Monday, 19 March 2012

Reckon you can handle this kingdom?

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

A playable demo can make such a difference sometimes. In KoA: Reckoning's case it surely did! I hadn't followed any news about this game, saw it on the list of new demo's on Xbox Live and decided to download it. About an hour later I was sold, I bought it on release the following week. This generation of games has surely made me jump into some genres I've never really played much in before. Let's take a closer look!

KoA:R begins with the player being declared dead and thrown in a pile of corpses, and yes it literally lets you start life from the beginning again. Awakening here, you have nothing and simply must rebuild your life and understand who you once were. The game has a vibrant and colourful design, a really likeable and almost World of Warcraft-type of look to it. Indeed the game was originally destined to be a MMO, but changed during development.

Using blades and daggers gives room for some very fast paced fighting.

There are quite a lot of customization options for creating your chracter.

What starts out as an indoors game quickly opens up to a huge free world, with great variation in between locations and enemies. Each area of the open world has a distinct colour and design scheme. From dark forests, to deserts to jungles and mountain-like areas. You'll quickly learn to remember where you are, simply by taking a quick glance at the surroundings. I like that the game starts off in an indoor location and eases you into the open world after a little while. The first open areas are also quite harmless, and each area is only accessible from the next, and as such the game controls cleverly how you explore each one in it's order. It's subtle, but works well.

Some enemies are large, very large!

You'll find many shops and merchants scttered throughout the game.

Gameplay in KoA:R is fairly simple. It actually reminds me a lot of a classic hack 'n slash game. There are various classes of characters and races of course and choosing a more magic oriented style to combat will result in less hand-to-hand fighting. I chose a more direct approach with focus on heavy weapons for open fighting with many enemies at once and stealth with dagger kills for the more sneaky parts of the game. Even though a lot of the fighting may seem quite repetitive in the game I actually, through my 25+ hour playthrough, never tired of it. KoA:R has an amazingly satisfying feeling to hitting a huge sword into enemies, combined with some rather spectacular magic abilities to round the visually appealing and entertaining fights off with. I really enjoyed doing stealth kills too, trying my best to quickly get close to the targets and brutally executing them from behind. I could imagine it's equally as fun learning to use magic and throwing nasty spells on enemies or excelling in firing down enemies from a distance with a bow-

In fact the easy and rather fast-paced combat, combined with satisfying controls and heavy feeling makes KoA:R a really good RPG for me. Perhaps it shows how appealing the game is when I'm a person who stays well clear of WoW and Skyrim as classic RPG examples. I just found KoA:R a perfect balance between action and being advanced enough to delve into abilities and armour/weaponry choices, not forgetting training abilities like stealth, lockpicking, negotiating etc, to keep a fairly RPG-light gamer like myself happy for hours.

I hated the flying enemies, they were a pain to kill with my layout. 
The fights look awesome and are really satisfying when you're in them!

There are, however, a few downsides. While seemingly rather well written and interesting the beginning of the game is, the story really is a let down after a while. It simply runs on empty fumes. I barely followed the main story, and the cutscenes connected to it were really poorly made and in fact disappointing. All side-quests stories, I simply skipped. They just seemed so generic and simply like a time-filler.

The moral choices you choose in dialogues seem to give no effect and simply did not bare the heavy weight of lets say Mass Effect's choices do. The end of the main story simply felt so underwhelming that I was rather disappointed. Had the awesome gameplay been combined with some epic storyscenes and cinematic of lets say Final Fantasy (without the cheesy dialogue of course!) this could have been a truly wonderful game. The game simply needs a more focused and actually meaningful story and slightly more detailed areas to visit. More than often you feel like you're playing through a list of quests, in rather empty environments, giving you the feeling of a game with a somewhat empty shell. While colourful and varied, the environments suffer from serious pop-up of not so distant objects and sometimes the framerate drops. They could also benefit from being filled with much more detail.

Simply because of the excellent gameplay, variation in weaponry and classes and varied art design in locations I reward this game with the rating below. Next time, though, I want a story with people and a main character I care about.



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