Why Didn’t Everyone Play Kingdoms Of Amalur?!

By John Walker on February 26th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

There’s a game you probably didn’t play. It came out last year, it’s a genuine epic, a vast, elaborate RPG with a sprawling story and vast numbers of sidequests. It features superbly in-depth combat, has huge variety in character design and levelling, and lets you instantly wander from the main plot and explore its enormous world to your own entertainment. It’s Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning.

I remember attending a press day in late 2011, looking at a selection of EA games, and Amalur was there. But no one suggested I take a look at. In a quiet moment I snuck onto one of the long row of empty PCs to have a go, found myself intrigued, and then was angrily told to stop by an EA representative. Playing unsupervised, tsk. That was as close as I got.

A week and a half ago I was trying to get onto the SimCity beta weekend, but Origin was falling to pieces, servers down, logins impossible. And I saw Amalur there, downloaded to my PC, on a whim from a while back and never explored. For whatever peculiar reason, the set of EA servers that allowed that game to check in on itself worked, and after some moronic requirement to “authenticate” my PC, two separate EULAs, and yet more logging in, I was able to get to a game menu. I’ve not stopped playing since.

I must have put in a couple of dozen hours in the last week or so. And by the map, I’m maybe just over halfway exploring the world, so halfway through the main story, the three separate faction quests I’ve found so far, and the 60 or so sidequests I’ve completed. I’m so hooked, so completely drawn in to its fantasy world, and I’ve no desire to stop. I’ve little desire to do anything else but keep playing. I want to start to explore why.

It’s also important to note that Amalur is riddled by bugs. Amazingly stupid bugs that in no way should ever have cleared testing. Bugs like the quest screen completely falling to pieces and going blank once you’ve about 20 quests running (something that’s unavoidable). And of course bugs that, now creators 38 Studios and Big Huge Games no longer exist, will never be fixed. Yet despite this, it’s still incredibly robust for a game of its scale, and especially for a game that offers you an extraordinary amount of freedom.

While there’s much to criticise, there’s far more to celebrate. This is a really fantastic game, bursting full of story, combat and exploration, and yet you probably didn’t play it.

Amalur is impressive on a number of levels. The two most important are its distilling of the very best of an action-RPG MMO into a single-player game, and its meta-commentary on the very nature of games. But don’t be put off by either! No, really, don’t! I want to explore those two.

It’s not a surprise that the game should have so many similarities with a game like World Of Warcraft. Of the two teams that made it, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, the former was already working on an MMO. The doomed developer, with all that money via the deals of baseballist Curt Schilling, had been developing a massive universe along with author R.A. Salvatore, with a 10,000 year history, and all the background needed to create an ongoing, online game. After 38 bought BHG, along with them came not only the Big Huge Engine, but an RPG they’d been working on for THQ. The two, like the studios, were combined. Goodness knows what either might have been, but the combination is a purely single-player RPG with the depth and breadth of an online world.

We’re talking Dragon Age: Origins scale here, but in a far freer, far more open world. While you do eventually navigate its enormous stretches through the map’s quick travel, you could still run anywhere too. It’s all open, all connected, and all packed with so much going on.

The other tempting comparison is Skyrim, and that megalithic RPG having come out just a couple of months before can’t have done sales of Amalur any favours. But it’s definitely an inappropriate comparison. Yes, you can ignore the main plot, yes, you can kill absolutely anyone, anywhere, and still have the game somehow cope, and yes, it has the most stupidly designed inventory menus imaginable. But the atmosphere, the tone, the intangible feel of it all – to compare it feels weirdly wrong. It’s something much brighter, something much more accessible.

That’s hugely helped by its being a third-person action game. Combat is true to that too, relying on some healthy button mashing and frantic dodging. Big fights with giant creatures are chunky, satisfying brawls, as you hammer away at the A button (yes, I picked 360 controls for this, and with the wayward mouse it’s definitely the better option, and the one with which the game was obviously primarily designed to be played), throwing in shield blocks, dodging rolls, and your array of special abilities, spells, and old-school button combo moves.

For me, what’s made this especially special, is it’s the first time I’ve ever bothered to properly engage with a game’s blocking mechanic. Like how most fun action-driving games really never need you to press the brake, most action-combat games never really need you to bother with blocking. There are ways, means, hammering of buttons that generally get around such a faff if you’re as lazy as me. But here it’s so damned rewarding, so absolutely satisfying every time you time it perfectly, that I’m finally converted. I’m actually slowing down for the corners, rather than bumping off the barriers at the side.

But when a game like this has such an emphasis on the combat, invariably that means the RPG side of things is watered down. Action-RPGs, the Diablo-mould creations, tend to have wispy plots, little chats to be had in hub towns, then back to the biffing. But that’s absolutely not the case in Amalur. You could easily spend an entire evening nattering away with the residents of a newly discovered city, exploring the side-streets for those in trouble and needing your help, negotiating with bigwigs, exchanging loot for new equipment, handing in completed quests, discovering secret treasures in dungeons hidden behind a house’s backrooms, stealing all the valuables from everyone’s bedroom drawers, and gathering a new armful of tasks to complete in the surrounding area.

Then off you go, aiming toward quest markers, having spots of combat along the way, until you’re inevitably distracted by an intriguing looking building, or dead body containing some odd clue, or pathway leading to an enclosed area, and so on. That measure by which I test all RPGs for goodnessity – the impossibility of actually going where you intended without getting waylaid – is triumphantly ticked here in a big thick red marker pen.

