On paper, Reckoning has probably the greatest potential of the year. However, this is only the start of the KoA franchise and they’ve got a lot of room for improvement. Reckoning boasts the power of game designer Ken Rolston (Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim), Created by Todd McFarlane (Spawn, Image Comics), and written by fantasy guru R.A. Salvatore (22-time New York Times Bestseller).
It’s always hard to introduce a new RPG franchise into the world today with so many successful ones already in the mix. The task wasn’t easy for 38 Studios, which is why they brought the god of fantasy in to create something from nearly nothing. I must admit though, the storyline will win or lose fans.
The story of the franchise apparently spans 40,000 years, and Reckoning starts kind of smack dab in the middle. Your character (undetermined at this point) dies in the middle of a war, a battle brought on by this Evil emperor of sorts (very LOTR). A life temple type thing revives your character, and you are the only one to have this resurrection thing actually work. In being the only survivor, it is apparent that you have no fate.
The world of Amalur is completely woven in fate and every person can see a fateweaver and be told their future. You are the only exception (insert weird Paramore song here). This adds to a pretty fresh and new character progression system that I will elaborate on later. With so many side quests, it is very easy to lose track of the main storyline; however, there is only one real tangent in the main plot and that is you defeating the evil lord before he destroys Amalur.
This is where the real beauty lays for Reckoning. For the first time (that I recall) two different game types are merged beautifully. On one end, there is a very nice a full skill tree with your main three combat types, Rogue, Warrior, and Mage. On the other hand, you’ve got a simplistic button mapping that feels a lot similar to the Fable series. You can map different weapons to your X and Y (I played the 360 version) as primary and secondary weapons, and your magic is a combination of RB and the face buttons. All really easy to pick up and get extremely quick with. I found that the melee is steps above any other free roaming RPG out there simply based on the combos. Much like current generation fighting games; pauses, double-taps, holds and switches all bring out different combinations of attacks. You can even juggle an opponent Tekken style by knocking them into the air and shooting them continuously with your ranged weapon.
Reckoning also takes a unique approach on ranged ammo, giving you an allotted amount (that is dependent on your skill in ranged combat) and once you use those 5-10 arrows you must wait until they regenerate. This solves a few common issues with the RPG genre. You will continuously running out of ammo mid-quest or in contrast having an inventory chalked full of ammo you will never use, which won’t happen in Reckoning. Also, you won’t ever have to have a “buy more ammo” mentality which when it comes to diving head first into an RPG can really bog you down.
I built a few different toons and I must say that only one felt like it was actually an awesome fighter. The Melee feels good, but never makes you feel like a boss. The Rogue has some cool perks, but without a full living/breathing world surrounding you (eg. Skyrim) there isn’t too big of a reason to use any of them. The mage however, is a GIGANTIC BAD-ASS! I’ve never felt so powerful in a “Action RPG” before in my life.
The environment design in Reckoning is nothing to look twice at. There was never a moment where I had to stop and swivel the camera around to gawk or stand in awe. Nothing is extremely terrible or tacky, but nothing stands out in this generation. The entire game has a slight cartoony feel too it and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s kind of nice to see a lot of bold color and stylized character models in a time where everyone wants sharp “realistic” visuals. The world, which isn’t as “open” as advertised, isn’t very full and doesn’t feel very inclusive. There is a lot of collectible shrubbery, but overall feels like an over veggied meatless burger.
The characters that inhabit the world are very awesome and gives a 100% Salvatore feel to the lore. Some of the monsters that roam in wait of some agro are phenomenal and you even run into a few that scare the crap out of you in a “shit, run away!” type of way.
The interaction with the environment feels so empty and flat. Even the conversations, which force the game into a Letterbox screen, gives you less than fraction of sensation that you are in control of which way the conversation will eventually end up.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning makes a strong statement its first go-around, but there is still a lot of room for improvement down the road. I felt a little let down just due to the potential of the big names behind the project, but I do feel that with some humbling reviews and a re-collection of thoughts, KoA may just become one of the premier RPG franchises in the gaming universe. There is a large mix of strong lore and creativity sewn together with infidelity and weakness which ultimately cost the debut from Amalur.