Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review #90: Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning

 Unravel their fates, turn them into a hammer, and pummel them with it!
 I'm sure that by now, everyone has heard this game's story. Apparently, 38 Studios went way over budget, acquiring a loan from the State of Rhode Island, and needed to sell over 3 Million units in order to make a profit, which they didn't. Now both 38 Studios and Big Huge Games are gone, and the state of Rhode Island possesses the legal rights to KoA, which no one wants to buy. After all the hassle to get the game done, it'd better be good, right? Or is there a reason as to why no one wants to own the IP?
 Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning is a Western RPG in the same vein as The Elder Scrolls or Neverwinter Nights, but whereas most WRPGs have very shallow excuses for combat, KoA boasted of having a much more involved combat system. The game pits you as The Fateless One, a player created character that resurrects very early in the game, he knows nothing of his past, but having already faced death, he is the only person in Amalur that Fate has no control over. He writes his own destiny, and he can alter other people's as well. The story is very engrossing, and the game has a very engaging lore to discover. You have the Fae, elves if you will, that have a very different concept of death than humans, or the Gnomes, think dwarves, who strive for machinations and arcane-technological advancements.
 As with most WRPGs, you are given a huge open world to explore at your leisure, bar you encounter enemies way beyond your level. The game takes a few cues from World of Warcraft and Fable, as even though the world is pretty large, and you can go anywhere, there are set paths from place to place, and you can't jump, so no forcing your way through mountains a la Two Worlds 2. As you go from town to town, you can talk to NPCs in order to discover more about the place you are in or accept new sidequests. There are tons of sidequests, around 200, and early in the game you'll get swamped by them if you accept everything you come across. At times, you'll go from place A to B, in order to fulfill a quest, and when you get to place B, you'll come across even more sidequests! Kingdoms of Amalur is a game that just keeps on giving!
 Enemies are plentiful, your get Wolves, Giant Spiders, Two-headed orcs, Trolls, Skelletons, Mermen and a bunch of others, and The Fateless One can equip many weapons in order to handle them. You can equip two weapons at a time, one on the Triangle Button and another on the Square button. While you can mash your way to victory, you can swap weapons mid combos or perform special moves, both features unique for every weapon type, and perform better combos. Maybe use the Long-Sword launcher, which is pretty fast, and use the Daggers to juggle them while they are helpless in the air, and before they fall, use the Grapple skill to get them closer to you, again. Even mages and their Staves get pretty cool looking attacks! For defense, you can either roll out of harm's way or block attacks, in order to reduce the damage taken. If you are feeling daring, press block just before getting hit in order to parry their attack, and counter with yours! Right between the HP and Mana gauges, you have the Fate gauge, which increases as you defeat enemies or mix your many spells, skills and moves. Unleashing Fate makes everything slow down, and you gain a huge damage boost, defeat every enemy while under Fate and Execute the last one in order to gain a experience boost. It's pretty handy, although if you save it for bosses, you can cruise through the game pretty easily.
 Every time you level up, you can allocate one point into one of many different talents: Blacksmithing, Sagecrafting, Stealth, Mercantile, Persuasion and many others. These offer plenty of bonuses, from being able to easily persuade NPCs, displaying enemies, traps and hidden doors on the radar, crafting better weapons and armor to buying from merchants for less and selling for more! Then you get 3 points to allocate in any of the three branches: Might, Finesse and Sorcery. You can place all your points on one, or put point here and there, you get different Destinies according to how you spend your points, and all offer bonuses, so there's no penalty to building your character the way you want it.
 As fun as sidequesting is, most of them can get pretty repetitive. Go to point A, kill B, profit. Or maybe kill a certain number of enemies, go to point A and kill the boss that spawns. Almost every quests involve killing something, there are exceptions, but there are not many. The NPCs and situations are not very memorable either. Faction Quests, on the other hand, are worth following through to the end, you'll get nice bonuses and they present fairly interesting narratives, usually with different outcomes according to your choices. Oh, and glitches. I came across my fair share, including: Getting stuck in a spot. I could attack all around me, and tried using moves that relocated or made the character dash, but just couldn't get out of. Another one in which I couldn't open the door that led outside the house, leaving me stuck(Luckily, saving and loading cleared the issue) and once the game froze once I initiate a Fate Execution, so tread carefully and save often, luckily, the auto-save feature is pretty smart.
 The game is very colorful, and looks great. There are many different locales to explore which all look very pretty. Character models are not as good, hair looks like plastic!, but they are not awful by any means, and monsters look great. The armors and weapons are very cool looking, even if there could've been a few more of them. The art-direction is a mix of World of Warcraft and Fable, I quite liked it, it's a bit cartoonish but still holds some degree of reality. A bit. Voice Acting is pretty alright, with a game this huge, it's expected to have a wide range of performances, but most are pretty decent. Music is not bad, pretty fitting actually, but nothing you'd go out of your way to listen to.
 Kingdoms of Amalur : Reckoning was the kind of Western RPG I was looking for. A game with a large world to explore, the freedom to do what you want when you want, and a fun combat system to boot! The glitches I came across were very annoying, but I only suffered about 4 of them in over 40 hours of gameplay, I think that's not bad. Not bad at all.
 9.0 out of 10.

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