Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review - After the 38 Studios Shut Down
38 Studios/Big Huge Games
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
February 7, 2012
-Jovan St. Lawrence
I think its safe to say that role-playing games are the best games to be playing right now next to the shooter genre. RPGs are bursting out at the seams, both on consoles and PC, whether it be JRPGs, Action RPGs, Turn based RPGs, or even MMORPGs. And who doesn’t love a great RPG? The landscapes, customization, characters, character traits, narrative, core gameplay and much more are just simple but expansive and complex elements to even the most basic of role-playing games. Today, we’re gonna review Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Big Huge Games’ latest venture into a brand new massive experience featuring some of the greatest minds in art design, literature, & gaming today. Noted fantasy author and New York Times Best Seller, R.A Salvatore, wrote well over 10,000 years worth of history for the Amalur series, starting with Reckoning. He has sold over 15 million copies of his books in America alone and 22 of his titles have been New York Times Best Sellers. Award winning animator Todd McFarlane, creator of fantasy series Spawn, served as the art director for Reckoning. Legendary game designer of The Elder Scrolls III & IV, Ken Rolston, served as the executive designer for Reckoning. Former baseball pitcher, Curt Schilling, is the founder of 38 Studios and producer of Reckoning. Lastly, Reckoning’s composer is Grant Kirkhope, former audio director at Rare and composer of such Rare titles as Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, & Donkey Kong 64. It’s an understatement to say that Reckoning has quite the dream team.
You start out Reckoning, dead. Yeah I know, you’re dead when your adventure begins. It’s at this point when you pick your race. Reckoning doesn’t necessarily have a class system but I’ll talk about that later on. The four playable races are the Almain (Civilized Humans), the Dokkalfar (Dark Elves), the Varani (Nomadic Humans), and the Ljosalfar (Light Elves). You are a mortal simply known as the “Fateless One”, whom dies before the game’s outset. You are then resurrected by the Well of Souls, a construct dedicated to immortality and the preservation of life by gnomish scholar and scientist Fomorous Hugues. The facility that you are in is under attack by the Tuatha Deohn, a sect under the immortal Winter Fae race who are currently at war with pretty much the rest of the world’s mortal races in the name of their new god Tirnoch. After you escape the facility, you have no memory of your previous life before death. However, you learn the intriacies of the world you’ve returned to, thanks to a Fateweaver named Agarth. Amalur is a world governed by fate and as such, everyone has a specific preordained fate, a destiny if you will. Agarth and other Fateweavers like him are able to read fate and to predict certain circumstances revolving around death. So when Agarth finds out that you (the player) have no fate whatsoever simply because you fullfilled your fate by dying, you have taken all Fateweavers out of “Fate’s weave,” making them incapable of predicting your next move. You, as the Fateless One now begin an epic quest to not only to uncover the truth surrounding your death but to also bend fate to your own will. You meet interesting characters with special and compelling stories behind them. You gain many allies along the way as well, including Agarth and Fomorous Hugues. Amalur features 5 distinct regions, all consisting of beautiful landscapes, colorful environments, lush forests, dangerous enemies of every shape & form, over 150 handcrafted dungeons, hundreds of side quests, and 5 total factions. Amalur is very non-linear, however, it is also presented in a contained and coherent fashion.