When I began playing, I realised that I’d started this game once before. I vaguely recognised the opening moments – being dead and wheeled in a cart to a heap of other deads, interwoven with the character creation. Then waking up, alive again, and escaping the odd place you’re in. I recalled the stuff about Fateweaving, about how Fateweavers determine the fixed paths of our futures based on the magical nature of Fate, but that I had no path, that I was different. I remembered the opening village, the dying blue woman on the ground, and then I must have been distracted by a bee in a jaunty hat, because there my recollection ended. But perhaps because I’d seen this village previously, rather than focusing on the stories being set up there, I charged off up a hill toward a pretty looking stone. And from there across some fields, until I discovered another blue character – one the Fae (basically, elves) – who asked me to do a thing that directed me, in stages, toward the Elv- Fae city. I ended up getting embroiled in their story, rather than the main plot, for a long time.

The Fae are immortal. Sort of. They die, sort of routinely, but then come back to life and repeat their cycles. The Cycle, in fact, is the key to Fae culture. Because they are their own history (although that gets complicated too), they retell the same existences as stories, endlessly looping their reality, their lives being the folktales they tell. That’s just brilliant. And it’s the first part of this game’s commentary on the nature of storytelling, and the invasion of a player. Because things aren’t following the correct patterns. The cycles aren’t looping, and baddie Faes are taking advantage of this, manipulating the changes to see themselves come to power. The endless battle between the Winter and Summer courts of the Fae are beginning to change their determined outcomes, the Winter Fae starting to win where they should lose. And it seems to have a lot to do with you, and why you don’t obey the rules of Fate.

It’s not just the Fae this applies to. They have a broader perspective of the other races, especially the humans, nicknamed by Fae as “dustlings”. Their lives too are pre-determined, although they may live in denial of this. Because they’re all NPCs, right? Gettit? And yes, in my just stating it in some words it may seem a little trite, but the game doesn’t spell it out so obviously. There’s no elbow-nudging. Instead it’s just a lovely, underwritten acknowledgement of the nature of the player, the person who comes in and changes the inevitability of the course of all their lives.

Which might usually be something that’s rather undermined by the game’s inevitably being linear. Yet Amalur gets away with this too. Yes, it says, this is a linear path. You are on this route, this is your destiny, and that’s the nature of life. Except as you travel this path, the outcomes of your actions are not fixed. That’s true in the decisions you might make in a minor sidequest, whether to help him, or her, and the small-scale consequences of that. And it’s true in what the game calls Twists Of Fate – key points in which you (not knowing they’re key points, crucially) make a decision that dramatically changes the course of history.

I, for instance, am now ruler of the House Of Ballads, one of the highest positions in Fae kind. And I’m not Fae! What manner of madness! Also, my defiant Atheism (I’m roleyplaying!) has led to my being declared an Unwritten One, further determining my own future. (Although I’ve somewhat undermined that by pretending to become a follower of Lyria because I wanted the XP – elsewhere in the game I’ve been given the conversation option of lying when it comes to such matters, this time it didn’t.)

I don’t yet know how far this commentary will reach, or whether it will fade aside to let the more generic fantasy tropes that permeate all come fully to the front. Because in honesty, for most of the time, for the ten thousandth time you’re looking for the ten thousandth person reported missing after they wandered off into Deadlytraps Dungeon or the like. Most of the time it’s political machinations between pretend clans of people you didn’t know existed last week, and so are hard-pushed to care too much about now. In fact, and perhaps super-meta-archly-appositely, I more often find myself siding with whomever I think will lead to a more interesting outcome. Were they planning that? I don’t think they were planning that. But still, it’s happening.

Also, I SO love the woodpecker-like sound it makes when your magically restoring quiver of arrows refills.

I have so much to say about this game. I’m very aware that this is madness, extensively writing about a game that came out a year ago that everyone ignored, from a studio that no longer exists. But dammit, if I can convince a handful of people to pick up a copy, then I’ll be happy. I want to talk about how it embodies everything that’s great about the RPG, as well as how it embodies everything that’s completely ridiculous. So next time, how I accidentally killed the entire population of a monastery.

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359 Comments »

  1. morrolan says:

    Reason for not playing from what I remember: childish art style; extremely poor dialogue and story; poor early quests.

    • silentdan says:

      You know, I can’t remember having such an immediate and intense hatred of a game as I did for KoA. I freely admit that I didn’t give it a fair shake, and i often stick up for “misunderstood” games, but I thought KoA was utter crap. The opening scenes irritated the hell out of me — hated the voice actors’ voices, hated the art style, hated the little bits of detail in the world. I hated the combat so much that words fail me. I recall them talking up how every hit felt like it had heft and impact, and was bitterly disappointed to find the exact opposite. Twenty minutes after starting the game, I just couldn’t take one second more of it. Very seldom do I immediately uninstall a game I’ve played for less than half an hour, much less a deep RPG, but I’ll never play KoA again. Sad that I’m missing out on the high points, but I wouldn’t have noticed them anyway, with the mood that game put me in. I haven’t actually played Colonial Marines, but I’d rather be forced to do the whole campaign in one sitting then spend five more minutes with KoA.

  2. Bilateralrope says:

    Probably because the demo sucked and EA made sure everyone played the demo by giving ME3 players unlocks for playing it to completion. What the demo showed me was a world that was competently designed, but there was nothing that stood out except the amount of time I spent traveling from one place to another for the next plot point or part of a side quest.

    After playing the demo and deciding that it was a forgettable game, I forgot about it. So did every part of the internet I visited until the bankruptcy. Then the only reason people were talking about KoR was the KoR fanboys who were convinced it was a successful game despite not even coming close to breaking even.

  3. Flint says:

    I loved the game to a certain extent but I echo a lot of less positive sentiments in these comments as well. The size is at first a wonderful thing but then two things begin to make the game crack and creak.

