Category Archives: First Impressions

First Impressions: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

SPOILER ALERT: This game has been out for about a week now but if you’re still on the fence about it and don’t want anything spoiled for you then turn away now. Considering how much of the game I’ve played, I don’t think I could spoil anything for you but if you’re super sensitive about that stuff then why risk it, right?

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (or just Reckoning) has been compared to Skyrim and Fableand while those comparisons may be fair, Reckoning definitely sets itself apart in a few key ways.

Having recently spent nearly 60 hours in Skyrim’s icy environs it was a nice change to see some bright greens, reds and yellows in the world. This splash of colour is quite refreshing considering the propensity for modern games to deal exclusively in browns and grays.

That being said, Reckoning’s art design struck me as a mash up of various other styles that you’ve encountered before. Think of a cross between Fable and World of Warcraft and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Seem familiar?

The game opens with you dead on a slab being pushed towards a chute by two chatty gnomes. You are yet another failed test subject of The Well of Souls, a device designed to bring the dead back to life.
It is here where the character creation takes place in between little bits of dialogue between the two little people. You’ll find a pretty standard character creation system (race-gender-appearance), the only thing you don’t get to choose up front is your class.

I chose to roll a Varani – it seemed the closest to a Viking I could find – atheist which awarded me a 1% bonus to experience points earned. Although worshipping a deity would have awarded me with slightly better bonuses, I thought it was a nice touch that they gave you the option to play as a fantastical Richard Dawkins.

The dapper moustache/mohawk/Braveheart tattoo combo is all the rage in Amalur

Once character creation is complete, your freshly revealed corpse is unceremoniously dumped down a chute to land on a gigantic pile of decaying bodies. Luckily – or unluckily, depending on your fondness for dead dudes – The Well of Souls was actually successful and you have been brought back to life, so it’s onward to adventure!

The intro dungeon does the job of introducing you to the different combat options you have, as well as the main villains of the story, the Tuatha Deohn – evil creatures that reincarnate after they die. Amalur is inhabited by immortal beings called Fae that belong to either the Summer or Winter courts. There has been an uprising in the Court of Winter and the evil King Gadflow has unleashed his disciples (the Tuatha) on the world. As you explore The Well of Souls you discover that you are their first success and, presumably, their first hope of combating the Tuatha. It may sound a bit hokey but it’s handled well and uncovering the story behind these different factions is a big motivator to keep playing.

Once you escape the intro dungeon (and yes, you do have to fight rats) you are plopped out into Amalur proper and it is here where the best, and worst, parts of the game become quite apparent.

One of the first things you do upon leaving the Well of Souls is run into a “Fateweaver” who tries to read you fate. Normally fates are a hard thing to read, but apparently yours is simply not there; you are a blank slate. This really just means you get to “choose your destiny” (read: pick your class). The destiny system allows you to mix and match abilities from the three classic RPG classes of Mage (Sorcery), Fighter (Might) and Rogue (Finesse).

I chose to play a rogue because stabbing guys in the back is fun and I already have the dapper moustache to go along with it. However, I have since gone the route of a hybrid finesse/sorcery class because, so far, the game has presented almost no opportunities to actually use my stealth abilities. It seems, even from these early stages, that the game is geared toward face-to-face combat. Hopefully my options in combat will open up as the game progresses.

Combat in Reckoning is timing and combo based. You can get away with simply mashing buttons but there are more options available to you when you combine timed button presses with interchangeable weapons and magic to create powerful combos. If you fill up a certain bar by killing enemies you can also unleash a finishing move called “Fate Shift Kills”.

Fate Shift Kills look pretty cool!

Although the combat is pretty fun and certainly gives you more options than something like Skyrim, it has also been rarely challenging. In the time that I’ve spent with the game so far, I think I have only died two or three times, and that was usually due to poor health management than any particularly difficult enemy. It’s not a huge deal but so far combat has felt a little breezy.

Quests are the bread and butter of RPGs, and while the main quest line and the faction quests have kept me salivating for more, the rest of the secondary quests and tasks are beginning to feel like a bit of a chore. It seems everywhere I go there is another gold exclamation point leading me to another trivial hunt for something-or-other.

Having sunk a little over 10 hours into the game I have only completed a small handful of the main quest line so I’ve been primarily focussing on those less-than-great secondary quests. These are, of course, entirely optional but if you’re like me and just can’t resist a quest marker you may need to prepare yourself for a bit of a slog. While the secondary quests are a good way to earn a bit of extra experience, considering the relatively easy nature of the combat, I just don’t know if it will necessarily be worth it.

I’ve been playing the PC version of the game and it offers both keyboard/mouse and controller support. I’ve spent time with both and while I prefer the Xbox 360 controller for general gameplay, I have noticed that the camera is a bit slow at auto-correct to behind the character which has resulted in some frustrating combat situations. The keyboard and mouse doesn’t feel as good in combat but is much better for navigating menus and the inventory system (something you will be doing a lot of).

While we’re on the topic, Reckoning allows you to select anything in your inventory and flag it as “junk” so that the next time you’re at a vendor you can simply press a button to sell all your junk. It’s a great feature and really helps keep your inventory from getting out of control.

Also dialogue options!

Despite its somewhat generic flavour and its tidal wave of quests I’ve been really impressed with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The class system is cool, the combo system works well and I’ll be damned if they haven’t created a fascinating world to explore. I am most certainly looking forward to seeing how the main quest plays out as I get to find out more about the Fae and the world of Amalur.

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