Reviews// Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Posted 13 Feb 2012 16:22 by
It’s only been three months since Skyrim’s release but dedicated RPG fans might have already exhausted themselves hiking across the dragon-infested mountain ranges and might be looking for a new adventure to freshen things up. Presumably the high-profile names behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning would like nothing more than for their brainchild project to be that new adventure.

Right from the start, Kingdoms of Amalur wears its high fantasy setting on its sleeve. The game’s intro immediately sets the scene with a lot of fluff about elves and a dark lord and something about the end of the world. Before you can jump straight into things there’s a fairly brisk character creation process.

With only a small selection of faces to choose from, which can then be decorated with a much wider range of increasingly unusual facial hair and jewellery, the whole process shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

Then you’re away, into a fairly engaging opening chapter that does a great job of introducing you to the basic mechanics of the game and naturally encourages you to give some of the different weapon styles a try before you start to settle into your favoured playing style.

It won’t take long to notice that Kingdoms of Amalur is a really nice looking game. Technically the graphics might not hold up against some of the bigger titles of the last year, but design-wise KoA does its best to stand out by taking a refreshingly cartoonish and stylised approach in a genre that usually opts for a more grim and muddy tone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a lush forest or a dark underground mine, everything always looks bright and vibrant.

Considering the marketing of the game could be roughly divided into 50% ‘Look we have Todd McFarlane, R A Salvatore and Ken Rolston on board’; 25% ‘Seriously we’re just as good as Skyrim’ and 25% ‘Our combat is the best ever’, you’d rightfully expect said combat system to be something pretty special. Fortunately for KoA, it is.

Thanks to how different all of the weapon types feel, combined with the ability to switch mid-combo between two different weapons gives you a lot of freedom in deciding on a fighting style. Daggers are fast and precise but weak, hammers are massive and slow but hit like a truck of dynamite; and there are plenty of other weapons to choose from.

Being able to switch between any two weapons with just a simple button press allows you to link together attacks to fit your fighting style. You can weaken distant enemies with your bow before switching to a fiery magical staff as they close in; you can alternate between swinging a Greatsword around for crowd control and a regular sword for more controlled one-on-one situations. Being able to fire off your spells or charge up special weapon attacks just makes things that much more fluid and unpredictable.

So, fighting is always entertaining in KoA, which is just as well, because you’re going to be doing a lot of it. The wilderness is filled with animals, monsters and bandits for you to hack your way through as you travel to new places in search of quests.

Given how quickly enemies seem to respawn, thoroughly exploring an area might even lead you into the same fights more than once. There is a fast-travel system that lets you effortlessly warp between discovered landmarks, but considering KoA takes the somewhat old fashioned approach of only rewarding experience points for killing enemies you’re only going to end up hurting yourself by avoiding too much combat.

As you defeat enemies you will fill up your Fate Bar. Once the bar is full you can activate the game-breakingly powerful Reckoning mode. Once activated, time slows to a crawl for your enemies and your attacks are boosted considerably.

Any enemies defeated during Reckoning fall to their knees without dying, instead they wait for you to execute them. You can only execute one enemy before ending the mode however. So, in order to get the best result you should fell as many enemies as possible before finishing one.

Reckoning is incredibly powerful and lets you effortlessly turn the tables on your enemies in any fight. This really raises one of KoA’s biggest issues: it’s a very easy game.
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