    One, the sheer amount of stuff to do ends up overleveling your character massively and challenge never picks up – even for a gamer like me who doesn’t mind a lack of challenge it started to feel a bit too boring.

    Two, there’s no reason for the game to be as large as it is, as there are some clear filler areas – the desert region in whole in particular has nothing interesting going on visually or quest-wise and it feels completely tacked on. I was madly in love with the game at first but after a point I had to start forcing myself to continue playing, and even did the unthinkable and stopped doing sidequests (which for a completionist like me is completely bizarre). The game does pick itself up in the last area though and my interest was reignited.

    Three, the crafting system is overpowered to the point of being broken. The loot system loses its meaning and the unique weapons become completely pointless when you can just go to the nearest forge and craft a doomsday weapon from easily available materials.

    But still… the bits I loved I REALLY loved. Singleplayer MMO actually sounded like a great idea to me and it still does, and Amalur scratched that itch well. The visuals are GORGEOUS and while the world/lore is not the most engaging, I did find myself rather immersed and in love with the place every now and then. The character class system is pretty fun and wide for all kinds of gameplay styles, and the combat itself is enjoyable.

    Flawed but good. Definitely worth a play in my opinion. Might actually replay it soon.

  4. Strangerator says:

    Played the demo, but there were definitely some problems getting it working. Then you start the game and realize you pretty much NEED a controller instead of mouse and keyboard. So basically, the only way it differed from an MMO is the control scheme and lack of annoying people (which is ok).

    Skyrim also kinda was keeping me busy at this point. My console gaming friend, with exceptionally low standards mind you, actually bought this game and gave it a “meh.” So I await the next Steam sale where it is… 10 dollars?

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      You don’t NEED a controller to play KoA, just like you don’t NEED a controller to play Skryim.

      I prefer playing KoA with a controller, but it works just fine with a keyboard and mouse too.

      • MarcP says:

        Lashing out at everyone doesn’t make a convincing case for the game you think you’re defending. If anything, it’s the other way around.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I think you are misinterpreting what I wrote. Read the post I was responding to and then come back and accuse me of “lashing out”.

          • MarcP says:

            Using caps on the Internet implies yelling. Typoing a six letter game name adds fuel to the perception you’re angry.

            That said, I was obviously (why else would I say you lash out at *everyone*?) not referring to this particular comment alone. I happened to pick the last post out of a series of many (a red flag in itself) you made at the time. On top of that most of these replies are needlessly aggressive and don’t offer any real input.

            Now, as a bystander with no preconception or knowledge about the game, who do you think I am likely to listen to? People who present their opinion and argue their point, or the one raging lunatic who’s jumping at everyone’s throat, flinging personal attacks and jabs at other games but not offering a single counterpoint?

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            First off, Strangerator used all caps when typing the word “need” in his post. He was obviously stressing that he thought the game was forcing him to use a controller. By using all-caps for the same word in my response, I was stressing the fact that one does not “need” a controller to play the game.

            Secondly, pointing out a spelling error in my response and attributing that to some kind of uncontrollable rage on my part is ridiculous. When you mistype a word, is it because you’re angry, or is it because you simply hit the wrong key?

            Thirdly, you’ve got every right to be offended by my posts — I speak directly, and I understand that sometimes some random person on the internet is going to misconstrue what I type. That’s fine, but it’s apparent you don’t share my opinion on this topic, so you feel the need to single me out by implying that I’m the only one in this thread making aggressive posts and not adding anything to the discussion. Not only is that unfair, it’s inaccurate.

            Finally, I threw no direct insults at anyone in this thread. Other threads? Sure, I’m guilty of overstepping my boundaries every once in a while. But not here.

            Please stop overreacting.

      • Cunning Linguist says:

        I don’t get some of the comments about controllers. Skyrim is terrible with a gamepad, because it has no target lock system for melee combat. Some games are made for gamepads, and you can use an xbox360 gamepad on the PC just fine. FPS games are for keyboard &mouse but pretty much any other kind of action game is better with a gamepad, fro most people.

        I guess the issue here is that this fails as an action game because of the drawn-out RPG element.

  5. orbitobject says:

    I played the demo, and after a while I just got bored. I liked this better when it was fucking Fable: The Lost Chapters. the demo offered nothing over a game I already own and can install at any time.

    Seriously, the Dynasty Warriors series feels more different from game to game than this did compared to Fable 1.

  6. lamiamistral says:

    Decent to good combat couldn’t save it from a high price tag, horrifyingly bland world, and utterly generic writing that did nothing to give you a reason to care about anything you were doing. Really makes me wonder how much of the budget they blew on R.A. Salvatore.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Whatever it was it was probably too much….

      Though that might be unfair: Perhaps he is actually good at world design.

  7. Heliocentric says:

    Heard you had no control over the narrative, stopped caring. Its an AR PEE GEE, I know I have no control over the plot in Batman: AC or Portal but they have swooshy flying and cunning puzzles.

    But truth be told the biggest battle this game faced with me was that I have grown to hate ARPGs especially if they lack coop. I don’t want to spend time collecting shit to then refine it, to them craft it, to then wear it to then collect different shit.

  8. Stevostin says:

    “Why Didn’t Everyone Play Kingdoms Of Amalur?!”

    “(yes, I picked 360 controls for this, and with the wayward mouse it’s definitely the better option, and the one with which the game was obviously primarily designed to be played)”

    I know RPS journalist find it entirely natural to allways have a gamepad on their PC, but did anyone ever tried a survey ? My bet is that something like <10% of PC gamers are owning a gamepad. So there is something seriously mad about making a PC game aimed first at pad experience.

    And there's a good reason for that. With the exception of a few subgenre (space combat, car driving, some platforming, some beat them all) mouse is just better. Actually, to someone like me who learned to play on a keyboard, lack of analogish sticks is generally largely compensated by 100% accurate diagonals. Typically that one ? Should be just perfectly fine on a mouse & keyboard, like anything Arkham is.

