Friday, March 2, 2012

20 hours of Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning

My initial report on kingdoms of Amalur was positive, but after 20 hours of gameplay, I have to report that I was wrong on a few things about Amalur.  It's not a good game, it's possibly one of my favorite games ever!

Readers of my old blog will know that I don't say that lightly. There are games that I like, like Rage, Fallout 3, Bioshock, Res Evil, Dead Island. And then there are games that I love, which includes Borderlands, Dragons Age, Zelda, and Amalur. And those are the only "love" games that come to mind, so yes it takes a lot to get on my "love" list.

But Amalur has made it. Why? Well, first of all the world that it's set in. it's a perfect Fantasy land with all the traditional elements skillfully done and with just enough of a twist to make them unique, but not so drastically to set it completely apart from the genre. Dragons Age is perfect, so I'm not taking away from it when I use it as an example here, but in Dragons Age the ethnic divide between elves and humans is epic, so much so that it really sets it apart from traditional fantasy, for me. In Amalur, there's a little bit of that between humans and the Fae, but its less drastic, so the world still feels comfortingly traditional.  I'm not saying that's all I ever want (obviously, since Dragons Age is perfect) but sometimes it feels good to settle into a comfortable well worn fantasy world.

The fighting in Amalur is the next great thing about it. This is where I see Amalur as a beautiful mix of Dragons Age and Borderlands.  Amalur has all the serious RPG elements of Dragons Age or Neverwinter, but plays like a first person shooter the way Borderlands does. In RPG games, I rarely get a bloodlust and just want to go and hunt down bad guys to gratuitously kill them. It's always a very serious matter to defeat foes in RPGs for me. But in Borderlands and Amalur, the fights are a pleasure, and they make me want to kill again and again! The camera is perfect in Amalur and no matter what happens during a melee attack, I can always manage to manouver around like a pro. The targeting system is automated enough to make sure I'm not just firing blasts of fire off into a nearby plant instead of an enemy attacking me, but not too automated so all I'm doing is mashing buttons until I win. The dodging system is amazing, unlike anything I've ever used before.

The looting system is straight out of Zelda and Fallout 3. Get this, you smash boxes and barrels and urns, just like in Zelda, and you get small change and other little prizes, so if you want to nickel and dime yourself to wealth and riches, you can. The lock picking system is a mini game exactly like Fallout 3 except better. If you really try, you can feel when there's resistance, and back off so you don't break your pick, reposition, and try again. I'm getting damn good at it.

There's also a crafting system for weapons, gems (which upgrade armor and weapons, like ruins in Dragons Age), and potions. Dead Island and Rage both have something like this, and I avoid it in those games. Even in Amalur, I have no interest in the blacksmithing or the sagecrafting (like runecrafting in Dragons Age), but the potions I really enjoy, because no matter what you mix together you usually end up with some potion. The potion could boost your health or hurt you, you never know, but it's fun to play with, and sometimes you discover a recipe and then can mix together potions quickly from plants you find aroudn the world.

And the world is vast. I keep finding new places, climates, lairs, towns. There are so many side quests that in 20 hours of game play I've only bothered with two main quests points. It's just too much fun!

So, yes, Amalur is a game I love. We'll see how it ends...eventually.  But either way, it's a classic in my book.

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