by origamipanther

Beyond Co-Op Review: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

The spring gaming season is in full bloom and plenty of big name releases are hitting the store shelves to fill up what gaming time you may have. So amidst all of this, why would you give a game that’s already a month old a second look? Fair question, but stay awhile and listen; Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a few tricks up its action-RPG sleeves that hopefully will prove it to be a worthwhile gaming experience for you.

In my 90+ hours of exploring the fictional world of Amalur, which traces its origins to the creative mind of fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore, I have found one primary point against it: there’s a rich world here that isn’t ever quite fully realized. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of books, scrolls, and other little sights scattered around the environments that provide you with some of the backstory of this world, but they never quite develop the world the same way similar elements in other open-world RPGs do. In fact, the overarching story of the game is probably one of its weakest elements. The plot feels rather predictable; the side characters aren’t nearly as engaging as they could/should be; and the ending just kind of… happens. Add to all of this a combat system that is good but just a little bit off and in need of a patch, and a character class that feels significantly overpowered compared to the others (the mage’s Meteor spell ends clashes in approximately 3.7 seconds), and Amalur is undoubtedly sounding like it’s not living up to my promises at the beginning of this review.

Big foes like this may seem frightening, but with the right build/skill combo, they crumple like paper

However, those are the game’s biggest weaknesses and while they may be enough to deter many from giving this title another glance, that whole “prove… to be a worthwhile gaming experience” is still valid. While Amalur’s world as a whole and its main story may not be fully realized, much of its peripheries are excellent and complete stories in their right. The Faction quests, in particular, provide some of that glimpse into what more of Amalur’s quests and main story could have been. Where Amalur really shines is in its combat system. Few RPGs, and certainly even fewer action-RPGs, allow you to so freely mix up the abilities and attacks of the usual fantastic classes of rogue, warrior, and mage into a, mostly, seamless chain of combos that unleash some real devastation upon your foes.

The special abilities, which are brought up by holding the right bumper on the 360 or PS3 and executed with the face buttons, don’t always respond to the button commands as you expect and so occasionally you may end up attacking or dodging when you thought you were about to fling a spell or some daggers. This is the kind of thing that feels like a patch could easily fix, and even if one isn’t released, it’s still a very satisfying combat system. I played as a rogue/mage mix and enjoyed sneaking up on a group of foes, taking one out with the rogue’s execution ability, setting two more on fire, and then hacking/slashing the fourth. There is an absolute feeling of freedom that Amalur provides in its character customization and abilities that accommodates just about any play style.

There are places in Amalur that are a wonder to behold, but they just don't always have a story that matches the majesty

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, in many ways, feels like a “greatest hits” album combining some of the best elements of Western RPGs (i.e., an open world with plenty to do and the ability to create a character that best suits your particular play style) with a few of those things that maybe you didn’t enjoy quite as much (i.e., a played out storyline and an occasional lack of focus). As a result, it’s the kind of game that’s perfect to pick up and play if you’ve avoided some of the bigger RPG releases that have come out the past few months.

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