Disclaimer: This is one of those pieces I posted on 1up too. While I know excessive blog carry-over is probably frowned on I'm also about helping people decide if they will like a game or will not. To that end I think this is a decent indicator!
Amalur is one of those “controversial darlings” with the gaming media right now. It’s already gotten near perfect scores but it’s also gotten a 2.5 from Adam Sessler and a 7.5 at gamespot. (Not to say a 7.5 is terrible mind you)
As of now I’ve only spent a short time with Amalur. To be frank it really is another generic fantasy rpg. However, assuming you already love the genre this shouldn’t be a bad thing!
Without further adieu, let me cover some of the bases!
Story (Moments of brilliance amongst the mostly generic)
You character is literally dead at the beginning of the game. You wake up in a pile of corpses and discover gnomes brought you back via a mystical well of life. As a “fate-less one” you can forge your own path and create your own destiny.
Yeah, it’s rather cliché. Mass Effect 2 and Planescape Torment went this route as well. However, if you never fumed with fury at any other rpgs using this theme of “rebirth” or “resurrection” there’s no reason to become a “snob” now! Might as well roll with it, aye?
In the lands of Amalur there are summer fae, winter fae, and evil as hell fae. The last variety are waging war against the races of humans, gnomes, and “good fae”. The baddies all follow an asshole “dark king” who wears glowing red stuff to further accentuate how “diabolical” he is. This guy is so stereotypical his first line upon sitting on the throne is “Bwa ha ha ha! YESSSS!”
Npcs and quests are standard but I admit I cared about the gnome alchemist who had been deceived into creating a chemical weapon for a bunch of low-lives as well as for the fae girl who was almost beaten to death in a human village. For the female gnome I had to rough up assassins and destroy crates filled with her dangerous formula and for the fae girl I needed a “greater healing potion” from the aforementioned alchemist. The quests entwined naturally and by the end I did feel as if I accomplished a lot of heroism! Moving on, I helped a “female monk” join a normally “all men’s church” and ran across a poor limping fellow who was a wolf turned into a human by some malicious sprites.
So far the plot hooks behind the missions have been interesting even if it they eventually revert back to the same old “fetch me this” “destroy those filthy monsters” “escort me over there!” machinations.
Amalur’s objectives and npcs are captivating enough but they are likewise bordering on very familiar territory.
Amalur makes up for its’ “high fantasy blandness” with its’ fluidly graceful fighting system and very engrossing game-play. My elfin female has slowed time, performed awe inspiring fatalities, done a fair number of spine stabbing sneaky kills, shot lightning from her finger tips, barrel rolled out of harms way, and collected an impressive plethora of loot!
There were moments I was fooled into thinking I was playing a Soul Calibur or God Of War game until it dawned on me I was also talking to people and taking on multiple foes at once. The only minor gripe I have is the lack of a “jump command”. Switching between weapons, casting spells, and waiting for your fate gauge to build before you go into Reckoning mode all are seamless in execution. No maneuver feels awkwardly tacked on or difficult to get the hang of.
Sadly “stealth” gets the shaft. Another-words during the tutorial it’s easy to sneak up on people and assassinate them from behind but after that every friggin enemy more or less looks right at you! Ah well. Maybe I just need to invest more points into it.
To persuade you it’s more than a shallow hack and slash, Amalur also throws in forging, herb collecting for your alchemistic pursuits, and a few select moments where you can steal from people’s homes, possibly get arrested, and gleefully opt to be a douche bag as opposed to the savior of the realm! Though I haven’t broken the law except in one particular instance I imagine there are consequences. Yet I doubt these ramifications create ripples felt throughout the whole adventure. The flow of the narrative and quest structure suggests you can dick someone over, destroy their village, and ironically get them to cooperate with you in spite of it all! Aka, there might be a bit of the “Fable’s curse” rotting away at Amalur’s mighty roots.
Regardless, the game is an utter delight to play!
Music (Insert “riveting” yet painfully unoriginal orchestral score here!)
I realize the people in the music department gave it their all. I’m also in no way implying I could do better. Despite that, the majority of the tunes in Amalur are so generic they smack of “big blockbuster movie tripe”. As you play you will get the feeling all the melodies you hear were disregarded from Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter on account they were “epic“ but not actually “moving“. I’m early in and it could get better but so far the compositions are a total snooze fest. Say what you will about Nier or Chrono Cross as games but I wish Nier’s or Chrono Cross’s composers had been hired by 38 studios !
