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Video Games

Kingdoms of Amalur

Re-Reckoning : A Re-Review

This review was done on my Xbox One X. This game is also available for PC and PS4. I am playing on the newly added “Very Hard” difficulty. I advise you all to do the same, it’s challenging but not infuriating and encourages you to learn all the different mechanics on offer. I also tried the game on normal, but it was a bit dull and too easy in my opinion. I’ve kept it spoiler free in regards to the story line. This is designed to give my early impressions and to serve as a beginners guide.

TLDR version : It’s a great RPG game for a very good price. My long review starts now!

I just wanted to use that heading. Technically, this is just my first review, not a re-review. I never actually played the original Kingdoms of Amalur. What’s weirder is I had never even heard of it! I’m not sure how, but somehow (let’s blame Skyrim) I completely missed this game originally and I had no idea that it was being remade. Considering how much time I spend around video games and hanging out at my local game store, that is truly bizarre. I came upon it by chance when I was browsing games online. I needed a new one because I kept throwing tantrums at THPS. For $59.95, this seemed a pretty good deal. I’m glad I decided to try it, because I love it!

I’ll start with a little history on this game, because it is actually pretty interesting. Kingdoms of Amalur was developed between 38 studios (that was their name, it wasn’t 38 different studios) and Big Huge Games, and was published with Electronic Arts. Originally, it was released in 2012, just 3 months after the Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim. That is very unfortunate, due to their similarities and the success of Skyrim. I’m sure if this game was released at a different time, it would of been immensely popular. That being said, it still reviewed very well and sold 1.2 million copies in it’s first 3 months. A Rhode Island governor, Lincoln Chafee declared the game a financial failure. Curt Schilling (the founder of 38 studios) said that this statement caused a publisher to back out of 35 million dollar deal, which would of paid for a sequel. However, this did not occur and ultimately, lead 38 studios to file for bankruptcy.

Let’s take a tiny step back. I said Curt Schilling and you may be wondering if it was the former MLB pitcher I was speaking about. Indeed, it is. After retiring from Baseball, Schilling decided to open a video game company. Unfortunately, it did not go well for him. This was the only game they published before they went bankrupt.

Before we dive into the gameplay and all the fun stuff, I just want to talk about a few interesting “behind the scenes” facts. The lore for this game is incredible! It actually has a 10,000 year history created for it. All of this lore was written by fantasy author (and legend), R.A. Salvatore. For those of you who don’t know, Salvatore is perhaps most famous for his creation of Drizzt Do’Urden and his many books about him. Originally, it was supposed to be an MMORPG, but was ultimately made into a single player experience.

The game was directed by Mark Nelson, most notably known for his worth with Bethesda on the Elder Scrolls series. It was designed by Ken Rolston (also known for his work on the Elder Scrolls series) and Ian Frazier. Todd McFarlane worked on the artwork, alongside Tim Coman. You might remember Todd McFarlane as the artist from a little known comic book called The Amazing Spider-Man. He is also the writer and artist for the comic book series, Spawn. Finally, legendary video game composer, Grant Kirkhope worked on the score. He just did a few minor Nintendo games, like Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. So nothing really important. What a star studded line up to work on the development!

Now that all of that is out of the way, we can talk about the game!

Personally, I always have a lot of trouble starting RPG games like this. I usually restart it 2 or 3 times before I am happy with my character and my specs. Once I make it past 10 hours, I’m good to go. This game was no exception, it took me 3 shots before I was happy with my character. I played about 2 hours with my first, 4 with my second and am currently at about 13 hours with my current file. So all up, I’ve played around 20 hours of this game and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Character design is a good a place to start as any. It was simple enough, which I am more than happy with. The older I get, the less I seem to care about my character’s appearance. They are usually covered in armour anyway, how often do you actually see your character in an RPG? I do care about “backstory” and “motivation” but that’s just some nerd thing I do. My character has to be believable. I know, it’s a fantasy game and you can do whatever makes you happy. For me though, it has to be realistic. For example, I wouldn’t make a giant character and invest of all my skill points into sneak. Or I wouldn’t make a halfling and invest all of my points in two handed weapons. I need to be able to believe in my character or else I can’t play. That’s probably why I always end up starting over a few times. Once I figure out how I like to play, I need my character to match.

