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'Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning' soars to the top of action role-playing games

Special to the ManifestoFebruary 23, 2012 

  • VIDEO GAME REVIEW

    'Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning'

    About: An action role-playing game featuring a story by sci-fi author R.A. Salvatore, art by comic legend Todd McFarlane and designs by Ken Rolston of The Elder Scrolls.

    Players: Single-player

    Pros: Boasting the best combat system in recent years, the game has gorgeous environments and a feature that allows you to switch character classes as you play.

    Cons: Limited inventory space will frustrate you at times, and the alchemy and crafting features seem underdeveloped.

    Availability and price: $59.99 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

    ESRB rating: M

    Manifesto's rating: 9.5/10 (Xbox 360)

    Metacritic rating: 8/10 (Xbox 360)

Try not to groan when you read this: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an action role-playing game set in a fantasy, dungeon-crawling world.

Yes, this genre has been done to death more often than World War II-era shooters. But with famed comic artist Todd McFarlane crafting breathtaking environments and acclaimed science-fiction author R.A. Salvatore developing a plot you'll really care about, the staleness of that setting quickly vanishes.

As the game begins, you have the standard set of RPG character classes from which to choose — warrior, mage, rogue or some combination of those. What makes this standard character choice amazing is the game's "unbind destiny" feature. At any time, players may seek a Fateweaver to reset all stats and skills back to zero, refund all invested points and choose a different character class.

This transforms the standard class choices and opens worlds of options. You can play for a few hours or days as a rogue, poisoning and stabbing enemies from the shadows. But then you can reset your character as a battle-mage and rain fire and brimstone onto the battlefield. Tired of spells? Instantly re-create your character as a brute warrior with impenetrable armor and immense swords the size of a man.

Every action RPG game needs this feature to avoid boredom with the characters.

What about the combat? Tired of button-mashing like in most action RPGs? Fatigued by a vanilla assortment of spells? You won't find those here. The combat system is so rewarding that it never tries your patience to explore yet another dungeon to rescue yet another maiden and find yet more gold.

The combat is designed so well and is so varied that the repetitiveness of random side quests does not pull down the game. It's almost fun to go show off for the millionth time, as your battle-mage spell rains meteors on your unsuspecting enemies.

There are only a few downsides to Kingdoms of Amalur, and it seems as if the development team just didn't have enough time to focus on them. The alchemy and crafting skills of the game seem shallow and useless. But that's minor compared to the only major fault of the game: extremely limited inventory space. You will spend a lot of time managing items in this game. A lot. Why the developers didn't create quadruple the allotted inventory space is beyond me.

The bottom line, though, is that if you are even remotely a fan of RPGs, you should give this game a try. Its addictive gameplay, interesting stories and near-perfect combat will grip you for hours and refuse to let go.

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