    As for myself, a 3rd person RPG has very little chance to interest me. I bought Witcher (and regreted it) because the workd and writing were said to be worth it. But that multicolor awfullness above ? Please. I am not a 12 year old anymore. I am a grown up. Nearly an old fart actually. Which is core PC audience BTW.

  9. Agnol117 says:

    You know, it’s funny: I have Amalur and both DLCs on my hard drive, but I haven’t really gotten that far into it yet. Not for lack of trying, though. It’s just that whenever I start to play any part of it, I am reminded that “oh, other game did this element better.” And that’s it’s biggest problem. Amalur tries so hard to be this ultimate RPG by having so much to do, but in the end it all boils down to Amalur trying too hard to be like everyone else, rather than really doing it’s own thing.

  10. Hug_dealer says:

    Playing the demo clued me into what the game was.

    Cliche Action RPG with Cliche everything. It couldnt be anymore bland or cliche if it tried. The Demo thank god saved me this game.

    I’m glad you like it, but it really was a whole lot of average.

  11. valz says:

    I played it for a lot of hours. I realized I was doing the same thing over and over and was tired of it, so I decided to focus on the main quest and not do any more of the endless sidequests. The main quest felt no different. Very soon after that, I reached a second game-breaking bug (the first was remedied by loading a savegame just before it) and quit playing forever.

    The combat is quite enjoyable.

    In the end, I can’t recommend the game.

  12. Noise says:

    Glad to hear you were only roleplaying as an atheist because being an atheist is worse than being hitler.

  13. amateurviking says:

    I bought this on sale on Origin a wee bit after it came out. Skyrim was the reason I barely played it at the time.

    Coincidentally I went back to it 3-4 weeks ago to have another bash, but it didn’t stick. Thuink I’ll give it another go now though.

  14. sd4f says:

    I have a brand new copy which i’m yet to play (seriously don’t want to touch origin). In late 2011 i was invited to a media event hosted by IGN au, and they had two developers from big huge games, or whoever the actual developer was, and they were interesting because Planescape: Torment was the game they put on a pedestal. From the limited time i played it, it felt like god of war with a bit of talking, mix in some final fantasy visuals, and that kingdoms of alamalamauamalaua

    • maximiZe says:

      “From the limited time i played it, it felt like god of war with a bit of talking, kind of like a final fantasy game.”

      This sentence confuses me deeply.

      • sd4f says:

        Combat was very much GoW inspired, in that you had quick time events and button mashing, the rest of the gameplay was more like a final fantasy game, the feel of the maps, scenery and more involved RPG elements than GoW (which basically had nothing), story was a redressed imagining of planescape torment.

        I suppose the best way to describe the game, is that it’s a real bitsa, it didn’t really do anything of its own, most of it was just a reimplementation of ideas from other games, it didn’t seem bad as a result, but i just haven’t had time to delve into it, and i didn’t really see anything that would compel me to create an origin account.

        I think i should have said that it was like final fantasy 12 with the real time god of war combat mechanic, rather than the gambit system.

  15. craigdolphin says:

    I never bothered with it despite being somewhat interested as I am not willing to put up with steam or origin client requirements to play games on my pc. If it ever releases on GOG I may give it a go then. Otherwise, no.

  16. SirKicksalot says:

    I really hate the navigation in this game. It feels like a shitty early-gen effort where you can’t jump up or down to a different elevation but you’re forced to follow linear paths. Even when the difference is about 10 cm. It’s driving me crazy and someone from BHG actually said this was a fix planned for the sequel.

    There’s also the fucking boring lore, story and Fae design. Most loot is so good that nothing is actually good, if you know what I mean. The balance is FUBAR.

    I liked those lore stones, they had catchy tunes and voices.

  17. Phinor says:

    I put well over 100 hours into Amalur and while it never reached top tier quality, I enjoyed most of my time with the game. I rarely have the urge to see and finish everything in a game but I did just that with Amalur. Just a very solid game that sadly will be forgotten now that the IP is dead.

  18. ass wasp says:

    I won a copy from a contest, played it for a few hours and i felt cheated despite getting the game for free. It was not a good game.

  19. Lethys says:

    The character movement was atrocious in that game to the point where I only played 3 hours of a $60 game I’d been looking forward to for months. It felt like you were ice skating. One of the reasons I love GTA is actually that it feels like the characters and cars have weight. The story of Amalur was also so ridiculous to me. They throw so much at you in terms of lore in the first few hours that none of it mattered to me. Elder Scrolls has a lot of lore but it’s perfect because they do it slowly and you can go at your own pace. It was just a massive, uninspired quest grind.

  20. mattevansc3 says:

    Main problem was that Skyrim was a media darling that could do no wrong and KOA:TR was heavily criticised for making the same errors Skyrim did (though not as bad) so was unfairly made to look considerably worse.

  21. El_MUERkO says:

    It annoyed me to look at it. Too WoWlike.

  22. McDan says:

    Played the demo before launch, which was quite good actually. It letting you do whatever you want for pretty much an hour and a half after getting out of the tutorial. Combat was really enjoyable as well, just never got around to getting it at the time. But seeing as it’ll be cheaper now, and you’ve written this excellent article John, I’ll probably see about getting it. Cheers.

  23. Jae Armstrong says:

    I played it! I preordered it, in fact. And I had a lot of fun with it, right up to the point where I hit the badlands/desert area. That was the point where I hit the top of my warrior tree and the combat system began to unravel on itself. I still finished it (the final boss is naff as fuck), but after that it was more an exercise in sheer bloody-mindedness than anything else.

