One of the few new IPs in roleplaying games of the past few years, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning attempted to attain success by having a crew of pretty renowned people behind it. Though relatively unknown until shortly before its release, Kingdoms of Amalur has managed to place itself as one of the best RPGs recently published and an IP to look at – Particularly considering an MMO set on the lands of Amalur is already in the works.
The game, which attempts at being story-based, starts with your character being revived by sheer dumb luck on a chamber where experiments on bringing people back from death were being made. However, you don’t remember anything at all from your life until you died, though whatever it is you was seems to be strong enough for a rebel group to attack the laboratory you were revived in almost right after you got out of the machine. Things get slightly complicated after the first person outside the laboratory you meet, a fateweaver (That’s a guy who can see the future), realizes you apparently aren’t tied to destiny and therefore you – and you alone – can change what’s been written.
It’s with that (not very) original set up that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning begins, with your character trying to find out both who he was before and exactly why he can change fate – Along with said fateweaver constantly pushing him to indeed change fate for the better, since the future he’s foreseen is a rather bleak one. From there on, the world of Amalur starts opening itself in front of you, though the level of freedom you experience is actually rather small – The main questline is mandatory to advance past a certain point and the amount of freedom you get in the quests (both main and side quests) is very small in the few cases where it exists, making it so that the only real decisions you can make are whether you perform a quest or not – Since you can’t even refuse them after you speak to the questgivers.
Nevertheless, and setting the rather closed structure of the narrative aside, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a bit of a storytelling achievement, though from an unexpected point of view: The quest chains for its factions are about as good as storylines can get, often becoming more interesting and even feeling more important than the main quest, which is told in such a fractured way that it is sometimes hard to remember exactly why you’re doing what and its goal seems so big and vague that you don’t really feel like there’s a reason to follow it until you’re close to the end of the game.
Regardless than the main questline being weak and the faction ones being strong, however, Kingdoms of Amalur does throw the player into a pretty interesting world – And one that would’ve probably felt much more alive if only the game had a more freeform, less structured narrative. With more than a few interesting place and a strong inclination toward its own mythology, KoA does a great job at setting up a world players might want to go back to if they had new adventures to live there or new places to get to see.
However, there’s only one small problem with the idea of going back to Amalur after you’ve gone through it: Several of the gameplay mechanics limit the game so much it might actually be hard to find compelling reasons to go through the 60+ hour game again after you’ve done it. You see, for all the fun KoA is (It is very fun indeed) and its good setting, there are few reasons why I’d want to play it again. Classes and races, though they are there, are barely different from each other to give the game much replayability – Sure, the things they do are different, but the way the game will play as one or the other isn’t really all that different, with the combat being an improved version of the one found on Fable 3: A fun, fast-paced system that grows all a little too fast. Storylines, being linear for the most part, rarely ever give you a reason to want to experience them again and, though new content is offered by the way of DLC, the storylines in the game are rarely good enough to grant keep playing after you hit level 50, particularly since there’s absolutely no way to influence any of them. So the bottom line pretty much is, Kingdoms of Amalur would’ve worked much better if it had retained its core mechanics but made leveling just a bit harder, taken a more open world approach to its storytelling and allowed the player to actually affect the outcome of the storylines somehow – Or have enough quests and places to make it virtually impossible to go through them all on a single playthrough.
To elaborate on what I mentioned earlier regarding class and race choices, Kingdoms of Amalur boasts a leveling system where you can grow in any of the three available talent trees as you want and can even backtrack anytime you want for a fee (Hardly a problem due to the ridiculous amount of money you can get with very few ways to use it). It also gives you one profession point each time you level that allows you to either give your character passive bonuses or allow him to craft better things each time. However, the system is designed in such a way that by the end of the game and even with relatively little planning it is extremely easy to have maxed out all trees you could deem useful, with some people reportedly maxing up most of them by carefully choosing where to spend their points and visiting the available skill training. The problem with that, once again, is that it kills replayability – Being able to backtrack on anything, touted as one of the main features of the title, becomes a problem when there just isn’t anything in the game that might be worth going through a second time over since the storyline is set in stone and the race you choose has very little, if any effect on the overall gameplay.
Nevertheless, Kingdoms of Amalur is a pretty fun and very lengthy game that shows how new studios can create very interesting properties when they get enough available talent. Set in an interesting world and with a fast paced, fun gameplay that’s accompanied by a killer soundtrack, its flaws and lack of replayability become null due to its achievements being so many and so well done. Sure, I might not feel like playing through this game all over again – But with a first playthrough that lasted over sixty hours and was mostly fun I can hardly argue that the game wasn’t worth its price.
Final Review Rating: 4/5
Availability: Currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com and GamersGate.co.uk
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