Recent RPG games have been rather depressing lately for me, with ugly character generators set in dark and gloomy worlds that, regardless of how good the story behind them is, leaves you feeling like you need to take a shower after your time at the console is over. Dragons Age and Elder Scrolls are two that seems stuck in this web of game depression, and since they were two of my favorite games I cringed a little when I forked over $60.00 for my copy of Reckoning. The biggest reason I did was because I have been a huge fan of R.A. Salvatore since I started reading his Drizzt the Drow novels back in the 80's. The cover, with its gloomy dark orange hues, screamed of the same old thing I have been drooling my paychecks into over the last few years. But I was in for a real surprise with this one.
KoA: Reckoning starts off with the main character being impossibly reborn in a drab, underground workshop. He/she is literally dumped on a pile of corpses and must fight his way out of the place. In the first couple minutes of the game, in between opening cut scenes, you get to design your character. You can, of course, choose the sex of your character. But the first thing that impressed me what I could actually make a very good looking character here. Most RPGs don't put much into the look of the character, and if you like that you can make a pretty ugly person to run around under. But the beauty you can create blows away all other game of its type that offer character customization. If you look at my pic, this is me...Sephris. I was able to get very, very close to that exact facial look in KoAs character generator. I was delightfully impressed.
Once you face the first troll boss, which when faced can make you think your game has glitched if you don't remember to cast off a lightning bolt at it...it won't let you press the "A" button and get your special death move on it until you do...you enter into a bright land of delicious scenery, filled with gnomes recuperating from just having their butts kicked. It is so bright and cheerful looking amid the weak and defeated group you walk into that you almost feel like Snow White's bird friends will fly down to you with a suit of armor far better than the crap they start you out with. But not to fear, with a little forethought about what you put into your skills, you can make your own armor that blows away anything they would otherwise offer you pretty much within the first hour or game play. you can make some seriously wicked weapons as well.
And that was the second thing that impressed me. You can use a variety of components as you get stronger in your crafting skills to make yourself nearly invincible. And if you work your sagecrafting up you can make powerful gems that can add massive bonuses to your arms and armor. It is easy to get lost in creating the greatest items you can for your character, and to add another level of awesomeness to it, not only can you compare it to what you have on to make sure it is better than what you already have, but you can name it whatever you want. Ever wanted to attack a troll with a Sword Of Stink finger? Now you can. Ever wanted to wear the entire set of Armor of Reeking and Farting? You can create and equip it. Congradulations.
The story line is very well written, though that was my expectation seeing as Salvatore wrote it, with just enough plot twists to keep it interesting, but no so much that you lose what is going on. And you are not entirely alone in your quests either. You have two friends that come around every now and then. One is a human Fateweaver named Agarth, (fateweavers can reset all the points you put into your skills and abilities in case you decide you don't like how you set things up along the way), and a beautiful, dark haired girl named Sola who is ingrained in your past, but won't tell you how, nor why she is so interested in you now. All they know is that until your rebirth, everyone had a set destiny. Fateweavers could see the very moment of your death and there was nothing you could do to stop it. But you are changing all of that.
Another fun thing about the game is you don't have to play the goody two shoes savior most games force you into. Much like in Oblivion and Skyrim, you can get your evil on and wipe out the entire population of pretty much any city you walk into. If you are strong enough, the guards are little more than target practice. characters that are a major part of the story line won't die, of course, but everyone else can and will if your bloodied hand of fate decides it is their time. do be careful if you go this route though. I went on a 3 city rampage and it was super fun. But then I got cursed and needed to find someone to heal me and the cold, empty streets just laughed in cruel, ironic vengeance. Thank god I had the DLC that has come out, or I would have been forever injured with no way out of it. And speaking of downloadable content...
One thing that really made me frown on games was when you get their DLCs, they never live up to the hype. The Dragons Age series was famous for this. I would spend 800 Microsoft points to play an hour or two of content, and my best reward was some crappy weapon or suit of armor that was worse than what I was wearing when I went into it. This is not the way of KoA's DLC.
The Legend of Dead Kel was the first DLC they put out. You meet up with a strange, blue faced girl who is a captain of a ship you have hired yourself on to in the hopes of defeating a dead yet undying monstrosity named Dead Kel. She takes you to his island, only to get her ship smashed to bits by him. Only a few of the crew escape and you are all stuck on Dead Kel's island with no way off. So now not only do you have to find some way to defeat Dead Kel, you also have to steal his ship so you can make it back home. No fast mapping back to the mainland for you. You are stuck until you unstick yourself.