    Up until that though, the combat really was great and I had great fun with the crafting system. I think, with a little more depth, that could have been one of the best RPG crafting systems around.

  24. Emeraude says:

    The main problem with the game for me is that it felt so terribly mediocre and uninspiring. And contrary to Bioware games (well the decent ones), it didn’t even have that “serviceable but forgettable blockbuster” quality to it. Ii just felt bland and devoid of grace.

    To quote my brother, who’s a mean bastard: “Amalur is to action-adventure games what Boris Vallejo is to Luis Royo”.

    It just felt like it tried and missed most marks. Not by far, which is all the more painful. Because it had its heart in the right place.

    Too bad, I really wanted to like it.

  25. SkittleDiddler says:

    RPS reader comments regarding Kingdoms of Amalur- Reckoning:
    “What a shite game”
    “A soulless RPG experience”
    “Lacking in originality”
    “An empty MMO-like world”

    RPS reader comments regarding Skyrim- Elder Scrolls V:
    “What a fantastic game”
    “An immersive RPG experience”
    “Original story and plot”
    “As close as you’re going to get to reality in a fantasy setting”

    I just don’t fucking get it.

    • x1501 says:

      Hey, as far as I’m concerned, they’re both “shite”. Happy?

    • Emeraude says:

      Yeah, weirds me out too really.

      I mean, from what I have seen of Skyrim, it was a terribly soulless game, a devolved reiteration under a shiny coat of paint, that got forgiven way more than it should have, on grounds I do not even begin to understand.

      Amalur was a mess in design from what I remember (should try and track my notes), but it still has it beat as far as being a game is concerned.

    • Agnol117 says:

      The difference, as I see it, is that Skyrim ultimately was what it set out to be, whereas Amalur was made out to be this grand RPG the likes of which the world had never seen before, and ended up a disappointment. Skyrim was a known quantity — we all knew what to expect, and got basically that. Amalur, on the other hand, was hyped up to be something huge, and fell far short of that.

    • RakeShark says:

      I think the nordic/viking vibe of Skyrim was enough to stand shoulders above KoA, which seemed to be just another general fantasy game that I’m pretty sure I’ve played before.

    • benkc says:

      Sure, if you cherry-pick just those comments and ignore all the counterexamples.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        You’re absolutely right. I cherrypicked for a reason.

        There are some reasonable comments here as to why Amalur is not the better game for some people, but the majority of them just reek of a silly “Because its not Skyrim, that’s why” mentality.

        • Azdeus says:

          Skyrim has nude mods. Nuff said.

          Someone mentioned that modders had made “TressFX” style hair for Skyrim, so I checked out Skyrim Nexus. I checked 8 pages, and I found more pubic hair mods than animated hair.

    • Upper Class Twit says:

      Well I thought the environment in Skyrim was way cooler than the whole “looks a lot like World of Warcaft” thing Amalur had going for it (based on the demo, I’m not sure how much it changes over the course of the game).

      Also, you should probably pay attention to the comment section of the next article mentioning Skyrim. The hivemind’s opinion seems to be mixed at best.

    • Cunning Linguist says:

      I sank hundreds of hours into Skyrim, because of the awesome landcapes and caverns, the soundtrack , and the mods .

      It was my first serious RPG and Bethesda game , and most of it was an ordeal, esp. since i was playing with below minimum spec at low resolution. For someone new to the genre , Skyrim was a real punisher. Especially since the PC version was using console FOV settings (which made combat and general navigation a horror) and console -style UI horribly patched with mouse control. Some of the default game settings were atrocious…. I spent days scouring the net for tweaks, and messing around with ini files and at times incompatible mods.

      I hated a lot about the game, and the glitches took a lot of the fun out and eventually killed the immersion as the main story line glitched out at a rather crucial moment and I had to use the console to force that quest to complete. It was the part where you use the scroll to see into the past. . . The scripted scene failed to complete, and I re-loaded and tried again dozens of times, having to watch through most of the scene each time , only to have it fail to complete.

      After that I used some mods to boost some stats because I had messed up with my perks (irreversible choices early on, duh), and just explored the game leisurely not giving much of a damn about the stories. The magic is pathetically underpowered and unsatisfying to use, and fighting the backwards skating mages is a joke. Finishing the main quest led to an under-climax, as the world fails to change after you defeat the Big Bad Devil. You get a few songs and a few people dancing around and that’s it. The only diffrerence effected int eh world by the player that was something tangible was reviving that dead tree early on in the game, and see it grow and flower over a few days, and that was a side quest that was all too easy to miss.
      There were far too many manhunt quests, and the best weapons in the game (apart from the stuff you could craft with potions and enchanting) were to be had by performing demonic sacrifices. There was some rather adolescent imbalance towards the “evil soul eater” side of things in the roleplay options. There was even an NPC in the Dark Brotherhood boasting about how she’d killed the last unicorn, because the Beth developers are too mature and dark for that fantasy shit , and cannot even bear to animate two characters hugging in their game.

      The game felt empty and soulless in terms of NPCs , and the quests were pathetic and often downright pathological, written by people with some personal issues.

      It s the incredible art direction and general immersiveness that lift Skyrim to a lofty and memorable status.

      The thing is , now I have a better PC and I stil want to re-install and go back to that world in HD, because it is so epic. But I don’t think I would have stuck with the game if I hadn’t been housebound and with nothing else to play at the time .

      Will check this KoA game out, my interest is piqued. If Skyrim had a serious or fun combat system we’d have been so much better off.

      • Cunning Linguist says:

        Darn, got hugely sidetracked. I was posting to say that after playing Skyrim I tried out several older RPGs, and was shocked to discover that there was nothing original in Skyrim whatsoever.

