‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’ is wonderfully original

By Glenn Battishill

Dark fantasy is a hard genre of gaming to break into because new series will always be compared to “World of Warcraft,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Dragon Age” or “The Elder Scrolls.”

The game is noteworthy for having several prominent creators come together to create this game. Fantasty author R.A. Salvatore created the story, lore and the world of the game. The art direction and monster design was done by “Spawn” creator, Todd McFarlane. Finally the executive designer was Ken Rolston, who worked as head designer for “Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” and “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and is credited for many things that made those games great.

In this overcrowded genre, it’s truly wonderful when a original game can stand on its’ own legs.

Set in the fantasy world of Amalur, you play as (insert name here), a recently dead, more recently resurrected mage, rogue, or warrior as you set off in the big world to save the it from the evil elf lord.

Sound familiar? That’s because it follows the same clichés that the fantasy genre has been reinforcing for the last few decades; e.g., elves, dwarfs, magic, racist humans, and girls who wear armor designed to show off cleavage more than resist damage.

The story may be lackluster at first, but it kicks into high gear when you discover that in a world where everyone’s fate and destiny is predetermined, you lack a determined path since you came back from the dead. This means that you, and only you, can change the fate of the world.

The game feels very similar to “Fable” both gameplay-wise and aesthetically but is better in every considerable way. The camera is in third person and the combat is very similar to a hack and slash game but does allow seamless transitions from close range, long range and magic combat in very fulfilling ways.

I myself focused my talent points in magic and finesse, giving me speed not only with daggers and bows but also with powerful magic that I could use to blast crowds of enemies.

Every time you level up, you can select a destiny to align under, each having certain requirements and benefits. The diversity in destinies is welcome as they only unlock based on how you are playing.

For example, my “finesse-ful” wizard was granting a destiny tailored to my play style, giving benefits to my bows and lightning spells.

The story is a little hard to grasp at first since the game throws exposition at you almost immediately but it starts to flesh itself out as you progress through the terrain and the conversations with the locals.

The quest stories range from being impossible to follow to way too simple but occasionally achieve a perfect balance of storytelling and gameplay, resulting in some truly wonderful gaming.

“Kingdoms of Amalur” is ambitious and sets off to rival the depth of games such as “Skyrim” and “Dragon Age.” Its sprawling areas and wide story arches are a blessing when they work and a curse when a quest turns into “World of Warcraft” style grinds.

The game isn’t perfect but most of the problems, such as sloppy camera angles and occasionally unsynchronized conversations, are easily overlooked or forgotten as you get used to it.

The game feels like it’s a band comprised of several of your very cool friends. It works so well that it’s honestly surprising.

“Kingdoms of Amalur” is bold, addicting and brings players back to the wonderful era of adventure RPGs like the original (and best) “Fable.” I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a casual but involving RPG experience.

It is available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.