Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a lot to prove. With the constant mentions of R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane, prominent names in Fantasy, I wouldn't be surprised if you're expecting a Skyrim killer within KoA. Calling it a Skyrim killer might be a stretch, but Reckoning is an extremely enjoyable Action RPG.
Upon the start of my quest in Reckoning, I found the game to have more in common with the likes of the Fable series, rather than Skyrim. Your created character comes back from the dead at the fabled Well of Souls and learns that he actually doesn't have a fate, or rather, can control and change it at will. That means every pre-determined event that was foreshadowed by Fateweavers (essentially psychics) can be unraveled and changed by your hands. Fates, destinies, changing the future — these are fairly similar parallels to the Fable series, though unlike Fable, I found myself caring a lot more for the events of Reckoning.
Reckoning's combat also harks at the simplicity of Fable, but it does have some nuances that make it that much more enjoyable. Any weapons can be attached to the X or Y button — X being the primary weapon and Y being the secondary — with the B button controlling your dodge. If you think that smashing the X button will result in instant victory the entire game, think again. Enemies are smarter, and they won't simply walk into your slashing sword, which means mixing up your attacks is essential. As you level, more attacks will open up that will juggle your opponents, pound the ground resulting in area damage, and more, with each one different depending on the type of weapon you have equipped.
As you fight, you earn fate points which accumulate in a bar beneath your health. When full, you're able to slow down time, do a tremendous amount of damage and ultimately unleash a very flashy finisher that results in a button mash. The quicker you mash on that specific button, the higher percentage of extra EXP you get. Smart players will know to save this for boss fights or harder enemies that yield a very significant amount of added EXP, achieving that next level just a bit quicker.
If you decide to go the spellcasting route, Reckoning has some impressive and powerful spells. From a lightning blast that can turn into a full on lightning storm, to an icicle shot that can turn into a blizzard area attack, each and every spell makes you a force to be reckoned with.
Though the game's biggest and probably best aspects are character development. Each level grants you a single skill point to attach to various environments skills like Stealth, Lockpicking, or Mercantile, and crafting skills like Alchemy, Blacksmithing, etc. Then you are given three points to assign in the game's three major ability trees — Might, Finesse, and Sorcery. Depending on where you put these points will ultimately decide the next level up screen. Fate cards are essentially class tiers that your character progresses in. If you constantly put points into your Sorcery tree, you'll start off as an Acolyte at tier 1 and work your way to being an Archmage at tier 6, granting you additional bonuses to mana, mana regen, elemental damage, etc.
If you're planning on being a hybrid class, Reckoning has you covered as well. If you evenly distribute points between two or even three of the trees, you can elect to become a Shadowcaster if you put points into Sorcery and Finesse, or a Universalist if you decide that you want to be a jack of all trades. This comes with a tradeoff, however, since you won't be able to put points in the top tier skills. Let's say halfway through the game you decide the path of Might is just not for you, you can seek out Fateweavers who will wipe your slate clean, and you can respec any way you want. Be wary, though, as each time you do it increases the amount of gold you have to pay. In addition to class Fate cards are Twists of Fate, which are awarded for completing certain game requirements or beating certain bosses. These cards add a permanent boost to your character such as +5% EXP or +5% gold found, which makes earning these invaluable.
There is a ton to do in Reckoning, so much so that you'll easily lose track of your main quest, and you won't even realize it after completing 20 sidequests. This definitely isn't a knock on the main storyline, which in my opinion is the most entertaining part of Reckoning, since most of the sidequests are the generic "go there, collect this, kill those" affairs, but the fact remains that you'll find yourself hard-pressed not to keep taking new sidequests as they pop up on your mini-map. Thankfully, your quest log can hold an uncapped amount, meaning you can freely take on any task you see in front of you.
Quests are only the tip of the iceberg. Crafting is yet another huge proponent to the game. Through it, you can easily get some very valuable items, given that you have the right skillset. Throughout your travels you will come across various flora that can be picked, weapon and armor components, and even variously powered-up gems that will enable you to socket weapons and armor. If you fancy yourself an alchemist and like the idea of mixing up various flowers to create powerful potions, you have that ability. Same goes for blacksmithing. Various weapon or armor parts and components can be put together to make some outstanding armor, and you can name them yourself. Strutting your warrior around in the Boots of Doom and the chest piece of Blazing Armor of Unicorn Love can be a reality.
The game ensures that you never feel lost in the menus and that everything is fairly accessible. Sidequests that you aren't tracking still appear on your minimap so you can easily complete quests that are near without having constantly switch to your active quest. The overworld map lets you easily fast travel to previously visited areas as well. Weapons and armor always highlight whether they are more effective than your currently equipped ones, and the crafting doesn't have any overcomplicated interfaces. With that said, destroying items you don't want is unnecessarily complicated. They first must be place into your Junk pile, and then that Junk pile must be accessed in order for the items to be destroyed. Why can't I just destroy it in the actual gear menu?
Reckoning isn't a graphical powerhouse by any means. That isn't to say that the game doesn't look fantastic, but compared to some other current gen games, Reckoning hits the mediocre mark. Todd McFarlane's art design really shines through, so if you're a fan of his work, you won't be disappointed. The stylized environments might have you thinking you're running through WoW's Elwynn Forest or the desert area of Thousand Needles. The game's score shifts from epic orchestral pieces to whimsical melodies depending on your location or situation, making sure you're always in the right mood.
There are some graphical and gameplay glitches that might require to reload your last save. For example, I talked to an NPC inside a house that was surrounded by a table and other pieces of furniture. After the conversation, I was unable to run anywhere, my character simply ran in place. Dodging didn't work, and since there is no jump button in the game, I was literally stuck. Luckily the game autosaves quite frequently so I was able to reload right outside of the house. Other graphical glitches include odd facial expressions that had NPC's with wide eyes looking downwards, talk about creepy. Sometimes monsters were invisible for the first five seconds and then became visible. These glitches, though not extremely frequent, did bring down the experience just a tiny bit.
Despite that, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is most definitely worthy of the hype it's been getting. If the Fable series had a baby with Skyrim, Reckoning might just be that end result — taking a little bit of gameplay mechanics from both, yet refining it into an extremely enjoyable, entertaining and challenging experience.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]