Saturday, March 9, 2013

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I reckon a considerable amount of money was involved in the making of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to ensure its success. Todd McFarlane (the creator of Spawn) was brought in to watch over the art design and R.A. Salvatore lead the story writing. And as the game's executive designer acted Ken Rolson, who was the lead designer for Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and Oblivion.

The game's launch was accompanied by a day long streaming event by Sean "Day9" Plott (guest starring Felicia Day), which featured interviews of the people involved in the making of the game. TotalBiscuit also streamed the game for few hours. I assume they got at least some compensation for their trouble.

Reckoning also had a cross-promotion with Mass Effect 3; you got items in the games for playing the other's demo. ME3 definitely had it better since the Reckoner-Knight Armor and the Chakram Launcher are both usable through the whole game. But in Reckoning, the Omniblades and Shepard's Armor will quickly become obsolete thanks to the item level system.

The money spent shows in the game, though, and it was a reasonable success too, I guess. It got generally positive reviews and sold some odd million copies. However, it apparently wasn't enough to break even as 38 Studios shut down within the year.

My immediate thought when getting the control of my character in the demo was: "Great. A console port." The camera is pretty close to your character and of course the distance isn't adjustable. The camera does, however, zoom out in combat to keep enemies within the screen. This occassionally causes some silliness when the distance between them and your character gets long enough.

That never bothered me unlike the camera sensitivity option, which does nothing for mouse movement. But I got used to the overly sensitive camera twitching eventually. And for a change the default keybindings were sensible and I didn't feel the need to change them. I haven't had that for awhile with these console games.

The game also has seriously cumbersome interfaces outside the combat, including a list inventory. In which many items (usually from quests) will get stuck, in the worst case taking up space too. I feel that's a rather common problem in games without a good old grid. In short, KoA:R is a console game through and through. I would have never picked the full game if not for Origin's 5€ sale.

What actually made me interested in the game back in the day was its trailer, which showed some seriously flashy gameplay. Considering that, I really should've gone with a Might build (or maybe Sorcery). Instead, I kept putting my points in the Finesse abilities, which weren't visually that impressing. Although performing the various spinning attacks with fire enchanted faeblades looks damn cool.

Stealth isn't restricted to Finesse builds but I guess the Smoke Bomb ability makes it safer. The ability is also very handy for sidequests where you have to steal something. That ability alone was the reason I didn't respec until hitting the maximum level. Of the Stealth skill's usefulness I'm not as certain. I'm not sure if it even did anything. And it really should also improve your movement speed while in Stealth mode. Would make it much more enjoyable. Executing a pack of enemies without getting spotted was always very satisfying when I could pull it off, though. But it pretty much required all of them to be facing one direction and/or the use of the Smoke Bomb in between targets.

I switched to a full Might build when respecing to get more flashy abilities in the form of Quake and Wrath. There was also the Relentless Assault ability, which gives you resistance to stagger, which occassionally was a problem for me in the first build. Sometimes a pack of monsters would take perfectly timed turns in attacking and keeping my character stunlocked. Getting actually killed would've required more spiky damage, however, as health potions have no cooldown and using them is instantaneous.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an easy game. You can beat it with any build, really, I feel. I played on the hardest difficulty and died only four times. Twice because of trap bullshit and twice for just playing badly. Should've just used a health potions both times. There's no reason to be stingy with them as enemies and chests give you plenty. The Alchemy skill isn't required at all.

Nor is Lockpicking, Mercantile, Blacksmithing, or Sagecraft (gemcrafting). Dispelling I found useful as the mini-game otherwise requires some lightning reflexes on the Very Hard wards. Persuasion also tends to give you few purple items every now and then. But the most important skill to max is Detect Hidden as it shows you secret loot and doors, traps, and increases the amount of gold found. Not that I really needed the money. I had four million gold at the end with nothing to spend it on.

The lack of challenge is quite a letdown indeed. Especially considering how long the game runs if you do everything, which I mostly did as I knew that I will never play it again. Origin says I've put 73 hours into it and it indeed did take quite awhile to finish the game. Too bad in addition to the lack of challenge, the quests are also boring. Some are even repeatable for whatever reason.

I don't understand why they put so much effort into adding so many voice-acted dialogue lines. You can ask at least three things from every NPC you can talk to. But why would you? It's not like you didn't get enough information about the pretty standard setting from the mandatory dialogues (which I mostly skipped).

The voice-acting is done welle enough but is wasted on the dull and very thin story. I didn't feel personal involment at any point. The game is simply bad in that department. I guess hiring Salvatore didn't do much good.

The universe actually reminded me of the Spawn crossover story in the Witchblade comics I have read. With all the fey (or "fae") and stuff. And the visual style is quite similar to World of Warcraft, though quite a bit prettier of what recall the MMO looking. Skies are not grainy either, and there are even moving clouds. The soundtrack does its job -- it has couple very nice pieces in fact.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is way too long for the amount of interesting content it has. After about two fifths of the game, you have already seen every enemy there is (excluding few bosses). They could've cut half of the game out. Even the combat outstays its welcome due to the length of the game.

There are two content DLCs for the game available, both which s'posedly add a whole bunch of stuff. I don't even dare to look if they just bring more of the same monsters and dungeon layouts.

The game's very stable, though. That I must give to it. It never crashed during the lengthy hours I played it. And the loading times are short as well.

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