I’ll come out and say it right at the start of this review, something which will probably come across as sacrilege to some, but I am having much more fun in playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning than I ever had with Skyrim.
Now I have got that out of the way, I just hope I don’t get burned alive by the hordes of die-hard Skyrim fans. Amalur is an RPG which borrows influences from a variety of games in the genre. This is a game with a fast paced combat style, loads of loot to be picked up, an innovative character progression system and a semi-open world environment. So throw in bits of Diablo, Skyrim and a few others and you have the basis of Amalur.
This cocktail of influences may not initially sound like they would result in a good game, but by jove they do when it comes to Amalur, I can easily jump into this game and just enjoy myself much more, and much easier, than in Skyrim. Now, whether that is a damnation towards Skyrim, which is probably the superior all round game, or a statement which hides the small failings in Amalur, I’m not too sure, but I do know that it means the game from Curt Schiling and his team of big names like Todd MacFarlane is easily going to get a Headshot at the end of this review.
Perhaps the best way to explain this game is by talking about one branching quest line, it isn’t part of the main quest, and it isn’t even a faction quest, it is just a tale of one small village that lies in the world of Amalur.
After completing one of the mediocre quests that form the main story (which I have pretty much ignored in favour of wandering the world and doing faction quests) I wandered into the area of the world known as Webwood.
The world isn’t quite as open as in Skyrim, the different hubs such as Webwood are all linked up with various pathways. It makes for a world which is simpler to naviagte, but it does take away from some of the sense of exploration you might be hoping to find. But regardless, each hub has a slightly different feel to it and makes for a wonderful variety in the environments you find yourself exploring.
Upon stepping foot into Webwood I saw a bridge little into the small hamlet of Canneroc, after crossing the bridge I was attacked by a swarm of spiders, who were also keen on eating some residents of the village. I launched into an attack using a variety of the attacking options open to me, I gave the spider closest to me a few swipes with my daggers, used my staff to throw a bolt of electricity at the next one then used one of my Finesse abilities to finish off the last one.
While the opening sequence of the game might be a bit drawn out, it does a good job of introducing you to the variety of combat sequences available to you in the game. It is thanks to this variety that if I had been so inclined could have approached that battle from various other ways, perhaps by madly swinging a broadsword and blocking with a shield or used some faeblades or chakrams to take try and take out all the spiders in one larger attack.
Having dealt with the spiders and looting their bodies, I sold the contents of my bulging bag of loot in with the town merchant and spoke to the man who seemed to be the town elder. He told me of a group who had ventured into the forest trying to find the cause of the recent spider attacks, he also wanted me to make sure the leader of that group didn’t return home. This was my chance to make an impact on the game world, a minor chance, but it was there nevertheless. It is a shame that there aren’t many choices you make which seem to have a wider affect on the world, but this was one.
I found the sole survivor of the hunting group and decided not to kill him, he promptly went back to Canneroc and chased away the scheming fool who had plotted his death. Returning to the village I was granted my own home which I upgraded as much as possible, allowing me to store my books and an providing me with an alchemy bench to make some of my own potions.
During my walks around town, I was asked to return the bones of the spider silk farmers who had been killed through the arachnid attacks, a simple fetch and retrieve quest, but given some meaning by the events that had occurred in the village. Doing this granted me the experience to level up, which I promptly did.
The levelling up process is multi-faceted, you first up have general skills for things like alchemy, blacksmithing and stealth. Each upgrade improves your proficiency at your chosen skill, while certain milestones may provide a more important bonus such as being able to use a fourth component when crafting weapons and armour.
The next aspect of the level up process applies to your abilities in one of three classes which can be summarised as warrior, ranger and mage. Here you can unlock new special moves such as my Finesse ability which I used to take out the spiders earlier, or improve your proficiency with certain weapons.
Finally, you get to choose your destiny, a choice which provides varying bonuses to your character. Destinies can be class specific, or even a combination of two or three classes, I am currently an Arcanist which mixes the Finesse and Sorcery classes. If I had invested my ability points into the Might class rather than Sorcery, I would have a different character base entirely. Fortunately, if you are ever unhappy with the direction you have taken your character, you can pay a Fateweaver to reset all your points allowing you to start from scratch.
Back to my spider story, after levelling up the townspeople asked me to investigate an abandoned fort where they thought there might be something which would help defeat the spiders. This fortress provided a thoroughly enjoyable little quest in an area full of character. Indeed, the majority of the dungeons you can explore in Amalur have their own little stories to tell, and they can be quite special, there is one near the town of Didenhall which is quite special indeed. Inside the fort were lore stones, ones unique to the fort which told a story of how in times gone by they spider problem had been dealt with.
It was a great piece of storytelling, and just another link in the chain of events surrounding the village of Canneroc. While I have largely ignored the main quest, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had with the non-essential branching quest lines as well as the faction quests of which there is much to explore.
There is much that I still want to do in Kingdoms of Amalur and it keeps surprising me with original quests, gorgeous dungeons and the brilliant combat system. It isn’t as polished as Skyrim, and if I am brutally honest, it isn’t quite as good as the Bethesda monster which does everything bar combat better, but it is a wonderful game all the same. More importantly, it is a fun game to play. It also has some great beards.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed – PC (with a 360 pad)
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