Not once did this game ask me what I reckon about anything…
I need to start this review by saying I haven’t finished the game. But I think I am done with it. I am usually a story-mode completionist when it comes to games. I might not get 1000/1000 achievements, but I’ll make sure I get to the end of the single-player. Sometimes I struggle due to not being very good at the game. Sometimes I just can’t find the motivation.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (I’ll call it Amalur from now on) seemed to come out of nowhere. I first heard about it via a promotion where if you played the Mass Effect 3 demo, you got something in Amalur, and vice versa. Of course I planned to play Mass Effect so I downloaded the demo of Amalur as soon as it went up on Xbox Live.
The game makes a good first impression, the controls are tight and the demo throws you into combat quite quickly, which is where this game shines. Gone are the RPG stalwarts of plodding combat or mashing a single button. Here you can dodge, block, sneak, parry, use magic, use arrows, go into some sort spiritual form to wreak havoc, backstab, execute, or run away. All without needing to enter a menu screen. It feels very visceral and while not as deep or complex as something like Ninja Gaiden, it does mean yo uget excited when you find a group of enemies to attack.
In the first hour or so of the game you get introduced to the different playstyles (mage, rogue, warrior) and you can use the abilities from any of these as you level up. Each level you get points to put into skills, and there are different armour types that provide bonuses that lean towards certain playstyles. While I went full-on warrior, I could see if I wanted to take on some magic or use a bow it would not hamper me.
The graphics are fairly average with some fairly impressive locations being balanced out by the terribly high cartoonish contrast and some bland buildings and NPCs. The sound similarly is fairly average for the genre. There are voice-overs and atmospheric sounds, but nothing that you’ll want to write about excitedly on a games review website.
Unfortunately after the first hour things start to unravel a little. You get placed in a terribly generic starting town, with a lot of terribly generic quest-givers. Each of the quests is either incredibly quick (getting a lady into a mens-only organisation; achieved by going in and stealing a book no-one is guarding, then giving it to her) or the MMO ‘go kill five rats’ variety. In an MMO you can see they want to waste your time, here it just seems odd. The overarching story involves disputes and wars between magical folk, non-magical folk, and immortal folk. None of the characters are engaging, the factions all seem to be clichés (at the start) and the work you do to further the story is reminiscent of every fantasy RPG ever.
Like I said, it is important to remember I did not finish this game, but I didn’t want to. After around five hours of questing I felt a little more powerful but the game and was able to take on larger enemies, but I didn’t feel as if anything had been exciting since the very opening. For people who have limited time to play games, this is a problem. Every time you finish a quest you get two or three more that are gameplay-wise identical. You go to a place (usually a long way away) kill some things, and then return. It feels like work. At some point I may pick this up again if I get bored and if the game changes dramatically further in I might re-review it, but the fact will still stand that the first five hours are boring.
I had been told as I bought the game that levelling is slow, and it really is. Compared to any other game I can think of, you don’t level up very often. When you do, the increases to skills are so marginal as to be invisible. Maybe I can kill that bandit 1/10s quicker but maybe I just hit a crit. They seem to have adopted MMO levelling and questing mechanics and left them in a single-player game. You can’t dip in an out easily or you lose track of the story. The game itself is pretty terrible at reminding you why you are doing quests. Whenever I loaded it up after a break I was utterly confused as to where I was or what I was meant to be doing.
I remember being told after fifteen hours of Final Fantasy XIII that I was nearly at the good bit; I don’t want to have to wait that long. TV shows rarely take five episodes to get going, movies don’t take five hours to get interesting and games shouldn’t either. Sure lots of games are repetetive over five hours, but we only call those good games if the repetition is fun. There may be a good game hidden in here, but if there is it’s not trying hard enough to be found. People who don’t have the time or patience to play through in long extended sessions beware, it’s hard to have fun in Amalur.
+Solid combat system
-Cliché after cliché
-Art style varies between bland and cartoonish
-Levelling slow and ineffectual