Ryu’s Musings – Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an open-world action role-playing game set in Amalur, a mysterious and magical new fantasy world created by New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore. Brought to life visually through the trademark style of renowned artist and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, Reckoning brings a new level of visual style and visceral action combat to the RPG genre. The game is being developed under the leadership of Ken Rolston, lead designer of the critically acclaimed RPGs Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Reckoning combines intense third-person action combat with deep exploration, expansive character development and customization, and immersive storytelling in an extraordinarily detailed fantasy universe. Gamers begin their journey when they miraculously rise from the dead, wielding dangerous new magic capable of changing the very Fate of Amalur. Thrust into a brutal war between multiple races, factions, and alliances, players vie for the secrets of their immortality and the ancient evil that threatens to consume the world.

The lore of Kingdoms of Amalur spans an epic course of 10,000 years of history created by R. A. Salvatore. Reckoning captures a moment in this history, the tale of a singular hero capable of reshaping the fate of the world of Amalur. Every building, tree, and creature has a clear and defined history within this immersive world filled with extraordinary landscapes, mysterious cities, colorful characters, and fantastic creatures inspired by the legendary art style of Todd McFarlane.

Developed by Big Huge Games in Baltimore & Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios in Providence, Rhode Island, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning™ will be available in 2012 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Key Features:

  • Intense Action Combat in an RPG – Create your own unique combat style, choosing from among nine different melee weapon classes and dozens of devastating spells in Reckoning’s unique Action Magic combat system. Eradicate your enemies in grand fight sequences featuring brutal Fateshift finishing moves that will redefine visceral RPG combat.
  • Open World RPG Design Led by Ken Rolston – Play your way through 60+ hours of riveting storyline, diverse side quests, and open-world exploration created by RPG gurus Ken Rolston (Lead Designer, Morrowind, Oblivion), Creative Director Mark Nelson (Lead Designer, Shivering Isles; Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3), and Lead Designer Ian Frazier (Titan Quest).
  • Rich Fiction and Storytelling by R.A. Salvatore – Reckoning is set in the Kingdoms of Amalur universe and its 10,000 years of deep fiction created by 22-time New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore.
  • Art and Action Directed by Todd McFarlane – Brought to life through the direction of renowned Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn and Founder of Image Comics, Reckoning brings you intense action combat, hordes of gruesome enemies, and beautifully realized fantasy vistas.
  • Choose Your Destiny – Create your character from dozens of unique skills and abilities, and further customize it as Reckoning’s revolutionary new Destiny System unlocks powerful new Destinies based on how you choose to play. Millions of combinations of weapons and armor allow you complete the character that looks and plays the way you’ve always hoped.

Amalur is one of those games that does everything right, then promptly does everything wrong as well.

So, they hired a professional fantasy writer to create an entire new world for the setting, RA Salvatore is a great fantasy author, so the fact he was brought in raised a lot of hope regarding the game.

While the story is interesting, and does draw you in a bit, it’s to close to bog standard fantasy to be really special. It’s to close to reality because it draws heavily on welsh and Irish legends and mythos. The problem here of course is that those who know those legends and myths know where the differences are, and it’s hard to set aside what you know and go with the flow.

There also appears to be some cuts in the world and story Salvatore created, for example in one quest I’m charged to commit murder, kill an ambassador and avert a massacre. However the build up to the quest is pretty intense, making you think the world hangs in the balance and that you have to do it to save everyone, which is true. However after you kill the person it’s over, all done and dusted with no follow up, which has let me scratching my head about the consequences.

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Then we have the DLC, there’s been two released, The Teeth of Naros and The Legend of Dead Kel. I’ve done the Teeth of Naros, and for what it was it was a good bit of DLC. As you play through the main campaign you naturally come to a section where you have a choice, carry on with the main stuff or go off and do the DLC. By the time you reach the area needed, if you’ve done all the quests, including side ones, your high enough to enjoy the challenge of the DLC.

The problem is the DLC doesn’t really fit into the story. It introduces a new race, and a new set of gods. However once you leave the Teeth of Naros (named for the area you quest in) it’s all done. again there’s no consequences for your actions. This new race doesn’t impact the ‘original’ area, nor do their gods. Which is a great shame, since there felt like a lot of potential for choices to have an impact.

What’s worse, is that by completing the Teeth of Naros you get a full set or armour and weapons for free that are seriously over powered. You might have to wait a few levels to get the full set wearable, but when you can use them you end up using them for ages. It takes a long time for your crafting to catch up and start to produce weapons and armour you can swap it out for.

The other DLC, I’ve not started yet, but that one ultimately gives you a fortress of your own, with your own town and people. I’ve not played this yet as I’m not close to the area on the map, but I’m working my way to it.

The DLC however breaks the game, both the paid and the free DLC. If like me you played the Mass Effect 3 demo you get a shed load of freebies that are seriously over powered. I used them till i was level 13 or so, which was ridiculous. Some of them i still keep around and use now and again. Teeth of Naros is the same, the weapons and armour you get from the end of those quests means when you get back onto the main story you literally just walk all over everything. The game ceases to be a challenge as mobs can barely scratch you.

The other DLC you can buy are the weapon boosters, which gives you access to a full set of armour and weapons depending on your path. These aren’t to bad, and frankly are okay, but not worth the £4 that’s been asked for them.

