Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
38 Studios and Big Huge Games have indeed crafted a big huge game in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, but just what kind of big huge game is it? Its battles are pure action game, but other aspects of the game are drawn from RPGs, others are a unique take on things, and others still seem to be just tossed in for good measure. Not everything works well together and that will probably turn off some gamers looking for an engrossing RPG, but enough of it does work that some gamers will probably really like the game.
The game opens interestingly enough with you as a corpse. It would be a rather short game if things stayed this way, but luckily for you your body has been commandeered for the testing of the Well of Souls. The Well of Souls is designed to restore life to the recently departed, and you're fed to it at the same time that it finally begins to work. There are a couple of side effects to your reincarnation, though. The first is that you have no memory of your former life, and the second is that you have been freed from the yoke of fate. The beings of Amalur are slaves to their predetermined destinies, destinies that can be revealed by the fatereaders of the world, but you are a blank slate to the fatereaders and the master of your own destiny. In gaming terms this means that your character has no backstory and you're free to mold him or her into a mage, warrior, or whatever you'd like. In terms of immersion, though, it means that your mute character is also completely devoid of personality and gamers looking to make some sort of connection to their characters will be left wanting.
Once you escape from the Well of Souls, you'll find yourself in a world caught in the conflict between two rival factions of elves. And for quite a while that's about all you'll know about what's going on and you'll know even less about how you fit into the whole affair. It's not that there isn't plenty of story to Kingdoms of Amalur, it's that it's not presented very well. You'll spend a lot of time conversing with NPCs, finding books to read, discovering lore stones that relate stories when touched, and the like, but the narrative threads that they'll give you are pretty disjoint and filled with so many names that you'll be very hardpressed to keep track of it all, let alone piece things together enough to form a cohesive narrative and world history. Making matters worse, the whole thing is not particularly compelling or all that interesting � it's volumes of rather pedestrian fantasy fare, and story is more a matter of quantity than quality in the game.
As for the game world itself, glances at your map early in the game will have you thinking that it's quite large but you'll soon find that this is deceiving. This is not a "go anywhere" game world, but open zones connected by corridors and filled with linear dungeons and caverns. Even those open zones aren't quite entirely open, and you'll often run into shin-high fences that can't be crossed and other forms of invisible walls. The fact that you can only jump in the game at designated spots marked by arrows on your map only serves to make the world feel even more constricted.
Because of these shortcomings I can't really recommend Kingdoms of Amalur to anyone seeking an immersive RPG experience. On the other hand, if action games are more your forte you'll find the battles in the game to be pretty enjoyable. The game's classless system allows you to select skills from its three skill trees that are basically aligned with mage, warrior, and rogue talents, so you can mix things to suit the way that you want to play. Since you can respec when you'd like, you can effectively try a whole new character if what you're currently doing isn't working out or you just want to try something new. This also means that you'll never come across some piece of elite gear that you'll forever be barred from using since you're of the wrong class. Gear is rated based on your level in each of the three skill trees, so even if you don't currently meet the requirements to use something you could easily find it usable (and useful) in the future. Unfortunately, although the game encourages you to keep a lot of different types of gear on hand it is saddled with a pretty clunky inventory management system.
The game's combat system is excellent in several ways. The mechanics are well-implemented with responsive controls and fluid movements, but it goes farther than that. As you progress to higher levels you'll pick up new moves as well, making the battles as much fun to watch as they are to play. Your moves, combos, and charged attacks will depend on the weapons that you have equipped and part of the fun of finding new gear is discovering what you can do with it. The game's crafting system allows you to create your own weapons as well (and name them, too), and it's even more fun to find out what you can do with what you've made yourself.
The game always has plenty for you to do. In addition to the primary story quests, there are also faction quests and plenty of side quests. You're never stuck wondering where to go or what to do next. With all of the active quests that you can have on your docket, it's odd that the game only allows you to track one of them at a time. Trying to determine if there's a quest goal nearby involves bouncing back and forth between the quest list and game map.
Overall, I found the game's combat satisfying but it wasn't enough on its own to really pull me into the game. The whole package doesn't quite come together enough to make the game a compelling experience overall. It's the kind of game that you'll have some fun with, but isn�t particularly memorable.
Final Rating: 74%. An enjoyable combat system isn't enough to save what is otherwise a rather lackluster RPG.