27 April 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur

"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is a fantasy RPG (role playing game) based on the books by R.A. Salvatore, with artwork by Todd McFarlane (ever hear of Spawn?), and developed by 38 Studios (and Big Huge Games) whose founder is none other than Red Sox World Series pitcher Curt Schilling.

Amalur is a kingdom ruled entirely by inescapable fate, thus people have no choice on where the path of their lives will lead them. Tormented Fateweavers read fates and know what will happen to everyone they come across... except you. YOU are the Fateless One because you died and were brought back to life (in a non-zombie way, mind you). As a result, you must prevent the mortals from being wiped out by the immortal Tuatha led by an unknown evil force.

Yes, it's your typical choose-your-own-fate-to-save-the-world plot, but the game offers much more.  It's an RPG so of course there's plenty of land exploration filled with towns, caves, and trading camps, not to mention the array of side quests to keep you occupied and help your character level up.  While assassination quests are always nice (that's a strange thing to say), there are also quests to find items, deliver messages, find kidnapped persons, and negotiate peace between species, so you're never bored.

In addition, the Leveling Up system offers many choices but isn't too complicated. You choose between 3 factions to focus your abilities: Might (strength), Sorcery, Finesse (stealth), or a hybrid of the three. Each time you reach a level you earn 3 ability points and 1 skill point. Because there are not enough points to level up every category, it takes planning, allowing you to tailor the game to how YOU play.  Plus you can pay Fateweavers to remove your choices and redistribute your points any way you wish.

Combat is low maintenance.  Your character performs a variety of combos with any weapon or shield, and some spells.  Overall, it's a fairly simplified system that's great for new players.  However, if you're a seasoned gamer and like a challenge, start the game on the Hard difficulty as there have been many complaints that Easy is too easy.

A few excellent features in Reckoning are Alchemy, Blacksmithing, and Sagecrafting. Alchemy lets you create potions, from health and mana to invincibility and magic enhancement.  To make potions, you need to "harvest" re-agents: sometimes you'll get some and sometimes you won't. Blacksmithing allows you to salvage items, and craft armor and weapons more powerful than what is found in the game. Finally, sagecrafting: the art of turning magic shards into gems that can be fastened to armor and weapons with gem slots to make the item more powerful.

In terms of story, the main quest offers around 30 hours of gameplay.  While the story is hardly original, there are a couple slight twists that end with a fairly mild boss battle. Ironically, the mid-game boss battle at Mel Senshir was more engaging and difficult.  Personally, I didn't really care about the few characters that were part of the main story; I actually cared more about the people I helped in side quests. Despite the limp plot, Kingdoms of Amalur is an addictive game that immerses you into an interesting world and offers plenty of activity. Plus, it's a great starter RPG for those unfamiliar with the genre. If you enjoy games like Skyrim and World of Warcraft, definitely check out Reckoning.

**Kingdoms of Amalur is available for PS3, Xbox360, and PC**

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