DEVELOPER(S): 38 Studios and Big Huge Games
PUBLISHER(S): 38 Studios and Electronic Arts
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, Ps3, PC
GENRE(S): Action Role-playing Game
RELEASE DATE(S): February 7,2012
Considering it was developed by 38 Studies and Big Huge Games, published by EA, and created from the minds of R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane (creator of comic book Spawn), and Ken Rolston (The Elder Scrolls), Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the greatest underappreciated game ever. It surprises me that such a beautiful game, with characters as unique, alive, and vivid as the massive world they inhabit, could be so overlooked. I am the only person I know to have played the game and I enjoyed every minute of it. Although certain parts of gameplay do get repetitive after awhile, the game stays strong from start to finish and provides the player with an experience I had never seen in a video game before or have seen since.
The land of Amalur is a world inhabited by dozens of different races and species. The player is given the choice of playing as one of four: the Almain (civilized humans), the Dokkalfar (Dark Elves), the Ljosalfar (Light Elves), and the Varani (nomadic humans). The world of Amalur is one dictated by fate. In fact, there are those who are called “fate readers” who can read the fates of others, including when and how they die. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning begins in such a way, with the death of the player. However, the player awakes via the magic of a device known as the Well of Souls, a device designed to bring back the dead. You are its first and only success before it is destroyed. But the Well produces a peculiar side effect, the player is now free of the strings of fate, free to lead their own path and thus change the fates of others and the fate of the entire land of Amalur. The player also gains the power to temporarily tear fate apart and enter “fate reckoning” mode. Players absorb the fate of the enemies they kill, and when they have enough they can enter “fate reckoning.” While in such a state, enemies move slower, their attacks are weaker, the player’s are stronger, and at the end the player has the choice of executing a massive “fateshifting” move that obliterates all surrounding enemies while rewarding the player with extra experience. It’s pretty cool. Very God of War-ish.
The story begins when the player learns a dark force is rising and fated to destroy Amalur. With the power to change fate, the player is tasked to stop it. The journey is not a straight one. The game contains hours of side quests and missions to distract the player and provide ample opportunities to gain experience and level up. Each side quest contains a small story of its own. You find a man who claims he is a wolf who was cursed by a witch and needs your help to return to normal. Thieves attack a family and you must decide whether to track down the looters and give them up for a bounty or simply kill them and take the stolen goods for yourself. An entire town is infected by a virus that makes them all crazy and you have to find out why. And those are some of the simple ones. You encounter hundreds of these quests scattered throughout the land. A land full of lush forests, dry deserts, savage seas, dark caves, and rocky mountains. Along the way you’ll learn more about the land, its inhabitants, and ultimately change the way Amalur is forever.
However, where the game truly shines is its gameplay. The player begins as a “blank slate.” You are armed initially with a short sword, wooden shield, short bow, daggers, staff, a basic shock spell, and basic armor. From these weapons and powers you learn the three basic fighting styles: Might (up-close and personal), Finesse (long distance and stealth), and Sorcery (magic). When the character levels up, they are given three points and the choice of investing points into any of the three trees of their choosing. But once you commit to a skill tree it does not mean the character is locked into that slot. Your fate is yours to decide. You can choose to be a Might and Finesse hybrid, or long range expert that excels with both bows and spells, become an assassin who can turn invisible and set traps laced with poison, or invest points into all three trees to become a “Jack of all Trades.” The choice is yours. The player can visit a fate reader at any time to have their points reset if they want to travel down a different path.
The game is completely open world and full of loot and weapons for the character to discover. Swords and hammers (Might), daggers and bows (Finesse), scepters and (my personal favorite) chakrams (Sorcery) are found from fallen enemies and in secret chests. The number of weapons rivals the number of guns found in the Borderlands franchise. Weapons can be customized with gems (either found or handcrafted) to add special effects, alchemy benches give the player a chance to create potions from the plants they find, and players are even given the options to steal, attack, or kill any character in the world. Just be careful, break the law in the city and the guards will be called and you’ll have to cough up some serious dough to prevent being thrown into prison. The player is even given houses along their journey to store extra weapons and armor, change the character’s appearance, and upgrade the businesses (like hotels) the player runs. The player is also given the chance to embark on any (or all) of four quests that have a huge impact on the final outcome of Amalur’s fate These four “main” side quests correspond to four different guilds, the Warsworn (warriors for hire), the Travelers (thieves and assassins), the light elves, and the dark elves. At the end of each quest, depending on the player’s actions and choices, the player has the option of joining, destroying, or ruling the guild and acquiring weapons and armor unique to the guild.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the love child of Phantasy Star Online and the Mass Effect Trilogy; it is a game that is all about choice. Whether it comes from the path they wish to travel, what quests to complete and in what order, or which skill tree to pursue, the player is always in control. It’s beautiful graphics, intriguing story, expansive world, use of the player’s choices, high replay value, unique musical score (courtesy of Grant Kirkhope), and ease of play makes it easily one of my favorite video games. The only flaws I would associate with the game would be the few side missions that actually are repetitive and the many loading screens the player has to go through whenever fast traveling or entering a new area. Those can get annoying. However, they don’t detract too much from the overall experience of the game. This game is a must buy for those who love the Action and RPG genres.