Friday! (I know it’s Saturday local time but I’m not asleep yet so it’s still Friday to me shut up I don’t care DON’T JUDGE ME) On any other occassion this would have been like a regular old Friday: unbearably long during the day but by the gods once you’re done then the weekends are upon us! Merry-making in the streets! Fireworks on the hour every hour! Fairies and unicorns parading around and leaving flowers in their wake! No? …well, that should be the norm.
Excuse me, being caught dead in the vice-like grips of this fever, in addtion to being all drugged up (on medications, don’t do drugs kids) isn’t doing any favours to my mental well-being. My body is aching, my back feels like it’s gonna collapse in on itself, I feel hot and cold at the same time and my balls feel weird. Seriously, fevers — bane of humanity.
Oh and yeah, have some Kindgoms of Amalur.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has an impressive line-up of names behind it. Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much hype leading up to its release. Either gamers were a little wary and skeptical or the fact that it had EA’s stamp on it or quite possibly both. EA was and still is under a lot of scrutiny and disapproval by the community but I’m not going to get into that any more than I briefly have already.
To not spoil the story too much, the premise behind KoA is that the world of Amalur is caught up in a war between a group of immortals and all the mortal races. You can imagine how that’s working out for the mortal collective, who are inherently the good guys. You get to play as one of four playable races: the Almain (noble humans), Varani (nomadic/viking humans), Ljosalfar (Elves) and Dokkalfar (Dark Elves). Your character starts out dead. Quite literally. A pair of gnomes are hauling your corpse off for disposal and as you fall gracelessly atop a pile of fellow dead, unknown powers ressurect you. Not the most welcome of places to wake after dying but hey, it could be worse. This little event makes you a very special person, naturally, and you soon set off on a marvelous, exciting and lengthy adventure.
I play as Adeline, the female Rogue/Mage Dokkalfar. It being a fantasy setting and I having made a streak of male characters in previous games, it was about time I stared at something a little more appealing during my long journeys. No points for name creativity here — it’s my default choice for female characters. This would also be a good time to point out KoA’s class system, of which there are three to choose from and where you start off with none, for quite some time. When you do get the option, you can opt to go for either those three, or go for a hybrid build. It’s not all too common in video-game RPGs yet but I’m glad this approach is starting to pick up. Of course you won’t get access to the strongest abilities of a pure-build, but it gives you the opportunity to take up a playstyle that you enjoy. For me, that’s sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies, adding terribly disastrous modifications to their body (slit throats for instance) and bringing down the elemental smackdown should things get a little dire.
For a significant portion of the first 25% of the game, I found myself so engrossed that it was only on the third day that I realised I had not taken a single screenshot up until then. Apologies for that. Do bear in mind that these are all potentially spoilers, depending on your view of such things.
On with the presentation! Image vomit alert.
If you had noticed, Adeline doesn’t move her mouth much, if at all. Yes she’s not quite the talkative type, but there are instances where you have dialog options. Yet her mouth does not move! Armed with this knowledge, I declare that the protagonist gains telepathy as a side-effect of the ressurection process. You have no idea how badly I wish I could do that too.
And just like how this had an abrupt start, the pictures too have an abrupt end. It was at this point in time I was experiencing the famous “Amalur fatigue”. The one problem with the game isnt’ the length — it’s the fact that the quests plays out a lot like a single-player MMO. Go here, do that, fetch this, put that there. Now, usually, these sort of problems would be alleviated by loot, crafting and social factors. With regards to loot and crafting, I had pretty much mastered those abilities by the time I was 75% done with the game. So really, I was meticulously crafting gear that is far superior than what the game would provide, up until I gain access to the last tier of materials. Social aspect? There is none. The chores of menial quests can usually be off-set by having friends around but here there are none. It boosts your immersion in the setting, no doubt, but at great cost. I’m not saying they should make it multiplayer. Simply revise the sort of quests that you have to do to make them more engaging.
Then there’s the travelling. Amalur… is a huge continent. You travel either by foot or by fast-travel to places you’ve already visited. In the later parts of the game, quests givers and locations aren’t exactly at places where you can fast-travel, so you still gotta hoof it. It becomes a matter of micro-managing your quests so that you spend as little time as possible walking back and forth through the same areas. Thankfully, the enemies you come across are level-locked to their regions, so if you revisit an old area you could just run past with not a care in the world for the mob of quite frankly, unreasonable creatures chasing after you. Or you could kill them too, but that takes up time and isn’t worth the effort. Does it need some form of mounted travelling system? PLEASE, YES.
