“As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.”
-Leonardo da Vinci
“The following is a guest post by the Wonderland Dragoon Mage.”
For me the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning invoked a sense of wonder not unlike the feeling I get when I play through the SNES Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. From the first time I picked up a sword in the game I became aware that the fluid and refined gameplay was heads above the clunky controls that we as gamers often find in some of our favorite RPGs. This game was such an enjoyable experience for me that it actually dethroned some of my favorite games that I honestly never thought anything else would even come close to. There are so many things that this game did so well, I hope you will indulge me as I take a little bit of time to delve into them.
There are lots of games with good graphics. It’s something that we come to expect as gamers. The graphics in Kingdoms of Amalur are striking and very impressive for the year it came out. But there is more to it than that. The vivid color palette, the unique architecture and level design within the game and the surreal and often ethereal look that the artists created give it a unique look unlike anything I have seen before.
I compare it to a gifted painter applying their paint to a canvas. I could use the same quality paints and canvas as that painter but what I was capable of doing would be nowhere near what they would be able to accomplish. Perhaps our hardware is somewhat like the canvas and the game engine is like the paint. You still need a gifted artist to create something special.
When you step in to this game you enter a very unique and lovely crafted work thanks in large part to R.A. Salvatore, Ken Rolston and Todd McFarlane. The storytelling is deep and the various cultures represented within the world have rich histories and unique civilizations.
The soundtrack is outstanding and goes a long way in creating the tone that the game sets. From soaring and heroic instrumentals to subtle and mysterious melodies in a moonlit wood, to the percussion-driven score that automatically engages in combat situations, I don’t think I have ever seen a game create a mood with music so effectively. Another nice touch is the music that you hear when entering a tavern or the music that accompanies the activation of a Lore Stone. These are things that the characters in the game would actually be aware of so in that sense we are just listening in.
As you level up, there are so many wonderful powers and skills that you are able to gain access to. I of course have my own preferences for what I like to start out with. I like to begin a game investing heavily in the mercantile skill and I like to invest points exclusively in magical abilities until I have enough points to unlock and fully level up healing. But there are so many different options that you can choose that you can tailor it to exactly the way you prefer. Lock picking is of course very useful and it’s fun learning how to create potions or augment weapons with magical shards.
The Fate Weavers are a very fascinating part of the story. They are an order that remind me a little bit of Jedis. They have the ability to see the great tapestry, The Weave of Fate as it were, and see how a person’s life will unfold. Without giving too much away, you will learn near the very beginning of your journey how this directly ties in with your story. One practical way that you can take advantage of the presence of the Fate Weavers in the game is that you can go to them and have them unbind your destiny. If you have invested a lot of skills in might, you may want to try your hand at magic skills instead. Getting bored of all that dazzling magic? You could invest in finesse, allowing you to use some armor that will auto replenish your health.
You can unlock special bonuses depending on what you pick for character development. If you really like using magic and invest almost exclusively in that area you will likely be offered some great Mana cost reductions and even a teleportation skill. A lot of people will enjoy mixed skills which offer bonuses in whatever they invest in. There are some really great perks available depending on which weapons you choose as well.
Especially with some of the rare or unique weapons, you will find a number of added bonuses such as more health, increased Mana regain, resistance to various attacks such as lightning or fire or enhanced attacks that add ice, fire, lightning, or poison damage. Often a weapon will cause on-going damage to your adversary at a certain amount of hit points per second for a specific duration such as with fire.
The leveling tier is really well thought-out and very rewarding. Each time I level up I get excited about the new abilities that I will be able to unlock or the power increase I will be able to apply to my existing abilities. The weapons in the game are a lot of fun and each has its own unique feel and set of advantages. There are weapons that are strictly ranged, melee weapons and hybrid weapons that have elements of melee and ranged incorporated in them.
The main quests are a lot of fun but some of my favorite missions were actually for specific factions. I even found side quests to be far more interesting than is typically true in RPGs. A lot of times side quests can be so mundane and repetitive. As I play them I find that I am doing so not just to level up so that I am strong enough in the more difficult sections of the world, but I find that I am wanting to learn more about this unique place that I am in. In some games I just want to get to the end of a mission but with games like this I want to stay in the world and enjoy it. I should spend a brief amount of time discussing the rating and content of this game.
This is an M-rated game I would not recommend it for children under the age of 12. While the game rating indicates that it is not appropriate for children under the age of 17 I would say that this game is an exception. While some games are unquestionably inappropriate for a younger audience such as Grand Theft Auto, the content in this game is much tamer. There is some mild profanity that is infrequent. There is no strong sexual content in this game. There are some mild suggestive themes. There is a good deal of intense action/fantasy violence in the game. The majority of violence in the game I would say deserves a teen rating, however, when you enter Reckoning mode it can get a bit more gruesome.
As is the case with many fantasy stories including things like Lord of the Rings there are occasional decapitations. Because of these aspects of the game I would not recommend it for children who are more sensitive to violence. I would tend to say 12 or 13 is the earliest age for a kid to play this game. Although the overall tone of the game that the world sets is very light and beautiful there are definitely some dark moments and elements within it.
There are four playable races in the Kingdoms of Amalur.
As is expected with RPGs like this depending on which race you pick you will have different options available to you.
The Almain are a human race. They are a deeply religious and traditional people. They are warriors with strong ties to their heritage. More than anything they seek freedom. The bonuses should you select for this race are persuasion +1, Alchemy +1, and blacksmithing + 2.