While on the island there is much to do, the greatest being the restoration of a massive, overgrown keep on a hill above the island's main settlement. You have to earn it through bloody, viscous battle, but once you get the keep you can upgrade the keep many times, even adding an art gallery and a "pet pen" which will give you permanent boost to your character's stats and abilities. You can set up trade with foreign lands so you can get an abundance of crafting materials, be gifted a fat, red furred cow, or even get married!!!! well, kind of. There are many days worth of constant game play with this DLC, and the benefits you earn last throughout the rest of the game. So much better than a crappy sword reward.
The Teeth of Naros is the newest DLC KoA has to offer. Sadly, I was not initially impressed. I went through it in a day. While the artwork is exceptional and the story is worthy, it wasn't that hard to get to the end of it. And you didn't have much for great rewards either. No great palace or sweet boons, (other than a couple of fate cards), to show you did a great job. But this DLC has subtle rewards all of its own. First off, it adds another power to armor and weapons called "primal magic." Like adding fire, ice or lightning to weapons and armor, primal magic does its own special type of damage which helps you wipe out the baddies faster. You can also do a side quest that will allow you to pick up powerful scrolls that give you boosts that you can find across the land of Naros. But the one thing I found that made this DLC pretty awesome is just how rich I got, even being low level and without many points put into skills that add to your gaining coin. By level 9 I had made well over a quarter million gold, all within about 6 hours of game play. So while the initial rewards and length of play were a little bit of a let down, it makes up for it in allowing you to afford just about anything in the game you want to get. And of course, if you run low you can always come back. Oh, one other plus. They give you new weapon skins that look freaking sweet!
On the bad side of the game, there are a couple of things that I didn't really care for. Lockpicking, for example. You have a part of your skills that allow you to get better at picking locks on chests you find across the game. And the types of locks go from very easy to very hard. However, I noticed that it didn't really matter what kind of lock you faced, nor how high your skill was when it came to lockpicking. I actually have had more lockpicks break on a very easy chest than I did on a very hard one. There isn't much skill involved. Once you figure out where the general areas are that the game puts the tumbler, you can open it without breaking many locks. If any.
The opposite side of the coin is cursed chests. With cursed chests you have to click on a set of symbols on a ring as your circle passes over them. However, you not only have little rune bombs on that ring, but if you screw up you have to start all over again. And you are on a timer. you can invest skill points to make this easier. However, it doesn't really make it much easier. you can extend the timer a bit and get rid of the rune bombs, but unless you invest the max amount of skill points into it, it doesn't slow things down so you can actually hit all of the symbols with any ease. And if you screw up, you either take massive damage or get cursed. the latter having issues of its own. Investing skill points does do one thing that is helpful. You have an auto dispel option that goes up every time you invest in dispelling. So while playing the mini game of it doesn't do you much good, just pressing "Y" when you attempt to open one usually does the trick. As long as you invest in it.
And finally comes the worst thing I think the game does to you. As said above, you can get cursed. You can also get diseased. Both of these can be removed by a healer, but there aren't many healers in the world. And if you had a few too many the night before and go on a killing spree because who the hell cares, you're a bad ass, it can really make life in the game crappy. While you might get lucky and find someone selling a potion or scroll that tells how to make a potion that gets rid of a disease, (I've found it once over 3 characters), you have no other defense against curses. there is no magic or skill or potion you can use or make to get rid of curses. And while curses aren't much to worry on the easy difficulty level, they become a pretty big threat on the harder ones. so throughout the game you are bound to these few healers you are offered. And they don't come cheap.
Overall Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a breath of fresh air rising out of the stale RPG game world. the character you play moves wells, what little glitches you find in the game tend to be funny rather than detrimental, ( from a guy in a tavern sitting down on air to dead enemies flopping and thrashing around because they fell against a part of the background that didn't agree with them). You won't spend hours running from one area to get to another just to do a quest, but the terrain is expansive enough to give you weeks and weeks of play as you go from one quest to the next. And the art is seriously top notch, though just a little cartoonish, especially with those damned gnomes.
A great game with huge replay value, it's worth every cent you put into it.