I never used to like RPGs. Magic just wasn’t my thing. Nor were swords. If a game didn’t have guns in it, then I wasn’t going to be playing it. But then Fallout 3 came along. It combined two of may favourite things (post apocalyptic setting and guns) with RPG game-play. I didn’t jump in right away. I watched and waited, I listened and read. I slowly fell in love from a distance until I was ready to jump in. And when I did jump in I wasn’t disappointed. I had a huge learning curve to ascend, but I was in heaven. Guns and exploration. This was my world. By the time New Vegas came along I was about ready to explore a new part of the American Wasteland, and whilst not as good as Fallout 3, I was hooked into the RPG genre.
A few RPG came and went and were for the most part disappointing, one for it’s very linear game-play and the other (the most recent Fable game) because it had been dumbed down. Then of course came Skyrim, and i discovered than you could have fun without a gun. A Warhammer and dragon shouts ruled my world.
And then Big Huge Games and EA decided to create a brand new RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. On first impressions, Kingdoms reminded me of Fable, with it’s lush, slightly cartoony feel. But whilst it’s look may have bought Fable to mind, nothing else did.
Kingdoms begins with you dead on the battlefield, collected and dumped in a deep cavern on the top of a pile of stinking corpses. But this world was not done with you quite yet, so like Lazarus you rise from the dead, and start to explore the underground caverns, only to discover that the place is under attack. Welcome to your training, where you’ll learn one of the main strengths of Kingdoms; combat.
Once you’ve picked up a few weapons, you’ll learn that the best way to overcome any situation to to engage your brain first, setting up your weapon choices on the fly, depending on weather you want to go for a ranged attack, stealth kill or run in swinging your sword.
It’s more than just swinging however, as you can block, dodge and pretty much dance around your enemy. Well, depending on who you’re facing. The point I’m trying to make is that the combat just flows. It’s easy to pick up, but requires skills to master artfully.
Once you reach the climax of the first level, you discover that you are someone special, with some very special skills (in case you didn’t realise that from the whole rising from the dead act) and their are bad people who want to kill you, people who want to use you, and an honourable quest that is calling you.
Then it’s onto the lush open world and the many side quests that are there to tempt you – and to help you level up.
The downside to Kingdoms is that unlike Fallout and Skyrim, the world seems a lot more linear. Sure there is plenty to explore, but you do get a subtle feeling that you’re hemmed in, and there are only certain paths you can go down. This may be a little harsh, as I have explored quite a bit and it certainly is an open world game, and certainly not anything I would call linear. But it was just there in the background.
Everything else about Kingdoms is a joy to behold. You (as you would expect from an RPG) can create a character to your liking. An honorable swordsman, or a dark thief who has embraced the darker side of magic. It’s up to you who you want to be and how you play the game.
The different environments are all, well, different. They’re all beautifully created, and populated with all manner of creatures, many of whom will only be too happy to kill you! It’s an adventurous person who will start exploring the far reaches of Kingdoms before leveling up enough – trust me when I tell you, there ate some solid beasts out there that will tear you limb from limb if you trespass on their land without having leveled up enough.
For a brand new RPG, Kingdoms has sure been paying attention, which isn’t surprising really. It’s certainly not a game where you’ll come away thinking “I can’t wait to see what they do with the next installment,” rather you come away feeling like you’ve just taken part in something epic. It’s not going to replace Skyrim, or make me any less excited about another Fallout game, but it is a game that solidifies my fear that my beloved FPS genre has become stagnant (and dare I say, obsolete) and Kingdoms shows that there is much much more excitement to be found in games than just carrying a gun.