First Impressions: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
posted by Syrsly on Jan 19, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a very interesting game, one I have tracked for the past year or so. That said, the demo showed me that the hype around the game is greatly exaggerating the gameplay. For starters, it is a lot simpler than I originally thought it would be.

The game starts with a dead body, your dead body, being dumped into the Well of Souls. (If you see a black screen here, turn off post-processing.) Thankfully, the game gives you a second lease on life, and just in time, too, because you get to highly customize your character from your gender and race to your hair style and skin tone. The character customization is similar to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, except Oblivion is uglier and a little more complicated.

After you design your dead body, you wake up in a pool of dead bodies, only you're not dead any more, are you? Moving on, you run through a very vague tutorial of movement controls, sword attacks and so on as you escape the well. You will continue to get tutorial hints popping up throughout the game as you do something for the first time, but have no fear, it works well.

The camera controls are a major pain. The camera cannot zoom in/out, and I think the default viewing distance is way too close during combat. When my character turns toward the camera to swing at foes behind it, the camera stays still, making it hard to see what's happening. The camera is also too sensitive by default and hard to adjust to a comfortable movement speed. It seems to work a lot better with a joystick than a mouse. I prefer Fable's camera system by a long shot. Speaking of Fable, the looting feels a lot like Fable 3.

The combat is great, I really like fighting, but it is easy most of the time and feels like it could use a little inspiration from Skyrim. You can wield two weapons at once, but you cannot use them both at the same time, and if you have two of the same weapon type equipped, both weapons look like the primary weapon, and they both do the same damage. This is especially apparent when trying to shoot two scepters at once. It just does not work. Of course, this is a demo, and the game doesn't officially release for another 2 weeks, so this could be an overlooked coding error.

The graphics were good, but the game has some technical setbacks. I also did not like the lip sync. If you can't sync lips to the words, don't even try. The mouths do not look good animated. That said, few games animate mouths in a believable fashion, and the technical setbacks do not affect my opinion of the graphics at all. Everything looks fairly nice.

The audio design was fair, nothing special. I wasn't annoyed by the sound effects nor the voices, but the music was repetitive to me. Again, nothing special.

Overall, I think the game is going to be worth the $60 retail price at release, because it provides plenty of replay value and an epic story. I was willing to overlook the flaws because of the awesome combat and character customization. If you have Skyrim already, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning may be a nice diversion, but if you have to choose only one game, Skyrim is better and cheaper.

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