Graphics (Beauty is in the crazy eye of the beholder!)
Personally I adore the over exaggerated weapons, over exaggerated armors, vibrant colors, glowing crystals, and the graphic novel approach found in KOAR.
Amalur is compelling because it makes you feel like a young nerd again. It ignites nostalgic memories of super hero posters on your walls, watching the movie Labyrinth with your first true love, indulging in Dungeons and Dragons marathons with your friends in the basement, playing Golden Axe in the arcades, painting your prized figurines, and dressing up for the local Renaissance Faire. It doesn’t so much immerse us into its’ world as much as it immerses us within the sentimental nostalgia of our collective adolescences.
Positive praise aside, I notice the eyes set within the sockets of the people around me do some really weird movements on occasion. It’s as if they temporarily suffer from a concussion to the head or they’re suddenly transfixed by the freakish orgy happening across the hall from me. It’s a small qualm but I hope it gets fixed!
The voice work is “there”. I can’t say anything inflammatory and insulting about the performances but overall I cannot praise them either. I recognized Jim Cummings and I’m glad he’s aboard but so far the audio narrative is middle of the road. Aka it’s no reason to rag on the game but it doesn’t really work to elevate it above its’ peers.
Character creation aesthetics (That’s it? )
Many laughed at the character creation in Oblivion. Aka if you didn’t spend enough time with your avatar it would end up having an ugly horse head. Yet for those of us who were diligent we were rewarded with not only an attractive character but many other variables to make him or her stand out as unique.
Sadly KOAR’s visual character choices are rather limited by comparison. In particular I was trying to find “pig tails” for my Julia but it was to no avail. I got “close” to what was desired but I simultaneously got a lingering feeling another gamer out there probably created a near clone of my own character due to the limited content.
You have tweaks centered around piercings, lipstick tints, tattoos, eye colors, a few hair cuts for each gender, and some facial shapes but beyond that certain rpgs (and Soul Calibur V) have shown off better customization.
I will not be surprised if KOAR has “dlc” in the future to add more hair cuts, physique types, and other cosmetic alterations.
Character customization skill tree (Most excellent!)
While it might be problematic to get your character to look exactly like you’ve pictured him or her in your head, the actual “skill tree customization” is endless! Regardless of what “fate card” you choose near the beginning as your destiny you are not barred from any path. Points can be allocated into “might” “finesse” and “sorcery” regardless of your class. However choosing “destinies” will give you more bonuses to compliment certain abilities and though you start with only 3 of them numerous others begin unlocking based on your performance and where you assign your prerogatives. Unhappy with the way you built up your fantasy avatar? No problem bro/sis! Simply pay a fee to the Fate-Weaver to undistribute your points so you can now put them into new areas.
World exploration/ things to do (Commendable but not quite up there with Skyrim)
In Elder Scolls games if you see an eccentric quaint little cottage on a high mountain top you can go there. Sure, it may take you a few hours but before long you’ll be talking to an old wizard and drinking his tea while he reminisces about the good old days then complains about the mountain goats that every once in awhile have the Gaul to jump up on his thatched roof!
I’ll be honest folks. KOAR isn’t quite that free. While environments are much more spacious than they were in any Fable game they are considerably more restrictive than examples of Bethesda’s finest. Aka you are in invisible corridors, albeit ones constructed for giants!
Be that as it may, there is still hundreds of hours of questing to be found in Alamur. There’s also plenty of treasure to find and herbs to be harvested. While there don’t seem to be any “cool mounts” to get you around faster “quick traveling” alleviates much frustration, especially if you have to be somewhere in a flash.
Liking or loathing the “bright, colorful, and vibrant” vistas in Alamur is your own call. Personally I’m smitten to have a world with more palettes than “grey” “winter green” and “muddy brown”! Realism has its’ place but in my mind it’s okay for a fantasy rpg to look “fantastical”.
Sure, it may appear I’m being “harsh”. In reality I’m very happy with my purchase! Most of the grievances with Amalur are imperfections I cannot be bothered to care about but for those of you who may feel differently I’m trying to be objective. Aka what may only get a shrug out of me may make the rest of you foam at the mouths!
For you if
Do you love Skyrim but cringe at its’ somewhat clunky combat? Do you enjoy Fable but wish it had been bigger with more to do? Do you like stylized artistic graphics over hyper realism? Dig side quests? Whelp, here are the keys to the iron horse sir knight! Enjoy!
