So, I made an amateur mistake on Twitter last week. Tweeting “Amalur > Skyrim” to 700-odd followers who all have an interest in video games, I got some…colourful…replies back regarding my opinion.
Well, guess what. I own a video game website and now I’m using this entire Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning review to explain that one single claim. I hope you’re happy now, mean Twitter people.
I gave Skyrim an 8/10, which is a pretty damn-good score on this site. I understand why people like it; it’s just that the game came off as a bit bland and repetitive to me. Nonetheless, I can appreciate it for what it is: epic in scale, and full of adventure.
The thing is, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning does all that too. Just better.
Both games are gigantic and offer a wealth of large, open areas to explore. Skyrim is gritty and realistic (dragons and weird shouts obviously excluded), and what’s why it got boring for me. I don’t play games to walk around a super-realistic land for hours…I can do that in real-life. Amalur (or should I call it Reckoning? Or KoA? Or KoA: R? Alas…) isn’t boring; it’s colourful and majestic, and that combination in its world caused me to want to explore every inch of it. The environment is lush — and mostly flat to boot — which means I didn’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to get from one place to the other. As that wasn’t a concern, I just meandered around as I saw fit.
Now, on the flip-side, I think I started to resort to fast travel about 16 hours into the game. I wound up resorting to fast travel only because the land is TOO vast, and it takes FAR too long to travel from some points to others. Since the game is essentially an MMO/RPG cross, would it have killed the developers to put in some sort of mount to speed up travel?
Plot-wise, or at least premise-wise, both Skyrim and Amalur have a lot in common. You’re an abnormality to the world; arising from the dead, you’ve been released from the predetermined destiny that binds each human, gnome, elf or Fae that populates the land. Instead, you control your own fate, and use that situation to fight the evil Tuatha, a splinter sect of the Fae (okay, now we’re going into a Vulcan-Romulan plotline here) and prevent them from conquering the lands of Amalur.
Controlling your own fate really just means you go MMO-style on quests: levelling up and improving your characters stats. Standard stuff, but with a combination of magic and long- and short-range weapons, it doesn’t get boring. Your character can choose his destiny, and focus on a number of different professions, essentially. If you get bored with one, you can respec (for a price) and change it up. I personally like using my persuasion powers, Fallout “speech”-style, to get things done without any bloodshed.
Though, on bloodshed and combat, Amalur is everything I’ve ever wanted the combat to be in Fable. Minus the ridiculously slow frame-rates, that is. Fable-style, you’ve got a button for a short-range weapon, a button for a long-range weapon and one for magic. On top of that, you can activate stealth mode to avoid combat, or kill people assassin-style. The combat is fluid, ruthless, and great fun. In fact, every element of the game seems polished to the same degree, which is far more than I can say to the clipping and horrible AI found in Skyrim. Don’t even get me started on that game’s combat…yikes.
Despite all my praise, Amalur suffers from the same problems found in games of this type. The autosave system managed to work for me in about three hour intervals, so if I proceeded through several quests without remembering to save, I wasn’t a happy camper when I died and loaded my latest save. Uh-oh! There’s a ton of experience and effort down the drain. Protip: Save. Save often.
In short, Big Huge Games have produced a game that’s bound to have something for everyone, and can turn even the most ho-hum adventure/MMO fan into an XP-hungry grinder, staying up far too late at night repeating, “just one more quest. I’ll just turn in one more quest…” into the wee hours of the morning. It’s a must have.