First Impressions: Kingdoms of Amalur

With today’s gaming world full of sequels & remakes, a brand new title is definitely something to take notice of.  That being said, the minds behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning are not novices.  With Ken Rolston from earlier Elder Scroll games as executive designer & prolific fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore on board, KoA is very ambitious for a first game.  To call it an open-world RPG doesn’t do it justice.  Nearly sixteen hours in, & I’m only in the third small region of the game.  The map makes the world of Amalur seem jaw-droppingly huge.  Rather suitable, given one of the developers in called Big Huge Games.

Red areas are where I’ve explored

 I’ve only just barely scratched the surface of the main quest, so I don’t know much more about the main plot than I did before I got the game.  A group of immortal creatures have declared war on the mortal races.  In an attempt to end the war, a secret project called the Well of Souls is created to try to bring the dead back to life.  The protagonist is the only success.  Now no longer bound by fate, they’re able to choose their own path.  Likely the end goal will be defeated the corrupt king of the Winter Court.  I’ve completed several other quests, including joining the House of Ballads (something usually reserved only for the immortal Fae), joining the Warsworn (think Fighter’s Guild), got invited to join the Travelers (Thieves Guild) & saving a town from giant spiders being controlled by “The Widow,” which culminated in my first real boss fight & earning a house for myself.

So far I’m very impressed by the combat & skills system.  Combat is very fast & fluid, with lots of customization.  I especially like that you can have two weapons active at a time & four main talents.  Another defining feature of the game is the ability to collect the fate energy of your slain foes & use it to Fate Shift, which increases your damage & allows for a QTE cutscene to finish enemies off for extra experience.  There are three different classes to pour your skills into: Might, Finesse & Sorcery.  Rather than making you stick to a set class, you can purchase whatever skills you want.  This means you can specialize in one class or create a balance.  At the time of writing, my Dark Elf is a mix of Finesse & Sorcery.  I was originally using daggers & chakrams for fast, close combat & stealth kills as well as medium ranged, mob combat, but have since switched the daggers for faeblades.  I use the starting Storm Bolt spell a lot, as well as Mark of Flame to give me a ranged ability.

I have to give Salvatore credit, although the world of Amalur is a familiar fantasy setting, there are a lot of unique elements.  I read somewhere that he wrote a 1000 page history of the world just for the game.  A lot of the creatures are things I’ve never seen before, like the boggarts & brownies.  Of course there are some old staples, like giant rats, spiders & sprites.

I’ve been enjoying the game so far, but it’s not without complaints.  My main complaint is that some items cost a ridiculous amount of money.  Once I actually started exploring the land & fighting, I’ve been coming across enough loot to keep my money reserves up.  But that doesn’t change the fact that 7500 gold for a backpack upgrade that only adds ten more slots, or a single ability upgrade training costing over 15000 is more than a bit exorbitant.  I’m also a bit disappointed with the stealth.  It works fine, but most of the enemies I’ve come across are in tightly packed groups, making stealth impossible.  Hopefully I’ll find more opportunities for it later.  I’m also not crazy about the lockpicking & dispelling system.  It’s hard to stop picking a lock before the pick breaks.  This is somewhat fixed by the fact that higher levels in lockpicking let you auto-attempt.  The same is true for dispel.  It’s similar to a rhythm game where you have to hit the symbols at the right time.  Failing can be disastrous.

As with Skyrim, this game will probably be too long for me to wait until I’m completely finished to review it.  Instead, I’ll wait until I feel I’ve experienced enough of what the game has to offer to give an accurate opinion.

– GamerDame

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