Not for you if
If “generic fantasy” wearing thin on your tolerance levels? Prefer rpgs steeped in a realistic and infinitely vast world? Does managing dense numerical variables and navigating through overly complex inventory screens make your cock or tits feel bigger? Prefer consequences that effect you throughout your whole journey? Infuriated by “silent protagonists” and mostly generic side characters? In that case Amalur make come off as a tad too “simplistic” and a tad too “vanilla” to hold your interest.
First impression grades
-A (Very few glitches which is a testament to quality considering how expansive KOAR is in scope)
+B (While other rpgs have captivated me more than KOAR, it still calls out to me endearingly with its‘ harmonious ballads! Put it this way, I rather be playing it than writing my thoughts about it!)
C (You will not find many set pieces or happenstances in Alamur that surprise you or incite an emotive response. There are rare moments of caring about who you are helping or vaguely wanting to see what happens next but such instances quickly get buried by a feeling of melancholy monotony. This is almost tragic when you weigh how skillfully KOAR performs in other areas.)
I wanted to give Amalur a perfect score then again I feel as if I’ve played rpgs before now with a bit more “soul” and “uniqueness” to them. Foibles such as dry monotonous lore and campy tropes that have plagued open-world rpgs since their inception crash the party for the umpteenth time here!
It’s perplexing to put my finger on why I’m being a smidge more critical of KOAR than I was with Titan Quest, Nier, and Divinity II DKS. If I was to take a stab in the dark I’d say it’s because this game was so over hyped. When big names are thrown around we want them to mean something yet KOAR barely breaks even with other exceptional examples of the genre. It’s polished to a beautiful bright sheen yet its’ so run-of-the-mill even I feel a tad subdued and under-whelmed.
It’s on a technical and visceral level where Amalur exceeds expectations by offering frantic and fantastic combat mixed with a few deceptively deep layers that makes it a cut above a simplistic dungeon hack. Furthermore , there don’t seem to be many bugs!(Texture pop ins, crazy eyes, and inaccurate draw distances aside)
For a “first entry” in a potential series you cannot ask for much better than KOAR so long as you aren’t expecting loads of groundbreaking innovation.
+Quests often have an interesting hook
+The combat mechanics are fast paced, dynamic, graceful, and well thought out
+The narrative and grand scope of the game begins improving after you join some guilds and make it further into the territories.
+The world itself is beautiful in a whimsical high fantasy kind of way
+Going into reckoning mode to slow time as you dispense some bone crunching and flesh ripping finishing moves never gets old
+Great crafting and alchemy systems
+There are no limitations placed on how you evolve your hero
+Hundreds of hours of adventuring await you regardless if you get KOAR now or down the line
+Though “the monsters” aren’t devil forged from the freshest concepts around there are a plethora of different types of them from gigantic to small
+Quick traveling takes the burden out of collecting rewards,visiting pals, and accepting additional missions
-Many npcs have the same annoying accents
-Amalur isn’t quite as “open to exploration” as an Elder Scrolls game
-Clichés and stereotypes are taken to new levels of absurdity
-Though Todd McFarlane headed the art design most of the creatures and characters are rather ho-hum and unimpressive.
-Music is repetitive and predictable with no scores that make you feel even a minuscule amount of emotion
-The game seems to favor “might” over finesses and sorcery. My first character Julia (Rogue) faced a lot more hardships than my second character Lucian (Brawler).
- Oh silent protagonist you fascinate me about as much as card board! You have the depth of card board as well!
-KOAR’s mature rating is unwarranted. Besides for a pile of corpses, red kool-aid explosions when slaying monsters, drinking alcohol references at the local pub, and a series of lewd yet subtle diaries written by a perverted monk there’s nothing here that skates close to prostitution, innuendos, slave trading, swearing, rape, excessive cultural taboos, sexual fetishism, and other unsettling situations that mirror issues found in real life. Granted KOAR deals with war, plagues,racial tensions, and regicide but it is very hesitant about going into the knitty gritty unpleasantries associated with these topics. This could have easily have been a teen-rated rpg but a big “M” on the box is probably an attempt to move more copies. Implied controversy sells apparently! Don’t go into Amalur expecting The Witcher 2 caliber material!
Yes! Complaints aside, this is an rpg with a generous amount of swag! Likewise, for a first attempt by a new-ish studio it's totally spectacular! read