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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review

For quite some time, the world of massively open, western role-playing game genre has predominantly dominated by two companies - Bethesda and BioWare. The incredible scope and ambition required to compete within this genre discourages all, save for the most well endowed, from trying something different, and that's precisely why Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is such a nice thing to see. Reckoning focuses on one area its counterparts have typically neglected in favour of scope, combat. Somewhere in between God of War and Elder Scrolls, Kingdoms of Amalur packs a surprisingly satisfying and lasting punch, alongside its high-fantasy plot, grandiose open-world, and lifetime's worth of content. Unfortunately, aside from combat and a handful of clever design choices, Reckoning's other moving parts tend to underwhelm when compared to the genre's stalwarts.

Reckoning throws players into the troubled world of Amalur, a land increasingly torn apart by a rouge faction of immortal Fae seeking to clear the way for the resurrection of their newly anointed God. These troublemakers from the Winter Court of the Faelands have ignited an extremely destructive war with their kin, as well as the various "young" mortal races. You're character cheats death thanks to an experiment aimed at turning the tide of the war. Beyond that, this process alters your character's predetermined fate, something which, until now, has strictly governed the lives of Amalur's inhabitants.

If Reckoning's premise sounds a little confusing, you're not alone in that thinking that way. Unfortunately, much of the game is characterized by a sense of information overload, largely thanks the tendency to lay Amalur's lore and jargon on thick. Character interactions often amount to little more than a glorified glossary of terms and questing milestones. This is a problem many fantasy-inspired titles fall into as they attempt to create a sense of place, and Reckoning is far from immune. That being said, Amalur's story and plot lines are by no means bad once you get past the initial grind. There's an interesting tale to be told here, one definitely worth seeing through to the end. It's just a shame the game embraces its genre's pitfalls so fully.

All of these character interactions fall within the massive world of Amalur. Make no mistake: this is an open-world, western RPG in every sense. Character creation, exploration, branching quests, allocating experience points and so on are all big parts of an experience that can be mentioned in the same conversation with Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series in terms of scope and breadth of content. That association alone is an accomplishment.

Beyond RPG fundamentals, comparisons to the Elder Scrolls are inevitable because of Skyrim's recent stranglehold on the audience's mind-share and the prominent use of Ken Rolston's credibility - a leading designer on Morrowind and Oblivion - to promote Reckoning. While the two games each have a unique personality, certain aspects of Reckoning's design leave much to be desired in a post-Skyrim world. Whether it's technical constraints breaking up Amalur behind a handful of loading screens, a series of generic corridors for dungeons or the traditional way experience points are granted, it's difficult to stand directly next to Skyrim's elegant design.

That being said, there are also numerous ways in which Reckoning makes clever use of its limitations, resulting in an improved experience. For example, restricting when players can jump has the benefit of eliminating the potential for getting stuck on the environment or encountering a game-breaking bug. In fact, I never experienced any show-stopping issue - whether it be a hard crash, freeze up or progression glitch - during my time with the game, an impressive achievement that's likely a direct result of these smart trade-offs made during development.

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