Confession time. I absolutely loved The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to death investing nearly 150 hours of my life into Bethesda’s massive Role Playing Game. Comparisons with that game will invariably crop up in this review only because Skyrim set the benchmark when it came to offline RPGs. So how does Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning stack up when compared to the best? Quite good actually as it is a solid effort from developers 38 Studios and Big Huge Games offering players a healthy dose of polished content even though it is a bit rough around the edges.

Dude you can't even see me

Dude you can't even see me

Reckoning begins with you, the player being resurrected from the dead to fulfill some sort of divine prophecy. You find out that you’re a special breed of badass who can defy fate, kick a ton of ass and protect the world from all sorts of evil. It’s a pretty clichéd plot but it gets the job done. The first dungeon where you’re resurrected doubles up as a tutorial explaining the basics like the game’s combat (ranged, melee and magic) and leveling up system. After that, you’re free to explore the game’s vast world.

Even though this game has been billed as an open world RPG, it isn’t one much like Skyrim or the Fallout series. In fact it’s more comparable with something like Fable where the game world is divided into a bunch of smaller, diverse looking areas. I personally am not a huge fan of this kind of structure because it tends to give the game a very restricted feeling. Also quests have a distinct MMO feel to them unlike those in Skyrim that felt more natural to the game world. You’ll enter an area, see a bunch of exclamation marks on the mini map, pick up those quests and move onto the next without feeling any sort of connection to the quest givers. Also at times, rewards are not worth the effort you put into certain quests. This could eventually put you off side questing all together.

Left4Dead's the other way mate

Left4Dead's the other way mate

The comparisons to World of Warcraft extend to the game’s art style as well. It was rather cheerful for my liking but to give the game credit, it does pack in a mad amount of environmental diversity. Also don’t let the game’s fairy tale art style fool you as combat is quite brutal. Combat without a doubt is one of Reckoning’s greatest strengths. In fact the combat system in this game is so fast paced and fluid you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re playing an action game at times. As a warrior, you can branch out into one of three paths that can make you proficient with a long sword (faster attacks), a great sword (slower, more powerful attacks) or blunt weapons (hammers).  Mix those up with a bunch of magical attacks and the ability to switch weapons during combat and it’s like an RPG version of Devil May Cry.

Blocking incoming attacks is equally responsive as your character can get his guard up with the press of a button. Even if you’re unleashing a combo upon an enemy and see another one of his buddies ready to pounce at you, press the block button and you’ll successfully block or parry an incoming blow without really breaking the flow of action. This once again is a testament to the game’s action game-esque fast paced combat.

Stealth on the other hand didn’t feel quite as solid as all out brawling. Investing points in your stealth skills will allow players to creep up slowly and stab stuff to death but it doesn’t feel as intuitive as Skyrim’s. During my second play through of Skyrim, I primarily played an archer with high sneaking skills and got by just fine. That sort of playing style was not fully supported by this game since more often than not I was forced into combat either because it was the simpler option (since my enemies were facing me and there was no way to creep around them) or because I was constantly being ambushed by enemies.

Friendly AI, like most RPGs is also highly stupid and their stupidity really shines during missions where you have a companion. Unfortunately you can’t even order them to just wait in one place so more often than not they’ll just run head first into a group of enemies. So much for subtlety! Even when they’re in stealth mode, there were times when I saw my companion wander towards the enemy, walking about peacefully in their midst and to my surprise, they didn’t even bat an eye lid.

Shepard's on my side

Shepard's on my side

In Reckoning, you’ll net points depending on your play style so if you keep slashing people to death with your long sword, you’ll gain Might points while stealth kills net you Finesse points. Every time you level up, you’ll gain three XP points that can be used to unlock newer abilities in either of your ability trees. It’s a rather simple system that works quite well because it never really boxes you in forcing you to stick to one path. In fact, you could have a character that’s proficient in all three abilities; it’s that flexible. The only aspect I really didn’t care for were the unlocks present in each of the ability trees that felt a bit underwhelming.

Like I mentioned earlier, the art style in Amalur is striking, vibrant and colourful. World of Warcraft players will probably feel right at home but after coming in from Skyrim, it did seem a bit much. That being said, the game offers players a wide variety of environments so you never feel like you’re grinding in the same area. Dungeons aren’t as varied as you’d expect but they’re still far more diverse than those present in Dragon Age II. The action holds up real well throughout the game (this is the PC version we’re talking about by the way) thanks to solid frame rates that never falter even during moments of intense combat.

Don't think I won't kick your butt just because I'm a girl

Don't think I won't kick your butt just because I'm a girl

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning may not be the deepest or the most original RPG ever made but it certainly is highly accessible. It boasts of a deep and easy to pick up combat system that will appeal to action junkies as well. Questing may not be perfect but the game still offers players tons of content that will keep them satiated for days on end. Even if you’re not an RPG veteran, we suggest you give this game a shot. It may just end up converting you.

Test Rig:
Motherboard: Intel DP67BG Extreme Desktop series
Processor: Intel Core i7 – 2600K @3.40 GHZ
Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
Ram: Corsair Vengeance 4GB DD3 @ 1600 MHZ X2
Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200W

Publish date: February 18, 2012 12:38 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:38 pm

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,