The Average Gamer

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review (360)

Pick & Mix counters are the Holy Grail of sweetie goodness as far as I’m concerned, challenged only by “All You Can Eat” buffets for the title of most pleasurable food related experience. Envisage the joy that a combination of the two could bring. Scrunch your eyes shut and imagine a wall of confectionery, unhampered by the restrictions placed on you by that plastic cup and those extortionate prices. This happy little day-dream is the closest simile I can find to the experience of playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Instead of hoppers of scantily protected chocolate buttons and fizzy snakes there are three skill trees: Might (big swords), Sorcery (flashy spells) and Finesse (sneakystabby). You can invest heavily in to one tree or spread yourself liberally across two, or if you’re feeling indecisive… all three. Then KoA:Reckoning adds further Pick & Mix goodness with the introduction of Destinies. These are bonuses based on how many points you have in each tree. Destiny Cards, like the skill trees, can be based on a variety of class combinations so there’s plenty to experiment with. You can find more about the skills of Reckoning in Debbie’s previous interview with systems designer Will Miller.

Moving further into this increasingly tortured metaphor, we have the sour cola bottles and white chocolate mice, or loot. Equipment flows fast and with lots of particle effects and there’s a pleasing variety of weapons, even for the pansy spell-casters amongst us. Borrowing from the “green is good, blue is better, purple is bestest” school of design makes it reasonably simple to kit yourself but you can run in to problems if you’ve spread skill points across all talent trees. Top level stuff tends to have point requirements in specific talents.

Gameplay is a good mix of exploring, combat and RPG stalwarts like crafting. The world feels big; not Skyrim big but nor are you being led from one side quest to another and to be honest, having spent many hours trekking up mountains only to realise I’m in the wrong bloody Skyrim place, it’s a relief to have a little bit of the “on rails” feeling. Combat is fluid and good control mapping means you can easily swap between a primary and secondary weapon whilst flinging spells and trying to dodge. The greater the combination of your abilities used in each fight the more Fate you earn. As the pool fills up (think mini experience bar) you get closer to being able to unleash the mother of all quick-time events.  Fateshifting turns you in to a big purple angel of death and allows you to take down multiple enemies sharpish, earning extra bonuses if you tap the correct button like a person possessed.

So, that “All You Can Eat” buffet I mentioned – KoA: Reckoning not only lets you combine a mix of skills but once you get bored of them, encourages you to go back for a different helping. No more soul-crushing moments as you realise the talents you’ve chosen are as satisfying as nouvelle cuisine. Head for a settlement with a Fateweaver and pay to have everything wiped clean, I started out as a bad-ass Mage and after fifteen hours had reset myself four times and ended up completing the game as a Rogue. Same goes for the Crafting skills; get bored of being a top level Alchemist and just swap to something else for a while.

Sadly, into every tub of sweets some grubby fingers must fall and the game isn’t perfect. I didn’t have any major technical bugs but there were quite a few cut-scene tears and slightly odd enemy behaviour. NPC’s would just stand in the middle of the combat field without engaging. Whilst I appreciated the pick-pocketing opportunity, it seemed a little amateur for such a massive game. My only other big gripe is the storyline; yes it made sense and yes it gave me a few moments of “oooooh” but it was just tinged a little too much with fantasy-flavoured cheesiness for me.

Slightly odd characters aside this is a beautiful, varied and absorbing release from 38 Studios and Big Huge Games. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is easy to immerse yourself in and a welcome change from the gritty fantasy of games like the Elder Scrolls series. Once you start you’ll want to scoff the whole bloody lot in one sitting and will likely emerge Monday morning with feelings of shameful remorse at your gluttony. Happily this guilt will swiftly pass and you’ll be left with warm, fuzzy feelings as you remember just how much you enjoyed yourself.

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