Friday, March 16, 2012

Final Look -- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur is a buffet of a game – so full of ideas in doesn’t even have it’s own identity; a game not having a central idea, or ideas that don’t quite come together isn’t always a bad thing. KoA actually combines so many features from other great genres that I hardly mind that it doesn’t have its own voice. Traditional RPG’s aren’t in the same league as KoA in the one area that just sends it into the unique stratosphere – the damn good combat.

I can’t believe how enjoyable killing mounds of enemies around the vast landscape can be. Skyrim became a job, KoA is the vacation. The flow of the fighting system is so satisfying; stringing together combos doesn’t get hard. There’s tons of depth just layered on top. What’s best is it doesn’t fall pray to a mage being a simple spell caster, or other stereotypical RPG tropes.

A rogue, mage, warrior it doesn’t matter really. You are a beast regardless. Dibs on the chakrams being the best magic based weapon to ever be in any game. And it makes the once “squishy” robe wearing magic wielders into battle hardened multifaceted fighters.

Aside the addictive fight mechanics. It goes severely deeper then most games when it comes to pure choice.  I mean why should I play and make a decision on my class right from the first few minutes? I hate playing a game for hours only to find I’d made a mistake, or it’s just a better experience playing as a different specialization.

Your path/ fate is free. Putting just one point into the Finesse/ Rogue category is enough to turn your warrior into an agile ninja. To real meat comes from throwing skill points into a pot and seeing the outcome. It’s so freeing I can’t imagine going back to the standard Tolkien class structure.

It’s great that the foundation is so solid because KoA is vaster than so many offline Role Playing Games…deeper than most MMO’s even. It’s astounding how much there’s to do here. 20 even 40 hours can net very little actual progress towards the end of the game: it’s the side quests and everything in between that just lengthens the game, but that’s a good thing here.

Break out the chakrams anytime!

The team compiled for this surprise 2012 title is just a mixture of talent from the leading industry veterans: Written by R.A. Salatore, with art from Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, with design from ken Rolston known for his work on the Elder Scrolls series.

The team pulls together to put a little bit of everything on display a dialogue system with branching tress and consequences for your actions, dungeons with tons of loot, expansive leveling with tons of powers and choices to customize your character. The art is a little Fable, structure some World of Warcraft, quests a little Mass Effect. It may not be its own game by right, but who cares it’s really good.

It lacks some polish. Slamming so many ideas together is complicated without peaks and valleys: the environmental visuals are fantastic and colorful, but the character models are low detail and NPC animations are going through early stages of rigamortis.  While it’s generally easy to battle groups the camera gets stuck in the ground at times and for the most part it would be nice if it were pulled back a little. And RPG’s are just better with companions something dearly missing here.

It’s a game that screams, “The sequel will be awesome.” Not much is needed, just some tweaks here and there. The plans are to make an MMO if the game is a commercial success – don’t be so hasty please. I really think there’s something here but I think it needs to bake in the realm of offline gaming before it ventures to WoW land.

I’m utterly shocked at how much I’ve enjoyed this game. I’ve been playing it with a friend and we can’t get over how it just came out of nowhere. It certainly wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of the year, and with Mass Effect 3 around the corner I hadn’t thought of this game as being one to tide me over. It’s done far more. It’s a finely crafted action Role-Playing game that deserves attention. It’s not overly ambitious, but rarely do so many different ideas form together like Voltron and kick the crap out of my expectations.  

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