  26. Jimbo says:

    Because everyone who played it Reckoned it sucked. But maybe Amalurk into it myself.

  27. Liudeius says:

    For me it’s primarily DRM, secondly price, and third, I assumed there would be $40 of DLC and hoped to get it in a complete edition.
    I don’t actually know if there is any DLC because I’ve not kept up, but considering your story:

    “For whatever peculiar reason, the set of EA servers that allowed that game to check in on itself worked, and after some moronic requirement to “authenticate” my PC, two separate EULAs, and yet more logging in, I was able to get to a game menu.”

    I’m not going to be playing it for a while.
    I’ve not even played Far Cry 3 because of how much I hate DRM.
    Eventually if I’m using an internet connection from which I can safely torrent a crack, I might buy it.

    • Emeraude says:

      Oh yeah, DRM, I was trying to remember why I played this on console at my friend’s place and hadn’t simply bought it.

  28. aliksy says:

    Also Skyrim has mod support. Does KoA have mods? Surprised no one’s bringing that up when comparing it to Skyrim.

    • Emeraude says:

      Mostly because Skyrim + Mods isn’t Skyrim I guess.
      Personally find it only fair to compare the games as they were delivered by both companies.

      • Arglebargle says:

        I would have to disagree. I get Bethesda stuff, in part, because I know there will be a strong modding scene working on the many foibles and screwups of the design team. As well as adding things. I suspect Bethesda happily cuts corners because of it. But, say, when the Skyrim inventory system is screwed or just not to my taste, someone will fix it.

        It goes into the choice to get the thing in the first place, which makes it matter, imo.

        • Emeraude says:

          The fact that there are mods explain a lot about TES games surviving their flaws (as I keep saying, Bethesda doesn’t deserve its modding community), but I can’t count those mods as part of the game when trying to evaluate and compare critically end-products as delivered by publishers.

        • Klingsor says:

          This! Modding is what makes Bethesda’s games from mediocre to a cool experience and the only reason wyh I still buy their games

  29. biz says:

    something about the marketing

    if Big Huge Games was not involved with this, I would not have even looked at it.

    after having actually played it, I think it’s the best game of its type (if using difficulty mods)

    that doesn’t mean it’s particularly well-made, but it’s way better than Oblivion / Skyrim

    how many decent action games actually have open worlds and stories and role-playing? that is the competition, and this game utterly and completely destroys it

  30. Eddy9000 says:

    Because it said it was an MMO. Is it? If it isn’t an MMO I’ll buy it and try it out.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Yeah, from the bits I’d seen I really really thought this was a MMO. That’s the reason I utterly ignored it. That said, I still doubt that I’d have bought it — it doesn’t sound like something I need to play, and the backlog is too big to bother with something I’m not sure about.

  31. zeekthegeek says:

    I tried playing it. I did not enjoy it. Case closed.

  32. Eldiran says:

    For me, at least, the problem is: it’s impossible to lose.

    Seriously. Buy 30 potions with a tiny handful of cash. Bam, you win forever. Get a full heal at any time with no delay or cooldown.

    Naturally, the empty world, restrictive UI, and unpredictable hitstun didn’t help either.

    I’m only bitter because the game had immense potential. I still played it for 40 hours.

    • fish99 says:

      Potions do have cooldowns. However, each stack has a seperate cooldown, so you can use greater healing, then large healing straight away, then lesser healing (I forget what they’re actually called) etc.

      There were some hard fights in the game, mainly in the story quests. Admittedly there weren’t enough.

      • Eldiran says:

        Really? Huh. Thanks for the info. Sad to hear it’s still so easy to break. Although clearly the cooldowns weren’t big enough regardless since I went out of my way to test it, and didn’t notice one.

  33. fish99 says:

    I played it, all of it, and loved it. Not saying it’s perfect, it’s shotcomings are well documented, but there’s a ton of good stuff there as well.

    In contrast I played about 2 hrs of Skyrim.

  34. RakeShark says:

    I think I didn’t play it because I’m a sci-fi fan and not a fantasy fan? Aside from art style I didn’t think there was much that was appealing or fresh about it? Perhaps I got it confused with the MMO they were trying to make and I don’t play MMOs anymore?

  35. Mephz says:

    First of all did not play it because my laptop could not run the demo smoothly, but could play skyrim smoothly as an example.

    Also:

    EA (I avoid games they touch)
    origin (no thank you, not on my computer)
    high price on steam
    Other more interesting games around…I still haven’t played far cry 3 for example.

  36. felltablet says:

    Usually I agree with many of the contributors opinions on RPS, however, I do not understand your positive perspective on this title. This game was a rather surprising disappointment in almost every aspect. They hired a noted writer, but the story is shallow and cliche. The world is huge, but empty and devoid of life or character. The combat is responsive but does not continually evolve past the 1rst section of the game. The missions are easily accessible but not rewarding. All in all, it seems to be exactly what it is: an unfinished MMO that had to be reduced to a sigle player experience.

    I would have said that I am confused about your review, but after this statement, “For me, what’s made this especially special, is it’s the first time I’ve ever bothered to properly engage with a game’s blocking mechanic.”…….
    I just think you don’t have any reference for decent third person action games.

  37. UncleLou says:

    I liked it a lot at the beginning, but got a bit bored with the initially fun combat because the game just kept getting easier and easier – although I already avoided most of the sidequests. Stopped somewhere at the 15 hour mark I guess, when ai simply got distracted by something else. Not a bad game, though.

  38. Citrus says:

    No one is playing it because it is a piece of shit game.

    When I started playing it, I was satisfied with the Fable 1 combat (which I enjoyed) and even the generic skills thrown in by developers. But more time I spent, the stupid cliche-fest of characters and the plot started reminding me of Bethesda’s masterturds, aka, TES series.

