Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning In A Nut Shell
No one can deny that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has an impressive pedigree to its name. With the likes of Todd McFarlane (creator of spawn) and Ken Rolston (lead designer behind Morrowind and Oblivion) working on it I was told by everyone that this game would combine the RPG elements of the Elder Scrolls series with the fast paced combat system of Fable and add to that a bright and cartoon like aesthetic. So that sounds like a bunch of things I love put together to make a sandwich of pure enjoyment. But I have had my heart broken before by such promises, see Alpha Protocol for evidence of this. So does Amalur live up to all it promises to be? Well I can tell you now without any doubt that….
It does… kind of… mostly… it is good.
Let me explain. The world of Amalur is wracked by war as an element of the immortal race, the fae, has taken up religious extremism. They believe that a new god is going to be born from under a mountain and that god wants them to KILL EVERYTHING! So the mortal armies of elves, men, gnomes and the remaining fae have taken up arms to defend themselves. This already gives the developers a great narrative excuse to make a whole group of enemies respawn in front of the player without it breaking the feeling of immersion in the world (That comes between fights).
The combat system is slick and fluid allowing the player to switch seamlessly between swords to bows to magic attacks with ease. The player does not need to spend effort trying to string together increasingly long combos but it is encouraged, if only for the look of them. In the course of one fight I managed to knock an enemy into the air with my long sword and then keep them suspended in the air with a flurry of hits from a pair of daggers, which then sent them flying into a tree. With them dispatched I activated the dagger power attack and darted between my remaining assailants with blinding speed only to end up in the middle of the group, at this point I harnessed my magical powers and sent out a shockwave that catapulted me and all others around me into the air and then slammed them into the ground. I stand at the center of a morbidly serene battlefield, my enemies fallen and not a scratch on me or a hair out of place. I feel like a badass. Which makes what comes next all the more jarring.
On return to the nearby village I go to the guard captain who tasked me with the quest of clearing out the enemy forces. The subtitles start the conversation before he does and he starts before the cutscene does. This is a common experience in Amalur, every conversation feels clunky and stilted. The voice acting is agreeable but a lot of the characters come across as feeling constricted by the script. As they stand there telling me how the Dokkalfar have suffered at the hands of the Tuatha Deohn their voices filled with pain and their chiseled, muscular faces struggling to move under the weight of his own facial hair I look to the cramped drop down list of conversation points and find it very hard to give a damn.
Honestly seeing nigh unpronounceable fantasy jargon spouted from the mouths of hyper muscular knights sporting the carnival strongman look is pretty funny. Now this isn’t a bad thing, in fact there are a lot of little touches in the game that seem to imply that Amalur is giving a wink and a nudge to the audience at some of the more outlandish elements of the fantasy genre. The gnomes in centurion armor and the scantily clad elven maidens, these all seem like smiling nods at the things the fantasy genre has left behind as it’s evolved over the last ten years. As to whether or not you thought these things were better left in the past will greatly influence your enjoyment of Amalur.
Despite a somewhat jarring menu system and awkward scripting Amalur does have a real heart. When I played this game I got the real sense that it was trying to be something greater than it was. Certain aspects may need fine tuning but I would rather have a game fail for trying to do too much than too little.