The best kind of RPGs are the ones that have the right balance of good storytelling and gameplay. Personally, if the story is really good and the gameplay is mediocre at best, I can actually forgive the less than stellar game system. If the story isn’t so great, but the combat system is amazing, then it’s a lot harder for me to be engaged with what’s going on. This best describes my experience with playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a fantasy, single-player RPG where you take on the role of the “Fateless One.” The story begins when the “Fateless One” wakes up from having been successfully revived from the dead through the experimental Well of Souls conducted by a gnome scientist named Fomorous Hugues. Before the “Fateless One” can find out who they are and how exactly they died, the lab is attacked by Tuatha Deohn. You escape the lab and Fomorous Hugues goes into hiding. The journey begins when your character embarks on a search for their identity, uncover the truth behind their death, and fighting the war against the Tuatha.
Like most RPGs, you have a choice to play as a male or female character. There are four playable races and three class trees to choose from. I chose to play as a female of the Ljosalfar race (Light Elves), who I named Lyra, and spent the entirety of the game playing the Battle Mage class, which has a nice balance of magic and melee attacks. Throughout your journey you can pick up a variety of weapons for your character to use, such as staffs, chakrams, daggers, swords, or hammers. You can switch between your primary weapon and secondary weapon in battle. My personal favorite weapons to use were chakrams for my primary weapon and faeblades (fancier and cooler looking daggers) as my secondary weapon. When you have a choice of using chakrams in the game, it was my chance to channel my inner Xena Warrior Princess fantasies through my character. There was something really elegant and lethal about throwing two chakrams at enemies from a safe distance too.
The combat itself is extremely fun and engaging. Aside from looking like a total badass with your main two weapons, you have a chance to fill up a purple gauge known as the Fateshift/Reckoning bar. Once the bar is completely maxed out, you hit both trigger buttons on your controller to activate it. Enemies and the entire scene around you is slowed down, so you can land a devastating finishing blow to your one enemy of choice. I typically save this function for particularly harder enemies, especially during big boss fights. It has been really helpful in gaining the upper hand in most battles.
The game is a massive open world with plenty to do and explore. Whether you finish the main story or prefer to take breaks in between to see what the world of Amalur has to offer, there are plenty of side quests to choose from. Some are your typical fetch quests and others are side stories not directly related to the main story. Or if you prefer to walk around and simply enjoy the gorgeous landscapes unfolding right in front of you, you can do that while level grinding your character in the process. You’ll encounter many creatures, monsters, or mercenaries to fight on the road, some tougher than they appear to be.
As you continue to explore the world or do missions in the game, the amount of places you get to visit or revisit gets bigger and more spread out. Luckily, there’s an option to fast travel to a place you have visited before. If you’re tired of walking and truly having a go at it in a Lord of the Rings style epic journey, then fast travel will help in these cases. Fast travel is not an option only if you haven’t visited a place before. If you’re given a mission to visit someone in another location and it’s quite far from where you’re at now, you really have no choice but to go on foot.
Despite all the good elements this game has, there are some downsides to it. The obvious one being the story itself. At first, I was really interested in finding out why my character ended up dead in the first place and who she was before she died. As time wore on and after meeting numerous people along Lyra’s journey, I really didn’t care anymore. Maybe it was the way a lot of the characters were written. There wasn’t anything about the significant ones that made me want to learn more about them. Another problem was that there were too MANY characters in this game. I forgot about a lot of them just as soon as I met them. There are plenty of characters to keep track of in the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, but they were so well-written that it was easy to keep their stories straight. Even the really minor ones. It also didn’t help that many of the characters in Amalur had names that were too hard to say or remember. Having a conversation with anyone I met to learn more about them and the place they lived in quickly became too boring or took too much time to want to care anymore.
The reveal of how significant my character really was in Amalur wasn’t a shocking revelation in any sense of the word. It was a squeak rather than a big bang in the night. I disregarded the story for much of the game and simply enjoyed exploring the world and fighting enemies along the way. I really wanted to like the story and characters of Amalur, but it fell flat in the engagement department. I went through the motion of getting through the conversation wheel with the character whose name I didn’t really catch, so I can move onto my next mission or to enjoy the cutscenes.
Another problem I had with the game was shopping in the world of Amalur. It may be convenient to fast travel to any place that has a store, healing, and weapons/armor repair service, but many times when I arrive at my destination spot, I spend most of my time going crazy finding the right house in a town or village that will carry or have the services I need and want. The map doesn’t clearly mark where certain things are. You pretty much have to walk and go in and out of houses to find what you want. Stocking up is no easy task. If you use a weapon or a set of armor a lot, it becomes easy for these things to break and need repair. It’s a little annoying when repairing doesn’t become too convenient if you’re in the middle of a quest or battle. You can buy repair kits to lessen the damage on your equipped items, but it doesn’t really help all that much when a full repair will do the job. When you do plan on repairing everything you have on you, be prepared to pay quite a lot for it. I can’t tell you how many times my money has depleted because of the repairs alone.
My final issue with the game is a minor one and it has more to do with the final boss fight with the false god Tirnoch. I played the game on normal and didn’t have too much difficulty with any of the major bosses. Tirnoch is not even a really hard boss fight to finish, but what gets you is more of a faulty technical issue. There’s a point in the game where once you get Tirnoch’s health level low enough, the A button appears for you to highlight and activate to deliver the finishing move. Simple, right? Well, not if the camera angle is so awkward that you have to have your character at a specific spot for the button to highlight and for you to be able to push it. It has been one frustration after another to not be able to do this and then have to hack away at Tirnoch again to get the HP levels low enough again to get to the button highlight prompt. It took several tries and a near rage quit for me to finally succeed in ending the battle and reaching the final cutscene of the game. I doubt I’ll want to revisit this boss fight anytime soon.
As a whole, the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a good enough RPG if you like open worlds, want a game with a ton to do even after you finish the main story missions, and has a fun combat system with plenty of weapons, races, and classes to try for future replays. If you’re more of a gamer in search of a really good story to enjoy as you play, you may find this title a little disappointing. I highly recommend picking this game up on sale or at a bargain bin at your local video game store.
Reviewer Rating: 8.5/10