Cam’s Eye View: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for the PS3 and 360 review

Action RPG games can be fun, can’t they? Of course, it all depends on the people making the games to result in them being good or not. For example, the Tales team always puts out a high quality action RPG like Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Graces F. On the other hand, Lionhead Studios, who makes the Fable games, keeps hyping them to no end, resulting in them being terrible games with some decent ideas, but just nothing creative or innovative. You would think they would learn from their mistakes, but they don’t. The game might have a fun art style and the help of one of the Monty Python people, but man, the Fable franchise just needs to be buried deep within the Ark and put away by top men never be seen again. Unless Fable: The Journey is good, I will change my mind about them. Now, we have two companies who are working on the game in today’s review, BIG HUGE Games and 38 Studio. One of these companies is famous for the popular Rise of Nation games, and for the other company, this is their first project. It does have some nice visuals and has the back-up of lead designer Ken Rolston who also worked on Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spawn, and fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore writing about the game and its lore. Do all of these people make this a good game? Or is it just another average action RPG that was overly hyped and disappointing like Dragon Age 2? Let us find out in today’s review of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

The story speaks of this mystical land of Amalur and its inhabitants that are bound by fates. Their destinies are already determined as to when they are born and how they will die. Currently, the people of Amalur are in a never-ending conflict with a race of beings called the Tuatha Deohn, a race of dark elf-like beings who do not follow the threads of fate, and keep coming back to life after they are killed. A small group of Gnomes, one of them delightly voiced by Jim Cummings, are building a device called the Well of Souls. This little project they have is meant to bring back people from the dead. You play as the first being they bring back to life. Shortly after you get out of the Well of Souls and are out into the beautiful artistically styled world of Amalur, you set off on a journey to find your own fate and destroy the villains that roam this incredibly massive world. The story is pretty much set up like the Elder Scrolls to where there is a good amount of themes going on with the world, but it isn’t a linear story with a huge free-roaming world and your choice to follow the story or not. If you choose to explore, you can find an interesting lore that blends it self with a somewhat familiar, but rather interesting world filled with different characters that you can meet on your merry way. I guess a shorter summary of the story is that if you like RPG stories like Skyrim, you will like this game’s story.

When you get started in the game, you get to choose what kind of being you would like to be out of four different races. They are basically two different kinds of humans and two different kinds of elf-like beings. You get to choose what they look like to a certain extent, due to a rather simple, but not terrible character creator. A fun little addition though is that you get different perks depending on what race you choose to be. The gameplay is a free-roaming action RPG with a huge and I really mean HUGE world to travel across. I haven’t seen a game world be this big since Just Cause 2. It is nuts how big it is. You basically traverse this huge land on foot or by fast traveling if you have found a town or some kind of cave. The combat that people will compare it to is a lot like God of War or if the Fable series actually cared about having a unique combat system. There are a huge number of weapons to use, 9 in total, and you can upgrade them with better weapons and have special moves. This game does go by a simple class system like a warrior, thief, and a magic user. However, there is a very cool system where you can mix the three classes together. You want to be a rogue who uses magic? You bet! You want to be a magic user who uses huge swords and giant hammers? You bet! You want to be a jack-of-all-trades and have expertise in all of the classes? YOU BET YOU @#$%ING CAN!!! This is really cool. It is like a simple version of Blue Dragon or Final Fantasy 5’s class system. There is a fun super mode called Reckoning Mode where you can kill a horde of enemies faster and then go after the boss of the group to pull off a super finisher ala Mortal Kombat style. The finishers are epic since there is a quick-time event in each one, and if you press the button fast enough, you gain more and more experience points. I have to agree with some reviewer saying that quick-time events should be implemented like this if you put them in action RPG’s. There are even ways to get a house to put your stuff in, have a good source of income, and persuade different situations to your liking that is pretty cool. Just like Mass Effect 3 and Witcher 2, you can change what happens in the quest. You want to help a giant sealed demon become free instead of sealing it back in? You bet! You want to kill the villager that you were protecting from a horde of spiders and the leader of said spiders? You bet! You want to keep an item that you went to give someone because you had to kill a troll and not her? YOU BET! I love this. This gives an already huge game even more replay value because it can take you up to 100 or more hours to beat if you want to take on all side quests and the main quest. This is great, but how good is this massive amount of playtime? Well, let us talk about the presentation next.

Graphically, to be honest, is fine. It gets the job done and it is a pretty amazing world artistically. I love the art style that went into this game. I mean, amazing graphics are a plus, but they are just icing on the cake for me when I write up these reviews. I care more about story and gameplay. I will say though when you are in a very open area and the light of day is just right, the colors look amazing! I also love some of the designs of the monsters, especially the trolls, which have a fun unique look to them. The overall graphic engine might be flawed slightly, but it looks good with a huge number of bright colors. The music, composed by Grant Kirkhope is rather nice and soothing with some epic tunes when needed. The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag, but is pretty good. They do not use a huge number of voice actors with a few big names like Jim Cummings, Jim Ward, and Liam O’Brian playing multiple roles in the game and Cummings taking the role of one of the main villains. Overall, there is a really cool-looking world here.

So, you get a huge world to venture through, some memorable bosses and characters, and great combat and leveling up system. What could be wrong with this grand and mostly epic RPG? First off, it might be a bit too big and have maybe a bit too much to do. A lot of quests are pretty much the same throughout some areas, with some unique ones popping up every now and then. There could have been more happening in the overworld, like much larger monsters than trolls or those huge fat red monster guys roaming around like giants or dragons like in Skyrim. I just think this game was originally supposed to be like an MMO since there are little things that make it feel like an MMO-turned-single-player-offline-RPG. I mean, imagine your character on a quest to find a hive of trolls and a gigantic troll queen or something producing the trolls instead of another elf-like character wanting to rule the world? What about fighting a giant three-headed ogre ala Shadow of the Colossus?  The music doesn’t really play as loudly as it should, all the characters look the same, and some of them sound the same. There isn’t a lot going on in the overworld, you can’t jump up mountains to find alternate paths to dungeons, and the graphics look more akin to if World of Warcraft ever decided to care about updating its graphics engine up a notch. It would also be kind of cool if there were underwater fights like in Monster Hunter Tri.

Overall, this is one of my favorite games of 2011 and it helps that I was not as big of a fan of Skyrim as everyone else was. Not that Skyrim was the worst game of all time, but I don’t think it was worth all the 9’s and 10’s people keep giving it. Plus, for a new IP and the first game for a new company, it is pretty successful in my opinion. I know a lot of people were overly upset about the day 1 free DLC code if you bought a new copy of the game, but I think people are overreacting to it. They could have asked us to download the code and pay for it, but maybe instead using the term, “online pass” in this kind of situation is not right. Maybe, they should have said DLC pass instead of online pass. However, I highly recommend you go out and buy this game. It is really worth it. You get some of the best combat in American-made action RPG history, a huge world, some interesting lore, and a wonderful new RPG hopefully turning into a franchise with more single player offline RPG sequels. I just hope they don’t turn this into an MMO since I am not into those as much. If you are looking for a great RPG to hold you over until Dragon Age 3 or Witcher 2 for your 360, then I say go pick up Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning!

This game gets an 8 out of 10

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