Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Reviewed: Xbox 360
The odd thing about Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning is that it’s not a fantastic game for the reasons you would expect it to be a fantastic game. Its executive designer is Ken Rolston, a veritable legend in RPGs thanks to his work on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowing and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. and on the tabletop RPGs Runequest and Paranoia before them. Spawn creator Todd McFarlane worked on the game’s visual design, while fantasy author R.A. Salvatore helped design the world and the back story. It’s been developed by Big Huge Games, the company behind the excellent Rise of Nations and the widely under-rated Rise of Legends. In short, there was every reason to hope for an epic, old-school RPG with a unique world, its own look and its own distinctive take on fantasy.
Instead, we have a game that looks like a collision of styles between Fable II and World of Warcraft; very pretty, very colourful and actually quite charming, but hardly the kind of thing that breaks new ground. The world isn’t quite your traditional realm of Tolkien-esque fantasy. With its warring clans of ‘fae’, its faeire balladeers and kobolds, it’s closer in feel to the fifties/sixties fantasies of Jack Vance or Poul Anderson. Yet it’s still not leagues away from what we’ve seen before in Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights or World of Warcraft. It’s a world that’s been made with a lighter touch and a lighter heart than those of Skyrim, Dark Souls, Dragon Age or The Witcher II, but it’s not necessarily one that you feel particularly compelled to explore. There’s a lot of lore that you’ll be tempted to skip through, and some of the accents on offer defy belief.
Nor is The Reckoning an immediate stunner. Sure, it looks good in a slightly cartoon way, and all the furniture of the fantasy RPG - the management of arms and armour, maps and instant travel, conversation trees and quest tracking - is all handled with grace and a little design nous. It’s fun to create a character and explore the game’s kingdoms, taking and completing quests and following the story, and there are moments where the landscapes, colours and lighting have a real translucent beauty. After Skyrim’s bugs, the worst thing you can say about this one is that the loading times are a bit slow. Yet Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning could have so easily been a quirky but slightly mediocre RPG of the kind that genre fans shuffle through disinterestedly while they wait for the next big thing from Bioware or Bethesda.
Luckily, it’s a much better game than that, and it all comes down to what’s really important: gameplay. Basically, The Reckoning scores big on three counts: combat, character development and content.