2012-02-03

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – The Demo Reveals Sameness

by Yo Snyder

The very fact that this game is called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,
a title with a sub-title, shows me that this is pretty much a franchise
already, despite the fact this is the first game. Well, kudos to EA for
having the confidence to title an new IP with franchise ambitions, but
frankly, this is one franchise I’ll sitting out. There isn’t anything
really wrong with it from what I can tell (all I’ve played thus far is
the demo), it’s just that, well, it all seems so familiar. Too familiar,
in fact.

Reckoning feels like a mash-up of Dragon Age and Fable with aspirations to be as expansive as Skyrim.
The graphics have the more stylized aesthetic of the Fable series, but
the action isn’t shy about bloodshed like the Dragon Age series,
although it’s not quite as extreme. There’s a massive storyline set up
and while it’s not quite open-world like Skyrim, there looks to
be plenty of side-quests and other activities to keep you busy. You can
customize your character, and you can choose your fate. There’s a
conversation wheel, but your character has no voice. There’s a fairly
involved talent and skills tree, but the combat is simple and fast
paced, and it’s easy to switch from melee to ranged to magic in combat.
There are warring factions, spiritual undertones, and large creature for
you to defeat. In summary, it feels like EA went down a check list of
elements need for a fantasy/adventure role playing game and checked off
each box as methodically as possible.

Which isn’t to say the game
is bad. It looks great, has some solid music to set the mood, good
voice acting, solid combat, an interesting story, and everything
functions just the way it should. Even though it’s all stuff that’s been
done in other games, it’s all done quite well here. My problem is that I
just feel like I’ve done it all before. From Skyrim to Fable to Dragon Age and even the new Zelda, the feeling I got from the Reckoning
demo wasn’t all that different from those other games. Oh, it looked a
bit different and had a different story, but it still felt so familiar,
too familiar; it felt like the same game in a different setting. Now
maybe it’s because the fantasy genre just isn’t one of my favorites, but
that was enough to make me not so excited about this game. Truth be
told, the only reason I played the demo is because it unlocks armor in Mass Effect 3.

There
were, however, a couple elements that stood out to me. First, the story
of an immortal army destroying the world and the only way to fight them
is by finding the key to eternal life is an interesting set-up for this
adventure. In fact, your character is the first (and perhaps only)
successful attempt at overcoming death thanks to the Well of Souls. It’s
a common theme in games like this, but this is the first one I can
think of where it’s the central plot point. Unlocking the mystery of
eternal life really isn’t that much of a mystery; the Bible already
tells us how to do it. “Now this is eternal life,” Jesus said in John
17:3, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom
you have sent.” There you go, mystery solved. The key to unlocking
immorality has just been given to you, no quest necessary. Eternal life
cannot be attained by our efforts, no matter how much science (or in the
case of Reckoning, pseudo scientific-alchemy-magic) or knowledge we may
have; it only come through knowing God through Jesus Christ. Of course
having things be that simple wouldn’t make for much of an adventure
game, I suppose, hence Reckoning‘s more convoluted approach to the topic.

The
other thing that stood out to me was the moment when you choose your
fate. A character helps you do this through his talent with reading “the
cards”. Now this may seem a little nit-picky, and I’m admitting that up
front, but that was just a little too real-world casual occultic for my
taste. Yeah, I know there’s all kinds of magic and spells and other
stuff that goes on in fantasy video games, but the average person
typically doesn’t encounter those on a daily basis. However, trying to
find out what our fate might be with something like tarot cards, well
that’s something that’s a little more common…and also quite dangerous.
For whatever reason, having that in this game just made me uneasy, so I
thought I’d mention it.

Kingdoms of Amalue: Reckoning has all the prerequisites for a fine fantasy-adventure RPG,
but in making sure it checked off each box, it may have made itself a
little too “same-old, same-old”. However, as I said, the way the game is
titled shows EA believes this is a sure-fire franchise, and considering
the “annual Call of Duty” world we live in, more of the same is sure to
be welcomed by the masses. I just won’t be one of them because, well,
I’ve had enough of the same.