I’m not even sure where to start on this one, so I’ll just start with my opinion – I love this game. I love it to bits. It’s like someone took the best bits of Fable and the Elder Scrolls, threw them into a blender with a sprinkle of action game elements and whipped up a delicious role-playing smoothie. That’s not to say there aren’t some things about it that could be improved, but we’ll get to that.
This game takes place, as the title suggests, in the world of Amalur. The premise is actually quite multi-faceted, but to make a long story short: The mortal races, including humans, elves and gnomes, are at war with the immortal race, the Fae. To turn the tide of this clearly one-sided battle, the gnomes found a way to create an immortal of their own – and no prizes to anyone who guesses that you are that immortal.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: 360 / PC / PS3
After creating your character from one of four races and customising your looks, you go through a short, scene-setting, tutorial section before you’re left to your own devices. You’ll encounter one or two more small tutorials about things like creating potions, smithing items at a forge and making gems as you encounter them, but you’re pretty much equipped for the meat of the game. For the most part, you’ll be wandering around the world, either following the main quest or speaking to hundreds of people in the many, many towns, camps, castles, and cities, looking for something to do. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who need, say, their husband rescued, or an item found, or a big beastie slain.
Almost every single one of these quests is just an excuse to send you into the wilderness or a dungeon where you’ll encounter hordes of monsters, bandits, demons and so on. The combat actually makes up the largest part of the game and it’s great fun. It’s much more like an action game, like God of War or Devil May Cry than the usual type of downplayed combat we expect in this type of game. There are three main schools of combat: Might, Finesse and Sorcery – which translates into warrior, rogue and wizard. I know. How original, right? You can learn fighting skills from any one of these three “skill trees” or from any combination of the three.
You gain the bulk of your experience points in Kingdoms of Amalur from killing monsters, but there is a special ability you can use called a “fateshift” which makes them give you up to 100% more experience than you would normally get. You definitely want to save this for bigger monsters or groups of tough enemies to get the most out of it. Once you get enough experience, you level up and learn new skills. Nothing revolutionary there. The monsters you fight drop loot, which you can also find in dungeons, chests and frequently receive as rewards for completing quests. You keep what you want, sell the rest, buy potions, better gear, and so on – very standard RPG stuff. It’s fun, it works well, it’s easy and uncluttered. Great. Love it.
The problems with the game are… not huge ones, but I still think they need to be brought up. The first is the hundreds of quests. It’s a quantity over quality issue here. In KoA, you’ll always be going to get an item, find someone, talk to someone, kill a monster – and you’ll always kill a gajillion things along the way, always keeping an eye out for new loot. It’s incredibly basic and it very seldom gets any more creative than that. Well-travelled RPG fans might find themselves with a hankering for the variety and creativeness of the quests in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout after about 30+ hours.
The other is the dialogue. It’s fantastic dialogue, and the amount of recorded dialogue even for inconsequential characters is amazing. You can go around asking every character you meet, “So, what do you think of the war?” And every single one of them will tell you something different – you will not hear the same thing from two characters, and every character has 6 or 7 things to talk about. But… why? It serves no purpose apart from story fluff. It’s not like you have to go digging through conversation trees looking for a possible quest – if a character has something they want you to do, they’ll always tell you immediately, and talking about other things never, ever turns up any new quest options. You’re just shooting the breeze for no reason. It seems like a monumental wasted effort, to record all this dialogue for no practical purpose.
The last issue I wanted to bring up concerned a bit of the writing. They make a huge deal about “fate” in the main story arc and how you have the uncanny ability to change fate, blah, blah, blah. But you’re forced to take their word for it. For instance: “Wow! This monster would have destroyed the town if you hadn’t killed it. You changed fate!” Yeah, no s***, Sherlock. Maybe a bit more intelligent writing or some gameplay elements based around actually “changing fate” would have been nice – you know, to see it unfold fate’s way and then go back and change it your way. But instead, we just have to take the word of a bunch of hippie fortune tellers that we made some kind of difference. It’s kind of hard to believe in the existence of some divine plan that we’re meddling with when there’s absolutely no evidence of one, writers.
Anyway, those three issues in no way break the game for me. I’ve played it for ages and I’m still not done. I can see the lack of variety in the quests bothering some players, which is why I brought it up, but if that doesn’t bother you, then a whole world full of fun and gorgeous visuals awaits.