Posted by Raine Hutchens on Feb 7, 2012

Review – Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PC)

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Product Information

MSRP: $59.99

Developer: 38 Studios/Big Huge Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Genre: Action/RPG

In a community where RPGs like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and World of Warcraft are the reigning kings, it can be hard to break the surface with a new RPG title of your own. The teams at Big Huge Games and 38 Studios didn’t let this slow them down, however, and from their combined efforts we’ve received a new title that’s more than up to the challenge. They have come together to release Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – an RPG that’s got plenty of the elements that a game of its type needs at heart, all the while adding a new flair of gameplay that definitively sets the game apart from others in its genre. After getting a taste of the game, I’m most definitely convinced it can stand on its own against some of the bigger titles out in the community right now. Let’s take a closer look at just what Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning brings to the table.

Story and Graphics

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning takes players into a fantastic world that’s wrought with war. R.A. Salvatore once again crafts a story that brings yet another fantasy world to life. The beginning of the game sees the player’s character as they are revived through a wild experiment. A gnome has been furiously at work creating a contraption teeming with arcane energy. This project has been dubbed the Well of Souls, and it’s purpose is to return the soul of a lost life back to its body. Through this Well, your character has been snared back from the realm of the dead, to live once more. You learn that your character died while fighting the ongoing war that’s been plaguing the kingdom for far too long. Since this revival has taken place, it’s left you without a predetermined destiny. This brings with it some incredible power, as well as those who seek to take from you which you barely understand. As the game continues, the plot thickens and things take a wicked turn. Reckoning’s non-linear quest line help players to learn more about the game’s story, and Amalur itself.

When you look at Reckoning, easily the first thing you’ll notice are the high-quality colorful graphics. When it comes to the game’s art style, it’s best described as loud. With contrasting, vibrant colors, the game really jumps out at the player and makes discovering new areas a real event. Amalur’s bright landscapes and vast caverns really help to make trekking through to discover more of the world a real treat rather than a menial task. I found that no matter where I had to go, I constantly was looking around at the scenery, taking a moment to actually stop and smell the roses.

When it comes to the characters and enemies, however, they don’t necessarily share the same type of heights set by the game’s scenic locales. They still look good in their own right, but the attention to detail was obviously placed on the backdrops and world that Amalur presents. Don’t let this halt you, though. With the amount of detail that was paid to how the game presents itself as a whole, you’ll see that everything comes together quite nicely.

Even the character you choose has their own detail. At first you’ll choose from a list of presets, and then customize them from there on. You can choose your character’s hair style, facial hair, accessories, and even the depth of facial features. Reckoning really finds a way to take simplicity and make it perform at the top of its tier. By no means is the game terrible to look at. It may be a bit more cartooney than games like Skyrim, but it stays adult with gory cutscenes and high-octane gameplay.

Game Mechanics and Combat

When it comes to game mechanics, Reckoning has all the right pieces in all the right places. As an RPG, it needs to have plenty of dialogue, questing, plot advancement, and new discoveries to keep it playable. The game delivers on all of these aspects, all while adding in some new features that put it a step above the rest.

Character creation, while a bit simplified, is still unique. Players will be able to choose from one of the game’s four races to run: Almain (human), Varani (a winter-like human race), Ljosalfar (elves), and the Dokkalfar (dark elves). Each race has their own lore and racial abilities. There isn’t really much difference between the races, and the lack of diversity between them was a bit upsetting, but it wasn’t something that was game-breaking. I’d like to see more races to choose from, but it certainly didn’t put a damper on the fun of playing any of the ones available.

You’ll meet NPCs throughout your journey, just like with any other RPG. Each of these characters help lend some culture to the game in their own way. You’ll see gnomes, fae, humans, and tons of monsters along your pilgrimage across the lands of Amalur. These NPCs have received their own level of detail, but when it comes to them speaking, the detail ends there. I found myself feeling like I was talking to the same character over and over, and if I closed my eyes while speaking to different NPCs, this really set in. In short, the voice-acting isn’t a strong point in Reckoning.

