-allocate your skill points and try another form of offense. Kingdoms of Amalur has a vague resemblance to Dark Souls in the fact that combat actually has depth and is more than simply button bashing your way through an enemy while chugging down potions in the inventory menu.

Some of you may be wondering if this is an RPG at all, well fear not because Amalur is an expansive world, just not as expensive as Skyrim – think of this as a larger and more fleshed our version of Fable except you know, actually good. There is plenty of exploring to do and you will rarely find yourself without a quest or some sort of goal, but the point is completing them using fantastic combat mechanics that really make Kingdoms of Amalur stand out above the crowd.

Kingdoms of Amalur also excels in the graphic and audio departments. Visually this is a beautiful game with fantastic environment and character design. There’s a lot of variation and colour throughout your adventure and rarely do you come across a dull location to explore. A cartoon-like approach again resembling Fable was taken with Kingdoms of Amalur and for the most part it does hold up well, especially the gruesome monsters you encounter. What’s perhaps even more impressive is the great score and voice-acting that accompanies this adventure. It’s just a shame that after a while I stopped caring about what people had to say. From time to time you will come across an occasional glitch, but nothing to the same degree as gamers saw on the PlayStation 3 version of Skyrim, making that particular version almost unplayable. Kingdoms of Amalur is a large game and because of that it suffers from some slight issues here and there, but textures diminished and the frame-rate dropped so rarely that it didn’t hinder my experience at all.

Ultimately I think what makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning so impressive is you can amass a very impressive game time in this RPG by getting involved in the combat, not simply exploring. Traditional RPG’s will have you racking up hours trudging through dungeons and swamps, while in this instance you will do some of that, but most of the time you’ll want to get your hands dirty and get stuck into the action. It’s certainly rare to see an RPG with excellent game mechanics, let alone to this standard so it’s very difficult not to recommend Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning as a fantastic option for those of you looking to get stuck into another mesmerizing world full of wonders and mystery.

9.5 | Gameplay | As far as role-play games are concerned, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has perfect gameplay. The action is heated, varied and versatile. There’s plenty of options when customizing your character both offensively and defensively while well-implemented game mechanics sit nicely at the centre of all your gameplay. Some brutal finishing moves, occasional QTE’s and fun brawling ensure you will have a blast roaming around Amalur.

8.0 | Presentation | The cutesy art style while visually appealing, doesn’t quite match the serious tone of the game’s story. However, beautiful environments overlook good character and creature models, making Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for the most part, a very beautiful game to look at. Audio also deserves praise and the story is told well through voice acting, it’s just a shame it’s not as interesting as it could have been.

8.0 | Replay Value | Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive game, but not to the same degree as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Those of you looking for a totally free-roam world will be disappointed because Amalur is slightly more constrained. Saying that, there is still plenty to explore and one of my biggest gripes with Skyrim was that it’s simply too big. Amalur is a nice size and has plenty of goodies stashed away ready to be found and used to forge powerful weapons and dazzling spells.

8.5 | Final Thoughts | Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a breath of fresh air for the role-play genre and is exactly what I look for in this type of game. It’s simply preference but I am not one for enormous maps and lackluster combat mechanics – this map is a lot more manageable and the combat is actually engaging. I had an absolute blast with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and I think this is a landmark for how an RPG should be done. Now lets add a really fantastic story to go along with the sequel and we will have a competitor standing toe-to-toe with The Elder Scrolls.

Igor Kharin.

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