Sunday, February 26, 2012

What I Reckoning about Amalur

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a strange beast. It is essentially the product of an extremely rich person throwing money at people until a game comes out, in this case Curt Shilling, a retired baseball player who founded a videogame company after his retirement. I get the impression that Mr. Shilling wanted a game, so he took his money and gave it people until they released Reckoning.

There's also a whole bunch of big names attached to the game. Ken Rolston, an experienced game director with titles like Oblivion and Morrowind under his belt. R.A Salvatore, a best selling author with a lot of experience writing for the Fantasy genre (if the popularity of Drizzt is anything to go by). And Todd "let's make everything look scary" McFarlane, who spawned Spawn (and also drew some pretty terrible Spiderman comics back in the day).

That kind of describes Reckoning actually. It's like a whole bunch of things mooshed together to make an RPG. It's got the quest structure from World of Warcraft, a beefed up version of the combat from Fable, lockpicking (for some reason and also done incredibly badly) from Fallout and Skyrim, some brutal quicktime-y events from God of War  and probably a whole bunch of other things from other games I haven't played.

But how does it all fit together? I have had a lot of trouble finding the words to describe that answer, and I'm going to settle on "potentially awesome while still being fun".

The combat is arcadey, theres no doubt about that, but there were times when I'd get a nice sense of satisfaction out of beating a roomful of baddies without getting hit, weaving between foes with a light blade before switching to a hammer to put the smackdown on someone.

I also like how you're not too restricted when it comes to trying out a new build. There are three trees of combat, Might, Sorcery and Finesse which equate to your standard Warrior/Mage/Rogue archetypes. You're free to mix and match trees as you see fit though, and choose different Destinies for bonuses to the type of class you'd like to play.

I settled on a Might/Sorcery build that gave me the ability to bash baddies with a greatsword, but also wield magical chakrams and spells to affect larger areas. The thing is though, you can visit a Fateweaver to reset all your point allocations for a fee, and then try out a completely different build, if you feel like it.

From a design point of view, it hits a few marks while completely missing others. The general design of the world is very pretty in a cartoony, stylized sort of way, and some of the baddies are amazingly well realized. Mr. McFarlane gets a gold star there, for sure. I particularly like the Thresh and Boggart designs as well as the big tough Bolgans and Jottuns. The generic dark evil elves are kind of samey though.

 The world feels a bit too spaced out, like it was designed for multiple players instead of one character running around in it. A leftover from it's roots as an MMO maybe?

What about the story though, I mean, this is a Role-Playing game, what's the role you play? Reckoning puts you in the shoes of the Fateless One, the result of an experiment to defeat death. Everyone in the world of Amalur is governed by fate, but by dying and coming back, you have somehow detached yourself from the tapestry of fate, and can change the fates of others. This serves as an explanation for the aforementioned ability to reset your skills, seeing as how you are no longer governed by fate.

So you have this interesting concept in an admittedly huge world, but what Reckoning falls short on is delivering a well paced or even sometimes coherent story. The main questline itself is such a slow burn, combined with the multitudes of sidequests that proceeded to get me sidetracked, everything just seemed like it took too long to get into gear.

When the main plot does get going though, it has some pretty epic moments. And while the world is definitely fleshed out, I failed to feel anything for any of the characters. I mean hell, I loved the characters in Saints Row the Third, but the cast of Reckoning failed to give me anyone to relate to, or even care about. What Reckoning needed was an Alistair or a Varric. (No gold star for you, Mr. Salvatore)

Maybe if they had taken out 50% of the sidequests and used that time to polish the main story, there would be something here. As it stands its bland and has been done to death.

TLDR version: Reckoning is a decent RPG with some fun and interesting combat. It's not going to break any molds or win any awards for groundbreaking mechanics, and it definitely could have used some more polish in the story department.

However, I got the story of how my girlfriend slaughtered an entire inn of people by accident, because she didn't know she was stealing a book off a shelf. She felt bad for a little while, then proceeded to go back to bashing things with a hammer.

1 comment:

Clarence Dass said...

The combat in Kingdoms of Amalamalam is total BS. The animation and controls are floaty and you never really need to be on key for any of the fights.

Things pretty much just line up to die at your feet.

As for the RP... Tis an RPG for people who think they like playing RPGs... when all they really wanna do is bash a few buttons and see some fancy lights.

Plus the whole thing feels like Fable minus the charm.