As you progress through the game you’ll still continue to develop your character, even out to the later parts of the game’s story. As you kill enemies and complete quests you’ll earn EXP and level up. Character development is, again, simple yet it has depth. Level advancement has the player putting points into three different skill trees – Might, Finesse, and Sorcery. Might governs the skills of a warrior, while Finesse follows a more rogue-like approach. Of course Sorcery lends to the player’s magical abilities and the use of such abilities. At each level you’ll gain points which you can add to either tree – this means that there isn’t one set path for players to take. It really opens up the door for a type of experience that is tailored to the player’s specific style.

Characters also have skills that can be upgraded as you level. Some of these include Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Lockpicking, Persuasion, and more. At each level, you can increase one skill. As these skills increase you’ll unlock Milestones that will add new abilities and bonuses for each skill. For example, when leveling Alchemy, Milestones reached can help create more potent potions and discover more recipes while experimenting. Putting these skills to use is a great way to earn new equipment and items, as well as gaining buffs and staying ahead of the game. With Blacksmithing, you can salvage old pieces of equipment to gain regeants for use with the skill, as well as create brand new items using these regeants. Players can create new weapons for their class choice, as well as armor to suit. As you continue use with the skill, it will become stronger and of more importance.

A new feature that hasn’t been seen in other RPGs is the new Destiny system. Unlike normal mortals in the game, your Destiny is not fixed. Throughout the game you have the ability to choose from different Destiny cards which will grant new stat bonuses depending on the amount of points you have invested in a specific skill tree. You can choose from Destinies like the Acolyte, Initiate, Sage, and Sorceror. The game plays a lot off of these destinies, and being able to change them on-the-fly makes for a very interchangeable play style.

When it comes to combat, Reckoning certainly does it right. For an action-based RPG, the game certainly doesn’t pan out like others of its time. Combat is fluid, fast, and very efficient. With the pressing of one button you’ll be thrown into combos that will leave enemies laying lifeless on the ground. A simple system of one-button attack and defense never leaves the player feeling ambushed or underpowered.

You can equip primary and secondary weapons, allowing you to change combat tactics on-the-go. You can wield daggers and creep from the shadows, or take aim and knock enemies down with arrows from afar. Either way, there’s no stopping the might that your character brings in the heat of battle.

Switching equipment in the game’s inventory is as simple as right-clicking on it and selecting “Equip.” Each new piece of armor and new weapon have a distinct look and feel. Swinging longswords is effortless, though a little slow. Wielding daggers is quick and deadly. Using staves makes you feel like Gandalf in his most unstoppable of moments.

Perhaps the best thing about the gameplay elements in Reckoning is something that we mainly only see in MMOs – the ability to start all over with your skills and abilities at any point in the game. You’ll meet Fateweavers – people who can wipe your slate clean for a little bit of coin anytime you ask. Then you can re-spec all of your points back into your trees as you see fit. This means you can start the game as a hammer-wielding tank, and halfway through the game you can end up running a spell-slinging rogue who deals death in many different ways. This is where the game really shines.

The Conclusion

I’ll admit that when I first started playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning I wasn’t expecting anything amazing. Once I sat down and jumped into the game, however, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Reckoning’s perfect blend of action and RPG elements really make for a game that most certainly will be discussed already as a contender for 2012’s Game of the Year. Even devout players of Skyrim will be humbled to engage in Reckoning’s talent system and simplistic combat.

Reckoning isn’t at all a perfect game. I could stand to see more depth in character races, better voice-acting, and more attention to NPC detail, but it is still a game that will no doubt provide an experience that will bring the player back for many runs through the vast lands of Amalur. If I were to say that you should skip over this game, I’d be doing you a disservice as a gamer. Seriously, Reckoning has everything you want in a game and more. I’m nowhere near finished, and I can’t wait to get back in and lend my sword for the greater good of the world. As soon as you try your hand at this game, I have no doubt that you’ll feel the same.


The Good

  • high-quality graphics make the game look amazing
  • interesting quests keep the game interesting
  • skill system doesn’t get boring and actually makes the player feel like they benefit from leveling
  • unique and interchangeable leveling system
  • tons of gameplay and hours of fun

The Bad

  • could have shown more detail in races and character creation
  • voice-acting is sub-par
  • NPCs aren’t as detailed as they could be
  • the game does have some technical hiccups

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