Your next option is the Varani. They are a seafaring people. They are shrewd businessman and often times Pirates. The bonuses should you pick this race are lock picking +2, detect hidden +1 and mercantile +1.
The Ljosalfar, a name taken directly from Norse mythology, are a race of light elves. In the context of the game they come from the Frozen lands of the North. The attempt to be just people and as would be expected the bonuses for selecting this race are magical. Should you select the Ljosalfar you will receive bonuses in dispelling +2, Alchemy +1, and sagecraft +1.
Lastly you have the option to pick the Dokkalfar, also a name directly out of Norse mythology referring to dark elves as a deliberate dualistic contrast to the light elves. In the game they are a refined race, very skilled in magic. They are not afraid to get in a fight but they prefer diplomacy. The bonuses for choosing this race are persuasion +1, stealth +2, and finally sagecraft +1. I personally think this race has a very beautiful and unique look.
I think the Fae are the most fascinating race due largely to just how unique they are from the mortal races and they are and interesting because of their rich and distinct culture, but unfortunately they are not playable.
While it is nice having the ability to select these bonuses at the beginning the biggest difference in the game play overall will be where you invest most of your points. If you invest heavily in magic it will be a very different experience than if you invest heavily in might. And if you would invest heavily in finesse it’ll have a different impact upon the way you play the game as well.
Of course you can choose to balance all of these things. One advantage to investing heavily in one is that deeper into the game you can get some really powerful skills unlocked at the higher levels. For example I really enjoy investing heavily in the magic skills and some of my favorite abilities do not unlock until a very high number of points have been invested in magic.
It takes 20 points invested in magic to unlock a healing ability which is very useful so that you don’t have to worry about running out of potions and spending lots of money to keep them supplied (or using up resources if you decide to craft the potions yourself which is a handy skill too.) One of the really fun magical abilities requires 50 points to unlock. It is called elemental rage and it is mix of fire, lightning, and ice in a combo chain attack.
I think the most devastating attack is the meteor and besides being really cool and impressive it takes a total of 70 points invested in your magic abilities so it is difficult to unlock if you invest much in other abilities. But one advantage in this game that I had mentioned earlier is that even if you invest really heavily in one area and want to try something else out you can go to a Fate Weaver and have the points rebound to other abilities.
The great thing is that this does not just include your magic, finesse, and might abilities. This also allows you to change your other skills such as lockpicking, stealth, persuasion and sagecrafting.
If you frequently visit used video game stores it is very likely that you have seen Kingdoms of Amalur a number of times and perhaps have noticed what a reasonable price it is. You may have looked at the back of the case and thought “well this could go either way. It could be a great game or it could be really terrible.” I have known a lot of avid gaers who have not tried this game out yet but so far no one I know has failed to be impressed. You should be able to find it for under $10. I hope that you do. I know for me it has been one of the greatest adventures that I have gone on when it comes to gaming.
The 8-Bit review
The visuals are surreal and beautiful. Little touches like the light filtering through the trees makes you feel almost like you have stepped into a Thomas Kinkade painting. The level designs are striking and the environments are fascinating.
The music and sound effects are excellent in this game. There is so much refinement in this area. The music really does set a tone depending on your location and the situation that you were in.
The gameplay is exceptional. The controls are some of the most responsive I have ever encountered and it is truly an enjoyable experience to battle your enemies instead of being a monotonous bore as in some games. The abilities you get as you level up higher and the customization to change your style of play make the experience feel new and interesting as it goes on.
This game uses a number of unique storytelling elements. One of the most interesting elements they employee is how the Fae culture relies so heavily on storytelling for their own history. You even get a chance to re-enact a legend from their history almost like a play. Much of the storytelling during the game involves direct interaction or is revealed through conversations. The use of the Lore Stones is also a fascinating way to tell the history of the world and get a deeper understanding and appreciation of its inhabitants.
This game has some of the best voice acting I have ever heard in a game. They did an excellent job at the accents which are easy to get wrong, especially if you’re using American actors to do it. The Fae have a distinct Irish lilt that sounds convincing. There are a number of excellent performances. I think there were probably only one or two characters in the game who weren’t very good but they were not an important part of the story.
Well this is a somewhat subjective category but I am playing through for my 4th or 5th time at this point. I just enjoy the whole experience so much that every few years I pick it up again and play through it.
This was truly a unique experience. There were a number of storytelling techniques that I have not experienced in other games and additionally the look and feel of the world evoked a sense of childlike wonder in me. I consider a game to be exceptional if it can create its own mood and do it well. This game in that regard is one of the most perfect games I have ever played. It truly transports you from your world into a very beautiful and unique world.
My Personal Grade: 10/10
This is unquestionably one of the most thoroughly enjoyable experiences that I have ever had in gaming. My personal grade could be nothing less than absolutely top marks. In a typical year there are a handful of games that really stand out to me as something exceptional and special. With this game I would have to put it with a handful of games over the past 20 years that really stood out to me. This is definitely one of my favorite games ever.
Aggregated Score: 9.5
This is a quick shout-out from the Wonderland Dragoon Mage! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review. I love both gaming and writing so this is a great place to be. I see beauty in the mundane things. I never want to lose the sense of wonder that I have for life. I recently started a new video blog on YouTube that will eventually cover everything from gaming to technology to theology to psychology and everything in between, if in fact every other topic can fit in between those things. I will even show you how to make a really great steak so be sure to check it out:
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Categories: Game Review