RPG fans, this is one to chime in on! Let’s be honest… good role playing titles are few and far between these days. I’m a relatively young person, but I remember a time when it was necessary to devote more than two sittings to complete my favorite game. Fortunately for us, just when we thought our lives were over after finishing Skyrim for the second time in a row, another big ol’ ball of sandbox-y, role-playing goodness punched us all in the back of the head as it popped onto store shelves. There wasn’t a lot of hype for Amalur before it was released, but it was a pleasant surprise for those of us who needed a fix.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning puts you in control of the “Fateless One.” You see, in the Amalur universe, everyone has a predetermined fate but you (sob, sob)! But this wasn’t always the case. Following your pre-determined death you are brought back to life by an experimental device called the “Well of Souls.” Completing your original fate and returning from death has removed you from “Fate’s Weave,” which makes you the only person in the world without a clear ending to your path.
Shortly after your mysterious resurrection, you stumble right-smack into the middle of an assault on the laboratory that houses the Well of Souls. The antagonist force, the Tuatha Deohn, seem to be after the Well of Souls and its Gnomish creator, Fomorous Hugues. Why would that be, you ask? Read on, I say, because this plot gets devilishly more complicated! After you claw your way to the surface (yes, it’s an underground lab) and barely escape with your life, you meet your first ally, the Fateweaver Agarth. Fateweavers are a select group of people throughout Amalur who have the ability to see people’s fates, including their own. Puzzled by your random appearance, Agarth attempts to read your fate. Alas, he cannot, but agrees to aid you on your quest to discover the significance of your death and revival.
Amalur seems largely based on replay value, which is great considering the 20+ hours of content. There are four playable races: Almain, Varani, Ljosalfar, and Dokkalfar. These races are civilized humans, nomadic humans, light elves and dark elves, respectively. As you might expect, each race features a set of unique perks that give you advantages for certain styles of play such as stealth, melee, or magic. You also have the ability to become a patron of a God. Being a patron of the “God of War”, for example, will increase your physical damage and armor rating. The “God of Wisdom”, on the other hand, will increase your mana. Of course, if you like to be a non-conformist, you can opt out of being a patron and just take a sweet experience bonus that lasts the entire game.
Early in your search for answers, you learn that you not only have no pre-determined fate, but you can also effect the fates of others simply by interacting with them. Because of this, your actions gain the personal attention of the Tuatha Deohn King, Gadflow. Finally your mission becomes clear…well, clear-ish! Gadflow and his Tuatha army are waging war with the non-elvish races throughout the kingdom. Gadflow is threatening to unleash his god, Tirnoch, to destroy the other races for good. It had always been known that the Tuatha were fated to win the war, but that was before your soul found its way back to your body and you defied the tapestry of fate… no big deal. To find the answers surrounding your existence, you must delve straight into the heart of the crystal kingdom, Alabastra, the home of King Gadflow. And, while you’re at it, change the fate of an entire kingdom.
As another compliment to the element of choosing your own destiny, you also have the ability to invest in milestones for your character that further increase skills related to your play style. Each one of these milestones is called… you guessed it, a “Destiny”! There are destinies related directly to melee, stealth, and magic, as well as every combination of those focuses. Throughout your character’s development, you’ll be given access to six different tiers of each destiny, which increase your style-specific perks at each tier. These destinies become available to you after applying skill points from a level-up to either your “Might,” “Sorcery,” or “Finesse” skill trees. You are only able to unlock “Might” (melee) destinies after you have applied enough skill points to that skill tree, as well as the others for their specific destinies.
Once you’ve nailed down your character’s look and feel, it’s time to get the crap out of that laboratory and back into the groove of being alive. Amalur is an open world and you’re free to travel anywhere, any time. This means that if you happen to run into an area which is too tough, you can turn back and focus on less difficult side-quests until you’re strong enough. Since the game features fast traveling and hundreds of quests, you won’t have much down time from running across the relatively large world. Unfortunately, most of the side quests seem boring and repetitive. At times, I avoided level-grinding because the experience was so dull. This didn’t prevent me from moving forward into the main quest line for the most part, but once I reached end-game areas, my progress came to a screeching halt.
If you can look past the gather quests, then this game has a lot more to offer under the hood. Once you’re done with your old weapons, they can either be sold or broken down into raw materials. Once you collect enough pieces, you can synthesize your own items at a blacksmith’s forge. Amalur also has a modest random loot system. Items, as well as raw material breakdowns, can vary a bit if you go back for a second play-through. Low on coin and don’t have materials to make the sword you desperately want? That’s cool, you can always steal from the innocent NPC’s! No sandbox RPG would be complete without a crime system, these days. The system is a bit clunky, but for those of you who love stealth action, it’s here for you.
Whether you’re trudging around in someone else’s basement looking for loot or baking in the desert sun, there is one element where Amalur will absolutely not disappoint. This game was rendered incredibly well and has few to no visual bugs. Albeit very reminiscent of World of Warcraft at times, there is a great combination of realism and cartoony softness to keep me interested and remind me that I’m playing a fantasy game. When you combine that with an appropriate soundtrack and a few over-the-top, but fitting voice actors, Amalur becomes a very well-rounded package.
What makes Amalur a complete game, however, may actually be its downfall. Aside from a few great action scenes and interesting game play mechanics like the “Fate” system, the game just feels average. More thought should have been put into improving the side quests to make them enjoyable. When it came to attempting a pickpocket or unlocking someone’s private chest, the system just felt like it was added in last minute and was not very rewarding. The crafting system is relatively easy to use, but it’s usually not possible to craft a weapon that rivals (or surpasses) the ones you’ll find randomly throughout the world. Five years ago, in the gaming world, the quality of these additions might have seemed arbitrary. Too bad for Amalur that it’s 2012, and these things are expected in current generation RPG’s. Amalur is a game that I truly want to love. It was certainly worth a run-through, but my heart is still with other, more innovative titles.
I give Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning 3.5 ”Accidental Death Notifications From A Fateweaver” out of 5
By Justin Edwards