Review: Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning
Do you remember the good old days, when video games put fast hack-and-slashing combat sequences and extensive levelling systems first and a deep narrative with memorable characters second? BigHuge Games have certainly banked on gamers holding some kind of nostalgia for those titles of yore with their fantasy RPG Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning. However, depending on your preferences, their ambitious open-world title may appear to have backfired in its retro homage.
You need only sense the feeling of lacking innovation that pervades Reckoning’s storyline to see just how much emphasis it places on its game play- you’ll find your character resurrected from the dead into an ancient war between the mortal races and their immortal tyrants, and thanks to your selective amnesia, in essence you’re given the chance to choose your destiny, branching off into any skill set and reputation that suits your play style. Various fantasy stereotypes like the intimidating wise councils, the ancient royal families and their descendants are employed constantly and regularly, to the point that you’ll find yourself almost completely devoid of empathy or emotive connection to any of the identikit races that you come across.
This sounds like an exciting premise at first, but it’ll quickly become apparent that the supposedly limitless choices at your disposal are markedly more finite than they were in last year’s landmark role-playing epic Skyrim. Far from being able to forge your fate and have your name become either one that installs fear or pleasure across the kingdom that lies before you, all of the separate towns and villages just feel like isolated mission areas whose population only have an inclination to you based on the pre-determined actions you perform throughout the entirety of the forty-hour campaign and the various (repetitive) side missions.
The moment that it becomes obvious that your actions are having very little major change on the game world around you is precisely the point at which you’ll realise that Reckoning is far less immersive and compelling to blitz through than any recent RPG legends.
That the game’s graphics are sub par at best- unlikely to have looked out of place on the PS2 or the original Xbox in a similar vein to Fable- doesn’t help, either. Electronic Arts don’t seemed to have placed much faith in the Kingdoms franchise based on the underwhelming locales and character models that must surely be the result of a restrained budget. Perhaps we could argue it’s a little premature for EA to invest too much cash into a project that bombs upon release (just look at how Homefront turned out), but when the publisher can produce visually impressive titles like SSX, The Sims 3: Nightlife and Medal of Honor: Warfighter in the same year as this release, it makes you wonder if they’re becoming too steeped in the popularity of tired franchises rather than looking to the future with new IPs as they could have done here with a little more time and effort.
The game’s one saving grace is undoubtedly its fine combat- harkening back to recent classics like God of War, it’s fast-paced and dynamic (even moreso than Skyrim at times), boasting a genuinely arcadey style that is easy to pick up and develop on as you progress your character’s skills and abilities. If BigHuge could have worked on making every element of the game experience as refined and unique as this, we might have ended up with a more satisfactory overall product than we got with Reckoning.
Everything about Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning feels a little dated, its woefully recycled plot suffering the worst in a period where video gaming narratives have evolved to become such deep and engaging experiences. Although you may well be able to get some fun out of this before some of 2012’s most anticipated releases arrive, equally you’ll want to ensure that you still have the cash to buy those big hitters, and if that means sacrificing buying this, then you needn’t think twice.