Anyway, that’s my problem and my curse. Back to the character creation. You start off by selecting your gender, male or female. From what I can gather, this makes no difference to anything. You just pick which you prefer. I imagine it might change dialogue with some characters, but nothing major from what I can see. I’m not sure if romance is possible in this game or not, or how gender would effect that.

You then select from one of four races, this is a choice that carries more weight, but still isn’t super important. I think you can just pick whatever race you like the look of. You get to customise your appearance before you finalise the character, but there isn’t a lot you can do. Changing hairstyle is the main one that makes a difference.

The four races are Almain, Vorani, Ljosalfar and Dokkalfar. I think the first two were just different humans and the latter two different elves. Your race determines your back story and advises how to invest your skill points, but you can honestly do whatever you want with future skill points. Each race starts with 4 skill points already invested, you cannot change them. Honestly though, just pick what makes you happy. It doesn’t really matter. I went with the Vorani.

Next up is the Diety you wish to worship. From what I can gather, it depends on your race for what Dieties you can choose from. They just have things like +5% health or mana or fire damage etc etc. I think I selected the God of War, for +5% damage? I can’t really recall to be honest. You can also select to worship no god and you gain +1% experience for the game. That seemed cool, but I wish it was +5% as well. 1% just didn’t seem worth it. After you have selected all of this, you can customise your appearance and then the game begins!

Right from the get go, this game reminded me of the Fable series. I mean that from a graphical standpoint, although it does share several similarities with Fable. The characters and environment just reminded me of that style of animation. Personally, I prefer my games to look less cartoony, but it definitely doesn’t look bad and it isn’t enough to take anything away from the game. I think a lot of the NPC’s look especially goofy and I find it hard to take them seriously. One other minor complaint, I find the game to be very dark. I have the brightness maxed out, but I still can’t see anything but black at times. Overall though, it looks very good and I am sure a lot of people love this style of animation.

Gameplay wise, you start with a tutorial that lets you test out some different weapons and magic abilities. It also introduces you to armour and the inventory system. You learn about consumables and your quest log, how to level up, most of the basic things you need to play the game.

I’ll start on combat. You can equip 2 weapons, a primary and a secondary. Each is mapped to a different button, X or Y, so you can seamlessly switch between in combat. The attacks with them are simple enough. You can just button mash like mad, hold the button for charged attacks (once unlocked), or try a variety of different combos. Weapons range in power and speed, the stronger the weapon, the slower it is. They also can have different buffs to your health or do additional magic damage, various things like that. Certain weapons also have slots for a gem, but I haven’t yet experimented with that. I assume it just adds more buffs, depending on what the gem is. Some weapons also have a required level or “x” amount of skill points invested in a particular skill tree (I’ll get to that later) before you can use them.

Magic and Special Attacks are mapped to certain buttons as well. You hold RT to initiate and then press the corresponding X,Y,A or B button. You start with one magic attack as a default and can unlock different abilities as you progress. You can block attacks with shields using LT (we’ll talk about them in armour) or dodge attacks by rolling, using “B”.

Using the LB button opens a quick select wheel for your different consumables. You are free to map them as you wish. There is a large variety of potions to choose from, damage buffs, resistance, health potions, mana regen, xp boosters….the list goes on and on. You can also quickly use health potions by pushing “Left” on the D-Pad and mana potions by pressing “Right”. On the hardest difficulty, it is very advantageous to to use the various potions to get the upper hand in some of the tougher fights.

Finally, you have 3 bars on your HUD to keep track of during combat (and outside of it too, I suppose). Health which is self explanatory. From what I can tell, there is no health regeneration by default. However, certain armour sets or gems (I’ll get to that later) can offer health regeneration. Mana does regenerate by itself and you can also make it faster with armour sets etc etc. Lastly, is the Fate meter. You fill this in combat, the more variety you use in battler, the faster it fills. Once it is full, you can enter “Reckoning” and time is slowed down. Kind of. You move faster than your opponents and your attack deals extra damage. Defeating an enemy in Reckoning mode, leaves them fateless (I think that’s what they call it) and they aren’t yet dead, but they cannot fight. The objective is to make as many enemies fateless as possible before the fate meter is drained. Once every enemy is fateless, or prior to the bar draining, you can go up to a defeated an enemy and press the “A” button. This will initiate a special attack and end Reckoning mode. The attack is just a cool graphic, all you have to do is button mash whatever comes on the screen. It is either X,Y, A or B. The aim is to get it to 100% and that is the XP boost you get for that fight. Every fateless enemy will be killed at once and you get a nice XP boost for the fight. Reckoning mode makes me feel invincible and has helped me in many situations, particularly in boss fights that I could not beat! I would activate Reckoning mode and destroy them. You might be tempted to try and save it for a boss fight, but I wouldn’t bother. You can fill it pretty quickly and if you get up to a tough fight, you can always backtrack to defeat a few enemies and come back shortly with a full Fate meter.

