You have your choice of several weapons, including some unique entries such as the chakram, which was my magic-wielder’s weapon of choice. Each weapon – if you choose to develop it with talents – has many different attacks it can be used to perform, using a combination of buttons and game mechanics. It was always sadistically satisfying to end my flurry of chakram attacks by sending the deadly metal discs out to hit and enemy, and then they’d return to me, slicing into the enemy’s back one more time for good measure. Performing the uber area-of-effect attack with fiery chakrams is another huge ego boost for my character, as they cut and burn enemies to shreds with the sound of explosions resonating through the bass in my audio system.
Casting spells is also a glorious light show – everything from individual bursts of electricity to the fire bombs you can place on enemies and detonate at your very whim (yes, that is my favorite spell, how did you guess?). The flash and flair of combat is a sight to behold, and everything works very smoothly together. The animations flow into each other and the controls are very intuitive and tight, assigning one weapon to each face button. Your right shoulder button brings up your magic menu, which give you a total of four available magical abilities, while your left shoulder button whips out your equipped shield to block oncoming blows.
It isn’t just all about the glitz and glam of combat, though. The small things come through, as well. There’s a slight artistic panache in how the movements flow in combat. When you dodge, a very slight slow-down occurs which gives you a split-second feeling like you’re dodging bullets in the Matrix movies. As you wield your weapons, the same stylish visual pops litter the landscape of battle, which really makes for epic and satisfying combat, even when you’re fighting nothing but the most common of enemies.
Of special mention is your fate meter. While normal combat is rather epic in and of itself, when your fate meter fills through successful combat and shift into Reckoning Mode, you feel like a god. In this mode, your attacks gain strength and time slows down, allowing you to do massive damage to enemies around you. While in basic Reckoning Mode, you don’t kill enemies, you beat them to a sliver of their health. At this point, a prompt appears that will allow you to unleash a massive, scripted attack that completely obliterates any enemies that are in that state and gains you extra experience for the effort.
There are a few things that slightly bother me about combat, however. First off, it has the potential to get very button-mashy, especially for certain character builds (typically the melee variety). The developers do a great job of trying to offset this with a plethora of possible abilities and ways to customize your characters’ attack patterns, however it still bled out, no matter how hard I tried.
Secondly, and possibly of greater annoyance, in my personal opinion, is the fact that your health does not regenerate outside of combat. This leaves you endlessly consuming potions and wondering if you have enough in your inventory to make it through the dungeon you just entered. This is somewhat offset by healing abilities that you have to actively decide to spent points on.
Finally – and this is always an issue for me and seems prevalent in any action-style game throughout several genres – it bothers me greatly that, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I can’t dodge while I’m in mid-swing. When I fling my chakrams out at an enemy and it shrugs them off and comes at me, I want the ability to dodge instead of waiting for the attack animation to complete. This has led to more frustration than anything else, and is something that is persistent throughout the entire game. It artificially inflates the AI difficulty and is just straight up frustrating.
Those aside though, combat is a very fun and surprisingly visceral experience. While combat in other Western RPGs isn’t always bad, not one I’ve played in recent memory (including Skyrim) has had such a fun, engrossing and powerful combat experience.
The music and voice acting are fairly top notch, as well, although the soundtrack stands out above the actors. Sometimes I feel the voice acting, especially the accents, are forced. This causes them to feel fake and over-acted to the point of being overly melodramatic and that turns me off. However, generally speaking, the dialog is fun and can sometimes be surprising. I’m slightly disappointed that we have yet another silent protagonist in a Western RPG, however it doesn’t particularly take away much from the experience. It does feel a bit off-putting, considering there are other big-budget RPGs that include the full experience.
However, the decisions you can make to change the course of dialog add a voice to your character that you would otherwise not have. So, in a similar respect to Skyrim, the silent protagonist route isn’t necessarily a drawback.
The entire world of Amalur that you can explore in Reckoning, dubbed the Faelands, is simply infatuating. It’s breathtaking how deep the lore is for a game that is the first in the franchise. While playing through it, it honestly felt like the franchise had been around for years. The game is very polished and simply exudes fun at every turn.
Possibly the best compliment I can give Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is that, nearly every time something came up that is included in this game that I didn’t expect – in-game character re-customization, player housing, full-fledged crafting systems, the ability to lump all junk in your inventory into one pile and sell it with one button press, etc. – I thought, “This RPG seriously has nearly everything I could want in a game of this sort. Rock on.” If that is what the guys at 38 Studios and Big Huge Games set out to do, they have succeeded in spades.
There may be a few issues here and there that would have elevated this game to “awesome legendary entry for a new IP” if they were included (sorry, I can’t get the lack of out of combat health regeneration out of my head), there is a lot of awesome content packed into this experience that will likely satisfy those looking for a reprieve from the world of other recent entries in the genre. Role playing fans should certainly focus their radars firmly in the direction of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, as it is a worthy entry in the genre and a franchise I hope to see in it for the long haul.