Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
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An action-RPG that mixes the pleasures of the arcade and the depth of vast open worlds, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a worthy first entry into what is likely to be a successful series.
- Fantastic action and combat
- Interesting world to explore
- Plenty of variety and customization
- Repetition in quests, enemies, and loot
- Fairly cliche RPG story, narrative
- Some minor technical issues
Breaking into the tightly competitive role-playing game market is tough business. With franchises like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls offering western RPG fans a new offering every couple of years, a new IP has a lot to prove to attract attention. It’s even harder when battling against the likes of Mass Effect and the numerous online-RPGs, but spend some time with 38 Studios’ wildly expansive Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and you may have a new world to explore for hundreds of hours. That’s because the team that developed Reckoning, which includes some notable figures in gaming and fantasy fiction, paid equal attention to both gameplay and capturing players in the magnificent world of Amalur. But is there enough here to keep you playing through the 30+ hour main quest and 100+ hour overall package?
While other games have done a good job of blending action, storytelling, and role-playing, none in recent memory have done a great job dealing with combat. At times you’ll feel like Kratos, ripping apart enemies with brutal combos, and another moment you’ll feel like Gandalf, blazing a path for your partners to run into the battle with swords at the ready. This is a game that puts the action back into the action-RPG genre with incredible force. While other games focus more on numbers, Reckoning puts the real equation of success at the player’s fingertips. That’s not to say the RPG elements are lacking, it’s just the combat, especially developed later in the game, is right up there with some of the best recent straight action games.
This is very much an RPG that lets players build their character to their play style. Given the breadth of the combat system, building a character beyond a straight warrior, thief, or mage really opens the door to how you play games. Do you like to keep your distance and cast spells? Do you also like to have daggers at your side in case you can catch some baddies off guard? How do you feel about hammers, swords, bows, and an assortment of wild magical weapons? You’ll be hard pressed to come up with a play style that can’t be created in Reckoning. This stems from a simplistic, yet effective leveling system. You are given points every time you level, and these points can be spent to increase your abilities in might, finesse and magic. These trees are extremely similar to online-RPGs, especially World of Warcraft, albeit in a smaller fashion.
But fun combat and the ability to build a character to your liking isn’t enough to make a game great. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning manages to maintain an interesting story and a truly vibrant world to explore, without taking itself too serious. This is not a light story, but at no point will the story overwhelm you, or force you to think all that much. That is both good and bad, largely depending on how much you like to get invested in your characters.
Author R.A. Salvatore, who is extremely familiar with the fantasy world thanks to more than 20 bestselling novels, penned a compelling narrative that, to a bit of a fault, is overly familiar to gamers. The story revolves around a warrior (that’s you) who is resurrected by the Well of Souls only to awaken with no memory and no fate. The residents in the realm of Amalur are all about their fate and destiny, and given your clean slate, you are given Keanu Reeves-inspired importance. Without spoiling the story, the main mission sends you across the land to learn about your fate, and ultimately to the doorstep of the big bad ruler. The story is good; it’s interesting. However, it starts off on rather cliché footing.
Even if the narrative is hard to follow or simply not to your liking, the open world, created by Ken Rolston of The Elder Scrolls fame and Ian Frazier of Titan Quest, is quite an interesting place to explore. It’s a land full of diverse monsters to fight, towns and cities to discover, and quirky characters to meet and befriend. While you may not feel at home in Amalur as you did in Skyrim, it’s still a worthy playground. The landscape has striking similarities to ... (continued on next page)