I’m guessing most of you have already heard at least something about 38 Studios and Big Huge Games’ 2012 RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The line-up and production of this epic game is sort of mind-bending. The world and lore was created by R.A Salvatore, who wrote such science fiction novels as The DemonWars Saga, Forgotten Realms and Vector Prime, the first novel in the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order series.
This EA-published title is a big, huge game (hurr) with a solid team behind it, including developers who had previously worked on Dragon Age II and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The talent, the love and the attention to detail in this game are expansively impressive. While it cannot boast the size of Skyrim, it does offer a fairly large world in which your character can interact with NPCs in numerous ways, even being allowed to trigger a sequence in which you can kill or rob them.
Now, perhaps that might give you an inkling as to why I am talking about it is as a sort of “wishlist” for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which releases in North America on November 18 and will be talked about here in much greater detail over the coming weeks.
What Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning does, with the world it creates and its beautiful, vibrant art styles and colors, is show the dedication and love that this dream team were able to put into their work, despite less than stellar sales.
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that Dragon Age II was a bit of a disappointment to role-playing fans after DA: Origins. With re-used environments, some odd character interactions and a story that felt driven more by drama than actual conflict, it all just rubbed fans the wrong way.
With all that in mind, I want to talk about what KOA Reckoning does right; some elements of which I’d really like to see BioWare incorporate into Inquisition:
- The combat is sleek, stylish, feels natural and makes multi-classing and busting out combos so effortless that it feels like playing Devil May Cry – but with Dante kicking the shit out of gnomes instead of demons (so satisfying). In Dragon Age, the combat has been a bit clunky and unresponsive at times, and definitely a bit class prejudiced in certain scenarios. While this works to make the DA series feel more strategic, on the whole the uninterrupted flow and challenge of Amalur’s combat feels superior.
- Amalur’s crafting system offers players the opportunity to not only multiclass to their hearts’ content, but also gives them the option of making use of various crafting materials by forging their own potions, weapons, enchantments and other such niceties to match their individual play style.
- Like in Skyrim, you can actually have multiple player homes across the world that are tailored according to what you want in them and what sort of crafting you’d like to be available. This makes the travelling aspect a lot more fun for me. It continues to immerse me in my character, both in earning the homes and the exploration to return to them after an epic battle with a Spider Queen.
- Again, taking from Skyrim, there are a ton of side-quests and faction quests to be done outside of the main story that help build the world. From helping a love-sick fisherman realize his wife is not what he thought, to uncovering a prejudiced cult in a nice, quiet little town, these quests give the whole experience a much greater sense of depth.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a ton going for it. Naturally, it has its problems as well. The story the developers create for your character, while interesting and impacting heavily on the world, also succumbs to the occasional spell of tedious, repetitive fetching, finding and questions that often plague other RPGs. The combat can also be a switch up until you figure out the targeting system.
However, returning to the positives, while there are quick time events, they are actually quite satisfying. Your character essentially has the ability to grip Fate by its stiff little neck and whisper, “Not today” before going full Kratos on the unfortunate person who’s life you just eradicated.
I really wish I had been able to review Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning back when it came out. This game sports so many things I like, in addition to some great DLC. Unfortunately, sales of the title have not been that great, and actually forced the studios to declare bankruptcy, which really is a shame. I love this game, despite its flaws, and had really hoped to see a sequel at some point to expand on this gorgeous world, interesting lore and just general warm, gooey lovefest one can only experience by taming a giant dread bear to help them behead creatures.
I can only hope that the spirit put into this game will live on in Inquisition, and if the early alpha playthroughs, trailers and art concepts are any indication, I won’t be disappointed. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning isn’t perfect by any means, but I think it serves as a really good example of what the right team with a good amount of imagination and talent can do with the RPG genre.
Inquisition, the spot light is on you, my dear. I’ll be taking an in-depth look at my experiences with you very soon after your release date and I look forward to it. To the bemused folks out there reading this, if you haven’t given Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning a chance yet, please do. You’ll get to see a small gnome run through a bunch of guys’ legs and slash at them like an elaborate ninja. – AC