    Not to mention, somehow Amalur writer managed to make the Eleves even more annoying and stupid (NOW THEY HAVE SHITTY POEMS AS WELL).

    Pros:
    - OK visuals.
    - Good combat similar to Fable 1 (hell, the game is pretty much Fable 1 ripoff, except the fun story and characters part).

    Cons
    - Feels like a MMO, shit, boring and generic (like every MMO out there, including LOTRO and WOW)
    - You reach the level limit HOURS before the game is even close to end.
    - LEVEL SCALING! Enemies are locked to the level you enter the area in. So if you entered on lvl 1, prepare to slaughter everything after levelling up only two more times.
    - LEVEL SCALING. I seriously DID NOT find any challenge in combat even from bosses after going over lvl 20 or something (played it long time ago). I stopped playing cause I WAS ONE HIT KILLING EVEN THE BOSS MONSTERS!
    - SHIT STORY AND CHARACTERS. It is like Oblivion and Skyrim had a retard child.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Once again someone trots out the Skyrim/Fable/MMO comparisons. Why not judge a game based on its own merits?

      • Citrus says:

        You obviously haven’t played the game. Amalur copied almost everything, even art style from Fable (with hints of WOW, but character design was complete copy of Fable, along with action and abilities).

        Game didn’t do anything new, or didn’t improve upon anything Fable did (kinda like rest of the Fable games..). Amalur was just shit, there isn’t anything interesting in the world.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I’ve put 80+ hours into KoA:R so far, and I plan on doing another run when I finally finish it. I’ve also played every single game you mentioned in your “review”.

          While the art style in Amalur is similar to Fable, it’s definitely not a carbon copy. The environments are completely different and have a much more fantastical bent to them. If going to make comparisons, at least be accurate — Amalur is much closer to games like Morrowind and WoW when it comes to setting and terrain.

          Character design? I’ll give you that one.

          Actions/Abilities? Meh, Amalur contains the standard mix of skill mechanics that are so common to theses types of games, although I don’t remember Fable’s being as deep as what Amalur offers.

          Originality? Don’t even go there. There hasn’t been a completely original RPG for decades; unfortunately that includes KoA:R.

  39. ffordesoon says:

    Nobody played it because the marketing was complete shit. And I don’t just mean the ads; everything the developers chose to focus on when selling the game was deliberately meant to remind players of things they already liked. From the generic name to the inevitable listing of the creators involved in every preview to the presumptuous “this is a prequel to the MMO that everyone will play because that’s how things work” attitude, all the prerelease hype exuded the hubris of a bunch of “name” creators assuming they could sell something on their names alone.

    They rarely listed any standout features or particularly interesting bits of lore or anything else that might get gamers excited, and relied instead on reminding people of other things they already owned and liked. They made the classic mistake of planting implicit comparisons to other things in people’s minds instead of explaining why people needed this game in their lives. They compared the opening to Planescape: Torment, for example, leading Torment fans playing the thing for the first time to compare its opening – which is a fairly standard tutorial section with a similar plot hook – to Torment’s opening. Of course it was found wanting!

    Every element of the game they talked about was like that. “So-and-so game did this, and we have that. Oh, and remember when such-and-such game did this? We have that too!” All of which just annoyed fans of the games they compared their game to, because it wasn’t enough like any one of those games.

    Add to all that the fact that 38 Studios (and Big Huge Games, which was a well-respected company within the industry, but not really a “name”) was not a “name” developer on the level of an Infinity Ward or a Bioware, and there was simply no reason for most people to trust them. The demo sold me on the game, but it turned just as many people off, and that was the only impression most people got of the thing. It sold well enough, but not well enough to pay for the MMO that no fans of Reckoning actually wanted anyway.

    • strangeloup says:

      It was probably difficult to list any standout features or interesting lore, given that KoA is completely devoid of either.

  40. geldonyetich says:

    I heard that Kingdoms Of Amalur was good from many reviewers, and that was enough to pique my interest, but the game simply fell under the radar because it’s yet-another-fantasy-RPG and there were enough of those I had bought and was not playing that I could not justify buying another one for full price.

    For example, I’ve got The Witcher 2 here, thanks to the wonders of Steam sales, and it’s going completely untouched, thank you very much… albeit largely because I’m embarrassed for Geralt’s sex life, as it leaves me wondering if I bought the PC gamer equivalent of trashy fantasy literature, and I’m not sure I want to be caught playing it.

    Of course, as many have mentioned, that Elder Scrolls V was released just a couple months before KoA was pretty bad timing. With Skyrim in my possession, I felt relatively confident I had the best-made, expansive world, single-player fantasy RPG in that genre. Sorry, Divinity II. Sorry, Two Worlds II. Sorry, Fable III.

    Consequently, I didn’t even hear about the KoA until it was out for quite some time, and Yahtzee Croshaw is not the first person who you want me to learn of your game from, as he spelled out rather expertly what I implicitly knew: KoA was a game developed for a tiny slice of player in a massively overdeveloped genre.

    Still, that was then, and this is now. I’ve played Skyrim to death. On the advice of this article, I played the demo of Kingdoms of Amalur, and I actually changed my tune somewhat. I now believe Kingdoms of Amalur to be quite a bit more advanced than Skyrim in many ways.

  41. Grayvern says:

    Amalur still occupies a weird place in terms of combat quality, the nature of the games skill system means no or minimal barrier to good quality combat, you are basically buying moves or increased damage, so while the combat is better it’s nowhere near as good as it could be.

    It might be a mistake to have something as intense as DMC 3 in a 60 hour game, but at the same time there’s not really any reason it couldn’t be closer, and compared to console counterparts such as Dragons Dogma, which feels responsive and visceral it still somewhat lacking.

