Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: A Purpose Driven Life


I picked up Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning after Gabe of Penny Arcade raved about it being better than Skyrim. I tried the demo and it felt like a pretty standard RPG, but I find that my taste in games is pretty in line with Gabe's so I decided to pick up the full version on his recommendation.

After logging about 20 hours in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning I am prepared to say it is fun and interesting. But is it better than - or even as good as - Skyrim? Well...

Both Skyrim and KoA:R are open world RPGs. However, there are clearly multiple meanings to that term. When Skyrim says it is open world, it means, "Here's the world, good buddy, you go do whatever." When  KoA:R says it is an open world, it means, "Here's the world, good buddy, you go do whatever - so long as it is attached to a quest and if not then don't do it because you can't." If you are not doing a quest, there is nothing to do in KoA:R. That is absolutely not the case in Skyrim.  I went ten levels without doing more than the odd quest now and then, and the game was fun, interesting, and immersive. In KoA:R, if you don't have an active quest, the game prompts you to get one so you can continue playing it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

If you know what's good for you, you wander into every town in Skyrim and immediately start chatting up everyone from the nobles to the town drunk because everyone has the potential to offer you a quest or a good tip or some interesting gossip. In KoA:R, every character that offers a quest has the World of Warcraft exclamation point over its head. There's really no point in talking to any other character. You might get some lore from them but you know there's really nothing substantial to be gained, so why bother? (As my guild mates in WoW are wont to say, "LOLore!")

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The first time I wandered into a cave in Skyrim, I got man-handled by a bunch of witches who just happened to be hiding their coven there as they plotted to destroy the nearby village. The first time (and every time) I wandered into a cave in KoA:R, I couldn't go any farther because it was part of a quest line and thus was 'magically sealed.'

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The combat in Skyrim was very 'real world' in that it was painful to aim at things when using ranged combat. I never once hit a damn dragon with my bow because my hand-eye coordination ranks somewhere below that of a special needs sloth. In KoA:R, combat is OVERTHETOPOMGPEWPEWKAPOWYBOOM from the second you enter the game. It's ridiculously cool looking and it's definitely fun. You will never once experience the frustration of aiming or trying to get more skillfull with the UI to hit a dragon. You will also never feel any accomplishment from getting better at the combat.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I fell into Skyrim. I'm not entirely sure that playing Skyrim was, you know, fun, per se. It was... a completely immersive experience that I got totally lost in for hours at a time. What I did in that game was somewhere between role playing and utter escapism, and I'm not entirely certain where one stopped and the other started.  I took things personally and I indulged my passion for alchemy and flower picking and anything that struck my fancy. It was a very organic experience. KoA:R is grinding out the questage and I've never once gotten sidetracked because I can't; the game does not allow for that.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

...and that sums up my entire experience with KoA:R. It's a fun game with over the top combat, beautifully cartoony graphics, and a neat story. But it pales compared to the experience that I had with Skyrim. For people who love a structured, fairly standard open world RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a great game. But I would never compare it favorably to Skyrim.  In fact, I can't even go as high as declaring it Skyrim-Lite.

Ultimately, the best indicator of how I feel about this game is this: I can log out of KoA:R with ease. That says it all.
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6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Now it will haunt me forever. What was the question? WHAT WAS THE QUESTION? *twitch*

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    2. *pokes at twitchy body on the floor*
      I wanted to know if it was multi-player. After hitting the site I discovered it was solo only.

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  2. Did Amalur have a crafting system or do you just pick up better items as the game progresses?Skyrims smithing wasn't that bad later on in the game, (finding materials early on was a pain.) Enchanting on Skyrim, (on the PC,) was so damn slow. Bartering took away from the game because of weight carry limits.

    Archery in Skyrim isn't that bad, you just have to sink some points into it. My first toon was a RedGuard Spell Sword... At first I was like eff archery. I just rolled an Aragonian and started out shooty right away and using sneak. It's a different game.

    I saw you a Braak talking about it and looked at the trailer for Amalur last night. It looks sooo pretty but I'm going to play through Mass Effect 1 & 2 and hopefully it will be on sale when I'm done with ME3

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    1. Amalur's crafting is strange and not terribly interesting. As you level up you get talent points and skill points. Talents are standard WoW tree stuff. Skill points must be shared amongst things like blacksmithing, lock picking, etc. You can't level up your skills by using them, only by allocating skill points or going to a trainer who will charge you a shitload of gold for one point of skill.

      I'm doing blacksmithing and alchemy. Blacksmithing you basically just get various pieces from mobs and hope you can cobble together something of value with them. It's all luck of the draw in terms of drops, so it's not really any more reliable than getting gear as you go. I made a great weapon, sure, but it's entirely RNG based.

      Alchemy is not just nice, it is essential since you can't heal any other way than casting a spell or using a potion. The reagents are a bitch to get in useful quantities until you put enough points into alchemy to get the bonuses to harvesting. Then you have to 'experiment' with the reagents to find the potion recipes or you can pay exorbitant prices to buy the recipes. This dearth of reagents, the expense of recipes, and the absolute necessity of health potions made me turn to the internet for recipes, something I never did in Skyrim.

      Once I got points into archery in Skyrim, it wasn't bad but you still did have to be able to hit the broad side of a barn. Anything that flew? Forget about it. That's why I had my flame atronach. AI for the win!

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