The world has a Morrowind vibe to it, which isn’t surprising since some of those game dev.’s worked on this game as well. However if your looking for the open-world exploration of games such as Skyrim, you’ll be disappointed. The world is open, in so much as you can choose where you go and when you go there. You can do quests in pretty much any order you want, which is certainly a plus. However there’s a lot of running in the game, you have to run EVERYWHERE. As you explore you discover towns and dungeons, which you can then ‘fast travel’ to. But getting around is tedious to say the lest, especially since there’s no mounts in this game. Given the amount of running you have to do you’d think they’d have introduced mounts at some point, just to make getting around interesting and different.

The game suffers heavily from consolitis, everything about it screams at it’s being made for the console. The way the interface works and the options work. You can’t just go  into the inventory screen to equip stuff, you have to go through numerous menus which are a pain in the rear on the PC. You’d think pressing ‘I’ would take you to your inventory, but no, from there you have to choose a subsection and then in the weapons another sub section. It’s clearly designed for use with a controller, which is a shame, since it makes the UI cumbersome and annoying to use.

The combat had the potential to be great fun, but for some reason it has auto lock-on, and you can’t turn it off. As a result if your playing an archer your NEVER going to miss your target. What’s more some od game choices were used, for example if you play an archer, you can still run around with a giant 2-handed shield, which you incorporate into you attacks.

One of the good things i like about the combat however is the dodge mechanism, you can roll all over the place avoiding your enemies attacks, and incorporate the rolls into your attacks. It’s great fun!!

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Unfortunately to say the AI is dumb would be understating the problem. If the AI were to use the dodge mechanic and varied attack styles then it would have been a more exhilarating time. However they literally just run up to you and start hitting you, with weapons that tickle more than anything. Oddly i felt more tension in the fights during the tutorial section than i have any other time since leaving the Well of souls.

This is all down to one thing, scaling. The game does not scale the content which means that if your playing the main game your reasonably all right. If you go off and play any of the DLC though you come back and find your to many levels over, so the combat is to easy. What the game really needed to do was to scale it so that if you come back as level 20, all the stuff you face is the same level or slightly higher, so as it remains a challenge. This with a competent AI would have made this game into one of the greatest RPG’s ever

The levelling scheme isn’t anything special really, you get skill points which boost your base skills such as blacksmithing. As well as ability points which give you access to the special abilities of the game, such as poisons, spells, and weapon specialisations giving damage boosts.

What does add a bit of spice are the fate cards. As you progress through the 3 paths, when you reach certain combinations you get given a fate card. These cards when equipped give you various bonuses and stat changes. This means you need to use a bit of forethought and planning to get the card you might want.

Your also granted a collection of fates which are always equipped, these cards are given when you complete milestones in the story, and again offer different bonuses. Some you can’t get if you make different choices, so again some forethought is needed.

The problem here is that cards are given based on story choices, and solving puzzles, but none of them are particularly hard. In fact they give you the answers during the course of the quest, so you can play the game while asleep since it practically plays itself.

The other thing i found really annoying is that you can’t abandon quests, and some items are none droppable/tradable or destroyable. The first of these was very annoying, when i left the Teeth of Naros DLC i had several repeatable quests in my log. These are quests you can turn in over and over for XP and gold. However since I’d left the area i wanted to delete them from the log, but there’s no option to do this. As a result as you pass through the game you pick up quests you wont complete again and can’t get rid of. A minor thing true, but damn annoying after a while as the list continues to grow.

The second problem is more frustrating, as you pick up items in your inventory you get quest items. These aren’t always take from you due to a bug in the game, as a result your left with a load of items you cant get rid of. At the moment I’ve some 15 items in my inventory i can’t get rid of, that’s near a quarter of my backpack being used for garbage I’ll never use.

It’s also worth noting that you can break the game if you don’t do things right. for example in the ambassador assassination quest i mentioned above, i didn’t like the idea of being labelled a murderer. The purpose of the quest (apparently) is to get some daggers from the ambassador and destroy them. So i decided to pick pocket her and get them. Only it didn’t work, it was still telling me i had to her. Not biggy, so i just killed her. However because I’d already stolen the daggers i couldn’t do the next part of the quest, steal the daggers from her body. Since I’d already done that you’d think it would just move on, but it doesn’t, meaning the quest breaks. You have to either go back to an earlier save or ignore it completely.

Finally we have the biggest bug bear in the room, the DRM. The base game is tied to Origin, which i don’t really have an issue with. Since it checks the first time you launch the game and that’s that. However the DLC is a different matter, each launch requires an internet connection to verify that the DLC is valid. If for some reason it can’t access the internet it wont let you use the DLC. what’s more it won’t let you play any save file that has the DLC used in it, which is damned annoying.

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I could understand if this was on the base game, but on the DLC just feels like a kick in the face to fans. This is yet again a pure single player experience requiring internet access, but only if you want to play the DLC.

Thing is the vast majority of these problems could have been fixed over time with patches. The Dev.’s were fairly good at getting the patches out, especially at the beginning. One of the biggest issues at launch was that you couldn’t rebind the keys properly, if you wanted to use the arrow keys you were boned, until they released a patch.

However due to the company going under and the game now being tied up in bankruptcy court, it’s highly unlikely to ever be fixed. Which i have to admit is a great shame, since the world and setting has a lot of potential that could have lead to a new Baldur’s Gate experience spanning multiple games.

As it is, i have to admit i can’t recommend this game, unless you can get it on a sale. I’ve seen this game as low as £6 on Amazon, which is a good price for it, and the DLC d frequently go on sale in the Origin store. However i have to admit I’m not likely to finish the game due to the fact its no longer challenging or fun for me.

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