'Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning': Fun but familiar
Fighting giants is difficult whether you’re a medieval warrior confronting an ogre or a video game developer facing intense competition.
Electronic Arts’ “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” arrives just three months after Bethesda’s popular “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” delivered a kingdom full of adventure for fantasy fans. And there’s also EA’s own “Dragon Age” series, Lionhead’s “Fable” series and a raft of other fantasy role-playing games that have appeared in the past year or so. With all of this competition, “Reckoning” really needs to offer something new and interesting to get gamers to open their wallets.
The results are definitely interesting — with a complex tapestry of characters, cultures and missions — but it all seems pretty familiar.
The M-rated role-playing game places you in the middle of a long-running war between the mortal races of Amalur and a dissident faction of the magical Fae, who can be struck down but also can be revived to return to the fight. Facing an immortal foe has some obvious drawbacks, so the mortal races have been working on a way to bring the dead back to life. You play as their only successful resurrection. The process has left you with some pretty impressive powers, as well as the ability to change the predestined fates of those around you.
The resulting campaign is filled with intrigue and drama that unfolds over roughly 12 hours’ worth of missions. But there’s much more. The map of this large, open work is filled with villages, caves and ruins to explore and dozens of nonplayer characters eager to send you out on a quest. I’ve completed the main campaign and a handful of side missions and still have a large “to do” list awaiting my return to the game.
Character creation involves selecting among two human and two elven races, each of which has a unique set of special statistical bonuses. Skills and abilities are aligned in three groupings, corresponding to fighters, magic uses and rogues. However, you can select any abilities that suit your personal style. This can lead to interesting blends of magic, melee and ranged attacks. You can rush an enemy, firing off a lightning bolt at long distance, throwing a burning disc at mid-range and delivering a sword stroke for the coup de grace. In addition to taking out enemies, such attacks generate “fate” energy, which can be tapped to unleash a flurry of especially deadly attacks. It’s definitely a fun system.
You use these attacks on a wide variety of enemies, ranging from diseased rats to powerful wizards. Many of your foes will team up to attack using complementary tactics so you always need to be on your toes and have a full bag of tricks.
The controls for fighting, casting spells, maintaining your inventory and other activities are simple and efficient — and pretty similar to other fantasy RPGs.
The graphics are very reminiscent of “World of Warcraft,” with stylized and colorful characters and settings — and large question marks or exclamation points over the heads of mission-givers. In fact, the similarity is so striking that I often found myself wondering whether a multi-player game was the developers’ original intent. It certainly would have put the game in a unique and exciting category.
Bottom line: “Reckoning” will be very familiar to dedicated fantasy fans, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3, PC