Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review (PC)

excellent
key review info
  • Game: Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: Yes  
  • Reviewed on:
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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning PC review

Nowadays, all new triple-A titles are a rare sight, so Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, coming from 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, definitely stands out from the array of sequels or reboots that are arriving on the market. 

 Throw in the fact that it’s masterminded by Elder Scrolls designer Ken Rolston, fleshed out by novelist R.A. Salvatore, and brought to life by comic book artist Todd McFarlane, and you have more than enough reasons to get excited about the game.

Now, Reckoning is finally out so it’s time to see if it manages to live up to its promises or if it’s just a case of too many chefs ruining a good recipe.
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Enjoy the world of Amalur ...
... and explore its locations
Story

Reckoning starts off in a peculiar way, as your own character is dead. Thanks to a clever dwarf and a mystical device called the Well of Souls, you’re brought back to life. There’s a catch, however, as you don’t have a fate anymore, thus becoming The Fateless One.

This is a big deal in Amalur, as each character has a predetermined fate that he, she or it must follow until the end. Now, seeing as how you don’t need to follow such a path, you’re free to do anything you want, helping various characters and factions while destroying others.

Peace in the world of Amalur rests on the shoulders of an uneasy alliance between humans and the Fae, which are pretty much your standard elves. Unfortunately for them, the Tuatha, a group of evil Fae led by Gadflow, want to usher in a new era for the world of Amalur, even if it means eliminating anyone who opposes them.

Like any good, open world RPG, Reckoning delivers a complex plot filled with all sorts of different threads, crucial decisions and plenty of intrigue. Most of the story is quite interesting, gradually ramping up your importance in Amalur’s virtual world, and quite a few side missions deliver some truly unique experiences. There are exceptions but, seeing as how there are a lot of things to do in the game, you won’t be stuck doing something unpleasant or boring for a long period of time.

Throughout your adventures, you’ll have an impact on lots of things, but it will still feel great, as the game doesn’t try to offload lots of backstory or exposition on you, keeping things, wherever possible, as simple as can be. There are lots of details for those who seek them but they're not shoved down everyone’s throat.



Gameplay

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an open world action role playing game, but it most certainly borrows heavily from plenty of other experiences, chief among them being MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. The gameplay is fluid and varied, allowing you to do all sorts of things, from fighting against legions of enemies, to creating potions, gems or weapons.

First and foremost, let’s talk about Reckoning’s most impressive feature, which is its stylized combat. If you’re given no introduction to the game and just tasked with fighting enemies, you’ll have problems believing it’s an RPG and not a hack and slash game modeled after Devil May Cry or God of War.

No matter the weapon, whether it’s a warrior’s sword, a rogue’s dual daggers or a mage’s staff, the game makes you feel extremely powerful by allowing you to pull off acrobatic attacks and awesome finishing moves. There are also various other weapons, including warhammers, that crush opponents but are slower to use, the so-called Fae Blades, which are great for rogues that find themselves in an ambush, or Chakrams, which allow mages to deal mid-range damage against lots of opponents.

The game is still an RPG, however, and you’re given free rein in concern to how you want to develop your character. Once you level up, you choose which abilities to upgrade, ranging from alchemy and blacksmithing to persuasion, sagecrafting, lockpicking or detecting hidden objects, the latter of which proving essential in the opening segments of the game.

After the ability section, you get to spend talent points on three different skill trees called Might, Finesse, and Sorcery. These include all sorts of different powers that can be triggered during combat, as well as active and passive bonuses for your abilities.

Last but not least, depending on your talents, you get to choose destiny cards that augment your current character build. For example, if you’re going the warrior way and spend points in Might, you unlock better and better destiny cards which improve your character. You’re not stuck to a single path, however, as special cards reward hybrids builds between the talent trees, meaning you can go for a might and finesse combo, like myself, or even choose to upgrade all three and become a Jack of All Trades.
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Show off your combat moves ...
... and defeat large enemies
In case you get bored, you can visit Fateweavers in the game, which reset your abilities and talents, meaning you can build a new character without losing your progress.

Besides fighting and upgrading your character, you'll engage in all sorts of other activities, including alchemy, in which you use the array of collectibles you can find in the world, blacksmithing, as you can also collect components to make weapons and armors, or sagecrafting, which results in gems and runes that you can slot into special equipment.

