Recently, I was able to get my hands on the newest entry into the Role Playing Game market, titled “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.” The game seemed to hit the shelves in a fairly shy and timid manner, without the usual marketing mayhem preceding its arrival. In fact, the only reason I stumbled upon this little gem was during a regular Reddit session, where a personal appeal from the game’s lead designer to try his game out was “upvoting” at the time.
This wasn’t just any lead designer begging people to try out his game; it was Ken Rolston, the lead designer of both prior “Elder Scrolls” games, “Oblivion” and “Morrowind.” He has now teamed up with lesser-known company Big Huge Games for its newest title.
As if this wasn’t enough incentive for me to give the game a try, I soon realized its entire storyline was written by none other than R.A. Salvatore, a successful fantasy writer who has sold more than 15 million books in the U.S. alone. So, does such a potent combination of talent yield any extraordinary results? Well, yes and no … but mostly yes.
The first thing I noticed is this game looks unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The world is huge and impressive in a “fantasy dream-sequence” kind of way. In fact, it’s hard to classify the style of this game at all: You won’t find any of that gritty realism seen in games such as “Skyrim” here, and Big Huge Games clearly wasn’t struggling to render the most near-real-life visuals as possible.
That being said, it’s not as if this game looks cartoonish either. In fact, I’d say the graphics occupy a comfy middle ground between these two extremes. Whether or not they intended it, the developers succeeded at creating an atmosphere that does justice to the imaginative world without attempting over-the-top realism.
However, I definitely would have liked to see more visual variety throughout the game, particularly in respect to enemies and the players’ surroundings. Sometimes while playing, I felt like I was stuck in an endless limbo of claustrophobic giant forestry, craving more wide open surroundings, or any change in scenery for that matter.
The combat system in “Reckoning” is where the game really shines. All too often we see RPGs create incredible surroundings and immersive plots, but stumble when it comes to creating clever and non-repetitive gameplay, forcing players to grind out the same old spells and moves for hours on end. In “Reckoning,” this is anything but the case. The game puts many recent and more popular RPGs to shame when it comes to creative and varied ways to take down your enemies: There always seems to be a new and refreshing way to make chaos just around the corner.
The customization options for your character are unprecedented, and only add to the constantly-changing nature of the game. The only true letdown when it comes to gameplay is the complete lack of online play. I was expecting, at the least, the ability to do some two-player co-op online. No dice. “Reckoning” is a single-player RPG in its purest form, and insists that you alone are the only hero to grace the people of Amalur. It’s a lonely existence, to be sure.
Be prepared to do a lot of reading if you’re hoping to stay up to date with the storyline. Considering that the bulk of the content was written by a well-established novelist, this should come as no surprise. To be frank, the plot can become confusing and convoluted at times, though there are NPCs — non-playing characters — all over the place more than willing to fill you in. Complexity doesn’t necessarily imply any carelessness though, and quite the opposite is true in “Reckoning”: overall the plot keeps you engaged and informed as to what’s going on at any given moment.
“Reckoning” contains superb voice acting. You won’t find any cheesy, cringe-worthy dialogue, which is more than most games can say these days. That being said, the game’s soundtrack certainly won’t knock your socks off. After listening to the “Skyrim” lineup of tear-jerkingly epic selections, this game will seem anything but impressive. Although, in defense of “Reckoning,” the developers were probably going for more “unobtrusive” background music that anything — tunes that slowly and softly guide you through glade and forest without making you feel constantly in the middle of a life or death situation.
Overall this game is a huge success. I know there is a certain breed of gamer out there who would rip this game to shreds in a second, simply because of how “different” everything about it is.
I say it’s about time that we saw something a little different in the gaming world.
Quite frankly, I was impressed with the way this game hit the shelves. Sometimes you don’t want game releases being crammed down your throat for months on end. While the game may struggle from certain visual pitfalls, and may not boast the online content that other RPGs are known for, there’s something refreshing and sophisticated about “Reckoning,” and for that I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.