Some people think it's the Skyrim killer, but what is Kingdom of Amalur really?
Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning is one of those rare games that everyone will tell you everything about it before you play it. Whether it is developers, sarcastic and unhappy game reviewers and everyone in between but the game I am about to talk about is not Skyrim. They were not trying to be Skyrim and they are nowhere near what Obsidian and Bethesda were trying to do. Kingdom of Amalur follows the similar monomyth that Skyrim and hundreds of other games push upon their player where you're the chosen one. But unlike most monomyth parables the tale is all about destiny and fate and how yours was not particularly written in stone.
With this being a video game and all, you actually can choose the path, if a bit a linear, that will come before you. The path is set between different races and you can choose how you look and what you do and your special abilities and you will go into the world pretty much blind. A fun tutorial level has you parrying and fighting through the underworld till you can get out into the real world and this is where almost all the Skyrim comparisons die on their feet.
First there is a lot of colour. It's one of the most vibrant colour palette's I've seen for a game this side of Flower. The game is designed to be as colourful as possible and this is where other comparisons start. A few friends and I have basically concluded that the palette is taken directly from World of Warcraft in some places. The very dynamic blues and greens that are splashed throughout the game are lovely to look at and I have to say this is where Kingdom of Amalur shines out over most other fantasy RPG games.
The game is beautiful to look at but what about to play? Well, the controls are very easy to get a handle of and the inventory system is a lot less fiddly than almost every other RPG I've played and you know I'm not a fan of those buggers. I played through several hours of Amalur and never did I have to check the manual or have to recheck how to shoot an arrow or be bothered too much what was in my inventory. The controls and combat system, regardless of your weapon are very easy to get into and work out just in the first few minutes.
I will say though the game is quite linear in some areas such as the set path of the main quest. Often you'll go through a dungeon, only to turn around and head back rather than just go through the entire cave or bust out in some areas. But it's your choice as always to go for some of these sidequests and it's quite rare that you'll have to go through many dungeons depending on how you want to play the game. You could technically finish the main storyline in less than a day and all the side quests could just burn out a weekend. It's not a short game per se, but it does have a very compacted idea of what the story is and where you should be going, regardless of the race and class you choose.
But what about the progression of difficulty, sound and a final overview of the game? Well, better keep going to find out!
As I delve out of controls and bitching about the storyline, how difficult is it? The game is a lot of griding and while griding isn't exactly difficult, it is tedious and my life is tedious as it is, so when it comes up in a game, I tend to let go a few points. The game is an RPG and while other RPG's (See: Dark Souls) have counter-acted the age of grinding as a useful game mechanic rather than the only way to become overpowered in the game, Amalur is not one of those games. The difficulty of the game will range depending on how you play your RPG's. If you go after side quests first then finish the Main Game later on, you will enjoy yourself a lot more as the Main Quest is a hell of a lot easier to complete when you're all levelled up and macho as hell, but other than that you will struggle a bit...unless you're playing as Rogue.
I do have to commend the guys at 38 Studios and Big Huge Games for having such an admirable soundtrack. The orchestral strings and beating drums all help with the action and fast-paced battles that happen in the game. I unfortunately can't say too much for the sound effects, but I do have to say that the voice acting in this game is top-notch. Skyrim and Bethesda games in general seem to have the same problem and overuse of voice actors and I don't imagine it's that hard to grab anyone off the street and throw them into the booth for some dialogue but it often takes me out of the experience.
The game is great to play, stunning to look at, but overall leaves me empty in some places. The game doesn't have the same immersive feel and I never really had any connection with the characters in the game. I think Amalur was rushed in certain places to compete with Skyrim and that is it's biggest downfall. Timing. nothing more, nothing less. If the game had come out later this year and the DLC pushed to a week after it's release I would have been fine with the game, but EA have done an injustice to it's developers and talented creators that they released the game just around the same time another amazing Western RPG was being released.
To give the game a score, the game is an easy, if arbitrary 7 out of 10. The game is not Skyrim but whether it was the perspective, style of storytelling or immersion, I just enjoyed Skyrim more and I think Amalur is a different experience and a different game but it is far from bad.