Have You Played… Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Few better games have been given a tougher break than Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning [official site]. A truly wonderful epic, bright, and action-led RPG, it was screwed from every direction. It deserves your attention still.

The game is glorious, in a breezy, cartoony way that belies some deeper ideas and excellent mashy combat. I wrote at length about my despair that the game was so woefully abandoned, suffering at the fall of its developer. When it’s quite so much fun!

Created by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, who likely did not know at the time about the financial mess they were in, it doesn’t offer the depth of narrative a BioWare RPG might offer, but it does have extraordinary malleability to your behaviour. When I accidentally slaughtered an entire monastery of monks (I swear it was an accident), rather than finding a game over, instead it adapted to my brutality, shut off the appropriate quest chains, and carried on around me. Impressive stuff.

As part of the obviously abandoned (although they pretend it isn’t) EA Partners, it also didn’t receive quite the publishing effort it deserved. (I remember being at an EA press day, and not even offered a chance to play it, despite its being present. When I hopped on an empty computer for a quick go, I was shouted at!) Despite all this, it went on to sell 1.3m copies in three months, but that could never be enough to cope with the astonishing $75m debt 38 owed the state of Rhode Island, and the ensuing MMO was abandoned, the company folded, and in an asset sell-off, no one would even buy the license. (Well, no one would meet the likely silly price they were asking for it.)

Poor Amalur – you deserved so much more. But thankfully you can still buy it on Steam, although goodness knows who’s getting that money now.

59 Comments

  1. trivial says:

    I quite enjoyed Amalur. It wasn’t an amazing game, but I had a lot of fun with it. It’s a shame that it didn’t do better.

    • animal says:

      I’m with you. I got it for free on PS+ and even finished it. It wasn’t great by any stretch, but it was definitely somewhere between playable and decent.

      Well, to be fair it must have had something to make me keep playing long enough to finish it.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      Yep, me three. I had a really good time with this game. Pleasant and uncomplicated, but very large in scope, pretty to look at, decent combat….yeah, I’d happily welcome another, were it to somehow fall through the dimensional walls separating us from the Universe of giant spiders who love gaming.

    • hawken.grey says:

      I don’t know. I love RPGs of all different stripes and shades, but I just couldn’t get into this one. Two things – no jumping and terrible camera system really stood out.

    • DThor says:

      Agreed! It’s amazing in the world of witcher 3 that something stuck in an older tech still works incredibly well. I kept finding myself returning to it over and over. It’s big. There was a lot of love put into this game.

    • LexW1 says:

      It’ reminded me of Ye Olde Dayes of computing, i.e. back in the late 80s and early 90s, when 80% was a perfectly respectable score, and worth playing. This is what it felt like to me – one of those really solid 80% games from 1990 or whenever. Not amazing, but really decent and playable and worth your time. Everything about it seems solid and decent – except the balance. That’s where it falls down, for me – crafting is too powerful (a flaw shared with vanilla Skyrim) and combat gets too easy even on the hardest settings – but aside from that, really decent. Not stellar, just decent/solid.

  2. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Great little surprise this game was. Shame when the good die unceremoniously in a Rhode Island dumpster.

  3. Xantonze says:

    I bought it last time John wrote about it.

    Played 2 hours and stopped because it felt too derivative and a bit dull overall. Can’t see myself coming back to it in a post-Witcher III world.

    BTW John, did you finish it?

    • shrieki says:

      also bought this on sale because of Johns review but i should have known better. felt like a mmo for kids – played a couple of hours and thats it.

    • Cassius Clayman says:

      I’m in that exact same boat. Read John’s passionate article about the game, got excited to play it, played it for like 4-6 hours and it just felt so dull; It didn’t capture my interest in the slightest. Like from minute 1, even the opening video, it just seemed so boring and uninspired.

      • Azagthoth says:

        My words exactly. Like a mmo turned single-player with uninspired story and combat

        • rabbit says:

          That screnshot up top always reminds me of logging into world of warcraft for the first time – my first non-runescape/non-maple story MMO – as a night elf in the … nightglades? everglades? I don’t know, some-OHHHH MOONGLADES!
          I think.
          Anyway. It does give me some serious nostalgia, that there screenshot. But yeah… looks seriously themepark MMO in a way that I don’t tend to find too exciting this side of 2005.
          Will give it a go someday, maybe.

          • rabbit says:

            ‘screnshot’ sounds like some advanced manoueuvre in Tribes: Ascend or something
            now that there is a game that deserves a LOT more love

        • baozi says:

          Exactly this. Felt weird.

      • animal says:

        That’s what happened on here for me, for Risen. I just couldn’t get into it.

    • Brosecutor says:

      Same here, bought it, played it for a spell, de-installed it.

      WHAT ARE YOU DOING, JOHN?!

    • Morph says:

      John’s article reminded of me at about 10 hours, when everything was clicking. About 10 hours later though, it felt like endless drudgery. Gave up eventually, wished I had never started.

