You know how when you play World of Warcraft and you’re walking to your next quest location, you just keep making your character jump and jump and jump, because you’re kind of bored? That’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning in a nutshell — but replaces the jumping with rolling.
I wrote last month about my incredulity toward those who play massively multiplayer games solo, as I feel they’re missing the point entirely. I also feel that the RPG portion of an MMORPG can never reach the heights of a typical
role-playing game, because of certain concessions the genre must make. Well, there must be a lot of you, because Reckoning seems to have been designed exactly for that strange subset of PC gamer. The game plays like an MMORPG without the massively multiplayer part, but still with that constricted, barebones approach to role-playing that minimizes player agency and maximizes “content. Let’s just sweep the fact that this was initially developed as an MMO under the rug — and that an MMO version of it Is still In development — shall we?
The interface screams World of Warcraft, right down to the
quest-giving NPCs denoted by exclamation marks. Environment design emulates Blizzard’s thick, blocky architecture, with the world divided into distinct zones defined entirely by their respective shades of fog. Walking through them is tedious, as you’re locked to the ground like a race car, and exploration rarely rewards you with much beyond alchemy ingredients. Travelling through Amalur Is an experience identical to a World of Warcraft player who has invested in herbalism everywhere, plants glow with an uplifting golden sparkle that screams, Pick me, pick me!
Reckoning showers you with these ingredients, whether for alchemy, crafting, or gem making. You’ll spend more time in menus than you will exploring the world, agonising over whether to create the +5% mana regeneration gem or the ÷5% fire resistance gem. Unless you had the nerve to try out the Mass Effect 3 demo which gives you Commander Shepard’s omnid aggers and armour in-game,
which are so powerful you won’t need to replace them for hours.
Okay, so I may have screwed up my loot progression with my curiosity concerning EA’s Qi release slate and cross- promotional nonsense, but thankfully I haven’t screwed up combat. The killing of nice-looking fantasy creatures is actually the best thing Amalur has going for It; battles are pretty, punchy and practical. It’s dazzling action-RPG stuff, and more than just button- mashing; you need to time your blocks and dodges effectively to survive. There are some elemental resistances at play with certain types of enemies, but it’s nothing too taxing; you 11 quickly fall into the rhythm of strike, roll, strike, roll whilst watching for telegraphed attacks from the side.
Early on, however, you have a tendency to be overwhelmed by low-level enemies whose incessant charges interrupt attacks. It’s especially among when the directional blocking faces you in the wrong direction, leaving your N7-armour-inspired-and-plated butt exposed for a wolf to chomp down on, but it could also be because the 360degree combat makes precise directional targeting difficult without a gamepad. The different weapon types aren’t just stat changes; in true action-RPG style, they genuinely feel unique in combat. They’re fun to experiment with and combine with spells, the effects of which get progressively more ludicrous as you level up.
There was a lot of fuss made about Reckoning’s leveling system prior to its launch, but it’s really just a glorified global talent tree. This is ultimately a class-less game; you peck whatever abilities you want from any of the three trees, whilst the Destiny cards – which give your non-class a name that you can switch at any time you like confer little other than stat bonuses. Combat isn’t enough to sustain a game as long as this, so it’s in this concept of destiny that Reckoning’s biggest problem lies.
The game’s fiction is rooted In a world where fate is real, and everyone knows about it. Every living thing has a pre-determined path to walk, and the tarot-like mysticism that surrounds destiny Isn’t just hokey pokey. The player character is, of course, the chosen one, but Reckoning’s universe legitimizes this by making them the first person in the world with the ability to alter their own destiny. If you have to be the chosen one In an RPG, this is a really cool way to do It. unfortunately; the lore that fills out this foundation is nothing short of an assault on that valuable real estate set aside In my brain for useless facts from made- up universes, like knowing what N7 actually stands for. Dialogue options are literally encyclopedia subheadings that the walking codex’s masquerading as NPCs are desperate to elaborate upon.
The real problem though, and Reckoning’s greatest irony, is its marked lack of actual choice and consequence. Apart from a few side quests that give you a couple of binary options at their conclusion (which make little to no impact on the future of the game) your character’s fate is very much set In stone. All of your major choices are confined to the combat system, betraying the fact that Reckoning is an action game first, a lacklustre and lonely massively multiplayer world second, and tiny sprinklings of an actual role-playing game third. No matter which one you’re after, you’re destined to be disappointed,