There have been mention of the lack-lustre characters and story as well. It’s true, you don’t really find yourself invested in much of them like you do in a series such as Mass Effect but again, I attribute that to the “MMO-style” mechanics. Forgettable NPCs, with exception of the few you only remember because they’re plot-centric.
The soundtrack is good though far too repetitive, considering how much time you spend in an area or coming across battles. Halfway through I found myself running podcasts or suitable music in the background. That’s the sort of thing you normally do when you find yourself grinding in one way or another.
Here’s the flipside: the world is beautiful — if you’re playing on a more modern system than I am, it would be much more so. The character designs are unique enough and the locations are tellingly well-crafted to suit the theme. Set-piece cities are fairly majestic and combat looks downright amazing. You feel as awesome as you look. Thus, big plus points to the combat system, and this is just from experimenting with a hybrid Rogue/Mage class. Class customisation deserves mention as well, since it’s not as static as put-points-into-skill-tree and fight. You get to unlock certain class-specific (pure or hybrid) ‘destinies’ (bonuses) as you met the prerequisite number of skill points in a particular path.
I fully understand that you could combat the Amalur fatigue by changing your class and play-style as you go along to freshen things up, but I had sold or salvaged all equipment that didn’t relate to my playstyle from the very beginning. I created Adeline with the specific intention of having her as a Rogue/Mage (more specifically, a Shadowcaster — finesse + sorcery) all the way. I shouldn’t have to change classes just to stave off dreariness. Besides, the only thing it’ll change is how I fight; the quests aren’t going to change any way.
Nonetheless, I returned to the game two weeks after and just rushed on right to the ending of the main questline. No screenshots for that and you’ve seen enough anyway. I know it sounds as if I’m quite negative towards the game, but trust me, I loved it up until the fatigue kicked in, and that was around the 60-hour mark. Then it started to become a love-hate relationship sort of thing. There’s a coming DLC but I’ll give it a miss. The game’s memory is still far too-fresh in my mind for me to be able to enjoy it. I will, of course, add it to my games-to-replay cycle; the list is getting quite
intimidating impressive. This time round, I’ll of course be mixing things up with my playstyle. Hopefully there’d be a mod or two as well.
This brings me to The Elder Scrolls games, where people find themselves fatigued after the initial burst as well. I believe it’s due to the fact that there’s just so much to do and that most people haven’t experienced this sort of massive sandbox environment either, especially considering how most single-player games these days are so short. I can complete a number of them in a day or two! The point to TES is that you can’t rush it. Hell, imagine that was you trying to go to all those places and doing all those things (please don’t make your horse in real-life scale a mountain). If you enjoyed every second it you’re either a very determined fan or need to get some perspective. Play for short periods of time over a long stretch — add a mod or two along the way. Now that Steam Workshop has been implemented, it’s incredibly easy to do so. I hear tell of people saying that Steam Workshop is killing sites that hosted these mods previously, but I don’t think that’ll be the case. Lots of people don’t own Steam copies too… I think. I pulled that out of thin air, don’t quote me on that one.
“SO SHOULD I GET KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING? BLOODY HELL YOU GO ON FOREVER.”
Take a look at the trailers and gameplay for an idea of how the combat mechanics are like. It’s action-oriented and really fun, though stealth is, admittedly, not that great. If you enjoy massive RPGs then this is definitely for you. What games can you compare it to? It’s hard to say because it borrows elements from so many others that it becomes a title all of it’s own. I’d compare it to The Elder Scrolls and World of Warcraft, if nothing else. Perhaps Fable too but that had tighter pacing and wasn’t a huge open world (the first game anyway, I’ve yet to play 2 and 3). I will play it again for the combat alone. It’s a great game, with a nagging flaw. You wouldn’t notice it when you start playing anyway. There’s also a demo up for grabs too, if you’re still on-the-fence over it.
NO I WILL NOT PROVIDE SILLY, ARBITARY NUMERIC/STAR RATINGS. THEY ARE THE PLAGUE OF THE GAMING INDUSTRY AND SHOULD BE BANISHED FOREVER. TO THE MOON!
Cursory once-over and I was getting really groggy and tired, sorry if it grew dull quickly. Shall write other pieces during early evening or afternoon as I normally do, not at 12+AM. Trouble is, I have no major gaming content to post now! I’m currently playing Tribes: Ascend which is the best FPS I’ve played in years but it doesn’t really make for interesting screenshots and I can’t bring myself to upload half-assed quality videos. I would start a new Terraria world and character to do an on-going mini-diary til all hardmode bosses are defeated, but playing alone is kinda sad. I do have Max Payne 2 loaded and ready on Steam, so I guess I might do that over the weekends. Hrm.