    It’s hard to articulate the difference but I guess the game just has too much delay between certain actions. The difference between Amalur and my previous example Dragons Dogma feels much like the leap Ninja Theory made between Heavenly Sword and DMC.

    The story concept of immortality and determinism vs mortality and free will and what happens when that starts to break from both ends is in interesting. Ultimately however I don’t know whether the game capitalizes on this because after the 30 or so hours I played the law still obfuscated anything interesting that may be being said in the game.

    I just didn’t enjoy the lore that much either I find the Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age and Witcher lore much more compelling.

  42. ScatheZombie says:

    Because it wasn’t Skyrim, the demo was awful and the game never goes on sale because the license is in limbo.

    I actually did play Kingdoms of Amalur though. I put probably around 20ish hours into the game. However, I didn’t recommend it to any of gaming friends because …

    1) The game becomes very repetitious and formulaic after … about 3 or 4 hours. The combat is, at first, very fun and engaging – but you quickly become so powerful that you break down into using 3 or 4 main abilities/combos and never looking back. And that happens at the 4 hour mark and the remaining 60 hours of gameplay is just repeating those same handful of moves.

    2) The skills system gives you the illusion that you can do anything you want but only really works if you super-specialize in one thing – very similar to most choose-your-own MMOs like Rift. Or, more recently, Path of Exile. You have all these amazing options at your disposal and you can, in theory, create a truly unique character. But … then you quickly realize that in order to use the bow properly you need to dump a good 15 points into the bow line. This isn’t to have a super-awesome bow – this is just to have a *viable* one; especially due to the way the limited arrows mechanic works. If you really try to plan out a character, the progression systems feels very restrictive.

    3) Side-quests were really nothing more than your most mundane MMO quests. And there are a shitload of them. The story was very cliched and generic. It has it’s moments here and there, but I constantly felt like I had seen this before.

    4) Un-Dynamic content. This is something that irked me to no end. The game actively *penalizes* exploration if you do it before advancing the main story or picking up all the side-quests in an area. For example: If you go to a new zone and enter the nearest uncharted cave – something you normally would do while exploring – you can get all the way to the end of the cave and into a *completely empty* boss room. You know why? Because you didn’t have the quest to trigger the boss to spawn. So you have to go back to town, pick up the quest, and go back to the completely empty cave … that will now have a boss and a chest at the end of it. So, if you don’t play through the content in exactly the way the devs thought you would, you will run into a lot of instances where the game breaks down (doesn’t necessarily stop you from progressing, but definitely breaks immersion) because it only loads content when you actually have it. FFS, Gothic 2 fixed this problem a decade ago.

  43. noodlecake says:

    I was put off by the starey eyes of the characters and the lifeless animations in cutscenes, which is a shame because the combat was fun and it had some interesting mechanics. I would much prefer a mostly linear but well made game with a captivating story and characters, like The Witcher 2. Non-linearity isn’t a selling point to me whatsoever.

  44. The Random One says:

    I remember playing the demo and thinking, “If I liked fantasy RPG’s, I’d play that over Skyrim any day. But I don’t. So I won’t play either.”

    A friend gave me Skyrim as a gift so I ended up playing it anyway.

  45. Quirk says:

    Personally?

    Well, I read the RPS “Wot I Think” on Kingdoms of Amalur, imbibed such choice comments as:
    “what it does not offer is anything with serious meat. No grand vision, no technical triumph, no opera.”
    “From a purely aesthetic point of view, the series of enclosed valleys it is guiding me through display none of the majesty of Skyrim’s frozen peaks, while the quests and over-arching script interest me a fraction as much as almost any other seriously conversation-heavy RPG I can think of.”
    “Ultimately, Kingdoms Of Amalur is generous but uninspired. This is a game that has been carved out of the bedrock of action RPGs by a team of well-paid professionals. Their work is fine, even nuanced, but their vision is not one that will leave you feel enriched or changed by the experience it produced. You can sense of the results of committee conclusions in almost all areas of the game. ”
    etc etc
    and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to try it; didn’t even get as far as downloading the demo.

    And frankly, from most of the comments below the line, it hardly sounds as though Jim was being unfair.

  46. Jupiah says:

    I didn’t buy it on PC because it’s *still* $60 + $25 for the dlc. That’s ridiculous for a game that’s been out this long that flopped so badly.

    I was tempted to buy it used for the Xbox, but was turned off of that idea when I learned that i’d be missing out on a bunch of content unless I purchased an “online pass”. Yes, an online pass. For a single player only RPG game. Screw that bullcrap.

    But maybe I’ll reconsider buying it if it’s as good as you say it is.

  47. Zogtee says:

    Price and Origin is why no one played it. If they had put the Steam version on sale, then it would have sold a lot better.

  48. rei says:

    I wanted to like it, and did for a while, but it got so samey that playing it turned into a chore. The best way I can put it is that it felt like a “product”, in the most cynical sense of the word, instead of something made out of love for games.

  49. rusty5pork says:

    I got bored of the generic fantasy-ness of it. Not necissarily the tropes, as I could read about elves and dwarves and shit all day. It was just the fact that the characters didn’t grab me like they did in Dragon Age, which was probably Salvatore’s doing (he has a more plot/setting focused style that doesn’t appeal to me.)

    But holy shit, I never thought of it as a commentary on how the nature of gaming changes storytelling. I might have to pick it up again.

  50. iridescence says:

    I played the demo and absolutely despised the arcade game style combat which shouldn’t be in an RPG in my opinion. Wiped out the entire first town at level 2. Figured it would be boringly easy along with the bad combat. Uninstalled.

    Does it get better later in the game?

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