Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for PS3
Posted: November 28th, 2016, 8:11 am
Sometimes when a game is overlooked, it's unfortunate. Other times, like with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, it's a crime. In a market where open world fantasy RPGs have become bland and formulaic, KoA breathes fresh life into the genre.
You play as [Insert Name Here], a corpse who was resurrected by the mystical Well of Souls. Your memory was apparently left behind in the afterlife, though, because you have no idea who you were before you died. All that's clear is that the Well's laboratory is under attack by the Tuatha, an army of undying fae determined to wipe out all mortal life. Amalur is a world where every living thing is a slave to fate, and freedom of choice is merely an illusion. Somehow, in the process of your resurrection, you have been freed from fate's tyranny, making you the only person capable of going against the Tuatha and saving Amalur.
KoA is impressive for a number of reasons. First of all, the story is surprisingly well told for an open world RPG. Usually, those are content to give you the bare bones of a narrative and let you immerse yourself in the world. KoA's story, however, was written by none other than award winning fantasy author R.A. Salvatore, so I guess it's not really all that surprising. is it? While it never takes the Final Fantasy approach of bringing the game to screeching halt for thirty minute long cutscenes, there are still plenty of twists, turns, and relatable characters to keep you occupied in between quests.
Another notable aspect are the graphics. While games like Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma pride themselves in looking as photorealistic as possible, KoA welcomes its fantastic themes with open arms. That means bright colors, exaggerated character models, and awesome looking enemies. The art style actually reminds me a lot of World of Warcraft, now that I think of it. The downside to this is that you'll rarely meet anybody who stands out. The fae, especially, look cool at first, but then they all start to blend together when you realize the formula for making one is random weird skin color + random weird hair color = fae #4297. That's not too much of a damper, though, as the art style overall is still vibrant and refreshing.
But let's get down to the most important, and notable, aspect of the game: the combat. Put simply, it's the best I've ever experienced in a game like this. Gone are the random arm flailing of The Elder Scrolls and the "press a button and watch your guy fight" of Dragon Age, these developers actually put EFFORT into this! KoA's combat is fast paced, fluid, and FUN! You're granted a wide assortment of weapons to choose from, ranging from the typical swords and bows to more interesting ones like chakrams, warhammers, and strange crescent-shaped faeblades. I especially like how you twirl the wizard staffs like a ninja, flinging spells from it with every strike. You can equip two weapons at a time, one mapped to the square button and one to the triangle, switching between them at the push of a button. Almost all of them are fun to use (with the exception of the scepters, which are stupid), and you can adapt your loadout to match any kind of playstyle you want. Warrior, mage, rogue, or some combination of the three, it's all here. After beating up enough guys, you're able to enter a supercharged state that slows your enemies down and powers up your attacks. Try and kill as many enemies as possible while in this state, and at the end you'll finish up with a quicktime event and a brutal finisher. Unlike other quicktime events, though, this one has you mashing a button to increase how much XP you earn! While I wouldn't say the combat is on par with something like Devil May Cry-- it's pretty dang close! It's mainly the lack of a jump button that keeps it from attaining that final degree of awesomeness, but for the genre the game is, and comparing it to what's come before, what we have is far more than adequate.
Unfortunately, KoA is still not a perfect game. While the combat may be awesome, it's a little disappointing that nearly every enemy in the game can be defeated with the same attack, dodge, attack, dodge pattern. I know they wanted to make the game compatible with whatever playstyle the player chose, but a little more diversity would have been greatly welcomed. In fact, there are only two bosses in the entire game that are different from the others. The combat is still fun, but extended sessions can leave the game feeling a little stale because of this.
That is only made worse by the fact that there's nothing to do in Amalur but fight. Whether you're plowing through the main storyline or doing some sidequests, just about everything boils down to run here, kill the thing, get the thing. This is made better by how much fun it is to fight stuff, and the engaging storyline definitely makes it worth it, but once you've levelled up and gotten a good set of armor and weapons, there's very little to entice you to explore the world. Even the dungeons all look and feel the same, each requiring the exact same routine of hacking and slashing your way to the boss at the end.
Also, minor gripe here, but the lack of a jump button is a little irritating as well. While it helps keep you from annoyingly falling to your death, it also increases travel time. If you come to a ledge and need to get to the bottom, you'll either have to find a "jumping platform" put there specifically for that platform, or run all the way to the other end. That feels like artificial padding, and I can't think of any reason why the developers couldn't have inserted a simple jump button to speed things up.
All these complaints don't add up enough to ruin the game, though. Far from it, in fact! KoA is still one of the best, if not THE best open world RPG I've ever played. The combat is crazy fun, the world is pretty to look at, and an excellently written story keeps your attention from start to finish. It may not be perfect, but it surely deserved more attention than it got. Sadly, though, the lack of success forced the developer to close down, so any hope for a sequel is highly unlikely.
Sometimes life just isn't fair, you know?
I give Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning a 9.0/10!