As I said earlier, the player starts off as a “blank slate”, but as you play more of the game and level up for the first time, you gain a skill point. These skill points can be used in various skills in the game such as Blacksmithing, Persuasion, Stealth, Lockpicking and many others. Other points you gain throughout your leveling process are used to distribute throughout three skill trees which are Might, Finesse, & Sorcery. These respectfully represent the fighter, rouge, and mage classes. Depending on which points you throw into which skill tree, you’ll be able to gain a destiny. Destinies offer a sense of class to the player and prove to be useful later on. The more points you distribute throughout the skill trees, the more destinies you unlock. Destinies also offer bonus powers and boosts towards powers you already have. The best part of this system is that you are not limited by any means to just one skill tree either. Hybrid Destinies are very popular among veteran RPG players who want to experiment with different play styles. Distribution among two or more of the skill trees will unlock hybrid destinies. There are your fighter-mage, fighter-rouge, rouge-mage and even all three skill trees can be put to use for a jack of all trades destiny. Destinies are also able to evolve. For example, if I chose a Might-Sorcery or fighter-mage destiny, I would gain the first destiny of that line called “Guardian” and I would keep putting more points into those two skill trees every time I leveled up my character. With more points in those two specific trees, I would be eligible to unlock the next destiny in the Might-Sorcery line called “Battlemage”. I mentioned earlier that destinies also offer bonus powers and additions to existing powers. Well, the “Battlemage” destiny offers 17% elemental resistance, 10% extra melee damage and I unlock a new power called Blink which replaces my original dodge roll with a short but effective teleport. If you are unhappy with your distribution of skill points or current destiny, seek a Fateweaver throughout the lands, pay about 1,000 gold and you can redistribute the same number of points however you so choose too. The destiny lines, whether they be standalone destinies or hybrids, all have 6 tiers to unlock with the amount of points you are putting in the skill trees.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning offers well over 200 hours of intense gameplay and there is almost too much to do. The faction quest lines are very long and engaging to play through. The voice acting really shines in this game as well. The characters, from major NPCs to people who give you miscellaneous side quests convey their roles with a consistent level of polish and grace. There was never really a time when I noted to myself “Wow, The guy I’m speaking to right now about this quest sounds a lot like the guy I talked to in the other town about a completely different quest”. The dialogue is lengthy and very detailed. It really delivers on behalf of the story with engaging dialogue. Some people may have a problem with this however. I’m completely fine with it though. RPGs like Mass Effect really do an excellent job at engaging the players with exciting and story driven dialogue and dialogue options and you can tell Amalur is doing just that as well. It basically comes down to this, as long as the characters have feeling in their voice and aren’t being phony in any manner, I’ll listen to whatever you have to say. However, if listening to a great deal of dialogue isn’t your thing then the options are easily skipable and you won’t really miss too much.
n my honest opinion, Reckoning’s strongest point is its gameplay. I’ve never really played an RPG with this kind of combat before. It’s a refreshing experience for all RPG players who just love to hack-and-slash with great depth. You have your primary and secondary weapons ranging from longswords, greatswords, hammers, bows, daggers, faeblades, chakrams, staves, and scepters. You can launch an enemy into the air with your longsword or hammer and juggle them in the air with use of arrows. Use of various weapons in a combat symphony of destruction is where the hybrid destinies really shine their brightest. Battles happen in realtime, consisting of parrying with shields and dodgerolling, in combination with using your mana pool of different spells towards your enemies, Truly, the combat of Reckoning can’t be understated.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an amazing experience. It sets the bar exceptionally high for what future RPGs can do in terms of combat systems. However, its not perfect. It has random technical hiccups and an inconsistent art style. The overall score of music is sparse and the character models do look shoddy from time to time as well as bad lip-syncing do spoil the experience quite a bit. But no matter what you’re looking for, whether it be amazing gameplay, immersive storytelling, a beautiful and vast open world to spend hundreds of hours in, or just incredible amounts of customization, Reckoning has it all. I know that with the full game alone, not to mention DLC expansions including, The Legend of Dead Kel & Teeth of Naros offering incredible amounts of new weapons, armor, and brand new areas to explore. I will want to play more of it. And so will you.
- Amazing combat system
- Brilliantly written story
- Optional choices in dialogue
- Lots of weapons and armor
- Customization options are nearly infinite
- Great voice acting
- Beautiful open world with much to explore
- Bad lip-syncing ruins the great voice acting
- Inconsistent art style
Now that 38 Studios is basically gone, are you upset that we probably will never get to see a completely fleshed-out Kingdoms of Amalur series?