There are also two mini-games for the lockpicking and dispelling activities, which help you unlock special chests. Sadly, both of them are quite annoying at least when playing with a mouse and keyboard. When you pick locks, the room for error is extremely small so you'll end up losing plenty of picks. Dispelling is even more annoying, especially towards later levels, as making a mistake gets you cursed, which costs quite a lot of gold to remove.

Another annoyance with Reckoning is the camera system, largely because you can't control its distance from your character. As such, instead of having a further away view, like on other RPGs, your character basically occupies the middle of your screen. Once engaged in combat the camera slowly backs away, but it doesn't really keep up with you, so you'll often find yourself fighting enemies near the end of your screen.

Exploring in Amalur is pretty nice, thanks to a full-fledged minimap and a fast travel system. Sadly, I also have a gripe with the fact that you can't actually jump in the game unless you're at one of the few, pre-determined jump points. This feels unnecessary and quite awkward.

The inventory is a bit complicated at first, as you go from menu, to menu, to menu, which isn't that fun and involves pressing quite a lot of buttons. You'll soon get accustomed to it but it's still not that impressive. The inventory does have a nifty junk bag, which means that whenever you're browsing your items, you can either drag them out of the inventory to destroy them or put them into the junk bag and quickly sell them when you're visiting a shop.

Another minor gripe with Reckoning is that items, whether they're armor or weapons, degrade as you use them. This also feels unnecessary, but does keep you from using the same weapons over and over again. You can fix them either with repair kits or by visiting special merchants. Be careful when going with unique items to shops, as their repairs can easily cost you a few thousand gold.

Last but not least, there's the dialog system, which suffers a bit from a split personality. When you're involved in conversations with crucial characters, like enemies or allies, you get to use a Mass Effect-style dialog wheel. When you're just talking to regular NPCs or quest givers, you get to pick from a list, like in Skyrim or Dragon Age: Origins. This, once again, feels a bit awkward and inconsistent. It's nice that the game easily highlights what answers you need to give just to progress through a quest, but the whole back and forth between dialog systems is confusing.

In terms of controls, the game feels pretty good on a PC with a mouse and keyboard, but it's truly at home with a console controller, although it gets tricky when you want to use some of your special abilities.

Overall, Reckoning's gameplay is very impressive, although some things do keep it from becoming a truly stunning experience.



Graphics and Sound

After gritty experiences like Skyrim, Reckoning is a breath of fresh air, although it might seem a bit familiar for those who already played World of Warcraft or previous Fable games. The stylized, cartoonish world is full of life, so you'll quickly get past the resemblances and enjoy its different environments and massive open world.

Character and monster design is very impressive, as are the looks of armors and weapons. Some NPCs may have some peculiar quirks but, most of the times, you truly feel you're in a fantasy environment filled with great adventures.

In terms of sound, the game is also pretty great, with lots of voice actors breathing life into the characters you'll meet along your adventures. Sadly, the actual hero (or heroine, depending on your choice) is silent, which does put a damper on your adventures.

While I realize the challenges of making the player talk and the fact that some people may not relate to him or her depending on the voice, it would've been nice to hear my warrior-rogue hybrid talk from time to time or at least throw a taunt like in Dragon Age: Origins.

Music, thankfully, makes up for your lack of a voice, with proper orchestral scores complementing the stylized combat scenes and making you truly feel like you're forging your own path through Amalur.
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Enter Reckoning mode ...
... and destroy your enemies

The Good

  • Dynamic combat
  • Lots of choices and freedom
  • Stylized visuals

The Bad

  • Annoying mini-games
  • Problematic camera

Conclusion

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a great action RPG. It's not perfect, at least for now, due to things like annoying mini-games, problematic camera, or the silent protagonist, but it's still a stunning experience that will delight you for tens if not hundreds of hours.

After a realistic experience like Skyrim, Reckoning is the perfect alternative, offering a fun-filled experience with a dynamic combat system and a freedom that you won't soon forget.

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story 9
gameplay 9
concept 10
graphics 9
audio 9
multiplayer 0
final rating 9
Editor's review
excellent
 

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