Outside of combat, the game is largely about quests and exploration. The quests are plentiful. Within a couple of hours or so, I had about 20 quests in my quest log. It can be a tad daunting, but I would advise just accepting them and working on them as you please. They are divided into Main Quests, Side Quests, Factions and Tasks. Honestly, I haven’t done many main quests yet. Just the opening tutorial stuff. As soon as I hit the open world, I got into exploring and side quests. The side quests have all been simple enough so far. Fetch quests or different combat ones. They all have an interesting enough back story though. Tasks are simpler. It’s usually collecting “x” amount of items or things like upgrading your house. Faction quests just involve work for certain factions (duh!). I think there are 6 factions in the game and from my understating, you can join them all! My best advice is just to explore and have fun. Do what makes you happy. There doesn’t seem to be much that is missable in this game. Make the decisions you like, tackle the quests you want. It’s a hugely immersive world, go get lost in it! I imagine you could easily play this game for hundreds of hours.

Obviously, you cannot fight or explore without armour. Well, you can, but it would be foolish! You can do the whole game in nothing but your underwear if you really like. I suspect you might get slaughtered in combat though. I did have a conversation in my underwear and nobody seemed phased. I even got an achievement for it!

The armour system is simple enough. Like weapons, certain pieces have level requirements and some of them have skill requirements (it’s coming soon, I swear). You can equip headgear, chest armour, gloves, leg armour, boots and a shield. You have the option of a robe, but it will be equipped instead of chest and leg armour. Like everything else in the game, you are free to equip what you wish, as long as you meet the requirements. Experiment and have fun. I’ve been focussed on wearing sturdy armour, but I am constantly changing as I find new gear. It feels like this game has a lot of looter elements to it. I am always finding new weapons and armour and am constantly rotating my gear. On that note, I’ve been selling everything as I move on to different gear. I’m rich and I love it. It’s pretty easy to sell gear, you just add it to your “junk” and you can quickly sell all junk at a merchant. My goal is to get 1 million gold pieces. I’m over halfway.

Just like weapons, armour can have different buffs to it. They also can come in sets. If you equip a whole set of armour, you get additional buffs. A set of armour will be 5 different items and the more of them you have equipped, the better the buffs. So far, I’ve only come across 2 items from one set and I’ve kept them in my stash (which is in your house, when you get one).

I promised I’d get to it and here we are. The skill tree is divided into 3 sections : Might, Finesse and Sorcery. Basically it comes down to a fighter, a rogue or a mage. You can focus entirely on one skill tree or split skills across two to three. Whatever you like! I’m heavily invested in Might. Usually, I play as a rogue, but I wasn’t super into the sneaking in this game. I’ve focussed all of my skills into “Might”. I use a hammer as my primary and chakrams as my secondary. They are a mid range weapon and pretty quick. I like being able to swap between power and speed seamlessly.

The skill tree has passive abilities, like increased damaged with certain weapon types or active abilities, which are like a special move. You get 3 skill points each level and there is no point saving them up, you have to invest them to actually level up. You also get an additional stat point, to invest in things like your persuasion skill or lock picking etc. I would highly recommend investing in “detect hidden”. You find more gold and you find hidden treasure stashes everywhere. If you are obsessed with virtual gold, as I am, it’s the best ability to have.

I tend to rant a bit when I do video game reviews, but they are a lot of fun for me. I probably could have done it in a more concise manner and a better order, but I get to excited! I hope I didn’t forget anything. I imagine I did though. Still, it’s time to end the review, lest I go on forever. I’ve still got a lot of playing left to do anyway!

In short, I highly recommend this game. It is at a great price and a lot of fun, especially if you are into RPG games. I have barely scratched the surface in my 20 hours of time with it. I suspect that I will be heavily invested in this, right up until the Ps5 comes out. As always, if you have any questions or would like to see any specific quests or videos or anything, just let me know and I will do my best to comply! Thank you for reading.

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