    • Iceman346 says:

      You didn’t miss much. I played Amalur for well over 40 hours and it is one of the most derivative Games I know. The only thing really good about it was it’s Combat. It was fluid and fun while not overly complex and not too easy.

      The whole rest of the game was as unspectacular as they come. Fantasy tropes aplenty, quests everywhere but none of them interesting, a world filled with stuff to do but none of it interesting, NPCs everywhere but none of them rememberable.

      I really have no clue why John likes the game so much. It is the definition of bland. It is the poster child for a game designed by accountants. On paper everything sounds right but there was not a shred of soul or passion on the game anywhere.

    • meepmeep says:

      Same here, played for a few hours after the recommendation here and wasn’t drawn in to the slightest extent. It wasn’t bad or anything, just somewhat generic and uninspiring, and I failed to see what set it apart from other such games.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      It was ok, way way way too easy. I stopped playing after 12 hours or so of enjoying it more or less because I realized there had not been one second of challenge yet.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, it feels super MMO-y. Between the ludicrous array of subsystems (particularly crafting subsystems) and the parade of people giving you generic quests to the point where you will massively outlevel everything if you try to be a completionist, to the rather uninspired fantasy setting (not that Bob Salvatore’s made his career on inventive, wild fantasy settings, so no surprise there I uppose) that so many MMOs sport…

      It still seemed kinda fun (but then, I’ve at least tried a lot of MMOs), but it’s tough to muster a lot of enthusiasm for going back to it in the face of dozens of more innovative and personable RPGs on my docket.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Got more like 4-6 in myself, but same end result. It wasn’t derivative either, but it was BADLY derivative. It’s a lot easier to forgive a derivative part of a game when the bit is actually done well or better, but when you have stuff like, oh look here’s the EXACT same lockpicking minigame from Elder Scrolls of the time and the EXACT same dialogue system from the Bioware games of the time and etc. etc., except with clunkier and with uglier interfaces…it’s hard to look at that as anything but a step backwards. If you’re gonna rip off other games so much, you could at least do it right.

  4. Blackcompany says:

    This is a game that could have benefited hugely from mods. And a different publisher. And a CEO that actually knew something about the gaming industry – like not to get in bed with EA when making an RPG. Mods would have given this game a larger following, and not having EA as a publisher would have made mods much more likely.

    Of course, it had other issues: an FOV that was more like a tunnel of view than a field, for one. A cartoon art style constantly at odds with the dark overtones of its narrative, for another. And leveled loot, that gods-awful concept that punishes early exploration and just needs to die outside of P&P games.

    But they nailed the action. For all that, they really nailed it. The combat was fluid and fun. The bestiary was quite varied, especially early on. Magic was weighty and impactful and much more fun to use than in, say, Skyrim. And weapon variety offered up various movesets not unlike Dark Souls, though with much more over the top moves than the Souls games offer.

    Its a pity, the way Amalur ended. Truly.

    • Freud says:

      I think I used a FOV mod of some kind because it was initially unplayable at the default FOV.

  5. PictoPirate says:

    It is so long it is kind of off putting. I’m like 40 hours in and I’ve only uncovered a fraction of the map (I may be something of a completionist mind) I need to get back to it at some point but I just don’t know when I’ll have the time to finish it…

    • 65 says:

      I restricted myself to doing the faction or guild quests and the main storyline and finished around the 30 hour mark. Trying to do everything in that game will most likely drive you insane.

    • MykulJaxin says:

      This was me, too. I just checked and I played for 42 hours. I did as much of the main quest as required to work on the various guild quests around the world. I think I completed all of them? Even the wizard one, even though I was a thiefy character? But yeah, for whatever reason I lost interest after that first week of playing and have never gone back. One of my biggest gripes (not sure if anyone else has touched on this) is that it’s impossible to get the best skills if you’re playing a mixed class. I never played the expansion and I’m not sure if it was ever addressed, but that was quite distressing. Also how exponential the respec costs became.

    • Paul B says:

      Another one here who played it for around 40 hours, got to the other side of the map, then burnt out from the sameyness of the gameplay. It’s a very addictive game, but once you’ve played ten hours, you’ve pretty much seen the entire game. The game world is massive, but very generic, and I found I had maxed out my chosen class half way through the game.

      On the other hand, I want to go back and finish Amular one day, if just to see the ending. Who’s with me?

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    It was ok, but I didn’t like it near as much as John. Combat felt varied and fluent at first, but became too easy and repetetive quickly.

    The MMO elements quickly became tiresome too. Endless amounts of “kill 10” or “fetch” quests (some major questlines were better but they were few and far apart), cities where all the citizens where nothing but quest dispensers, distinct level gated zones (making no sense ecologically, economically or politically), and always evenly spaced groups of level-appropriate foes to grind for random level-appropriate loot.

    Bright, cartoony and colorful artstyle with lush vegetation everywhere was a nice break from serious grimdark RPGs though.

  7. Wulfram says:

    You can get it free for 48 hours on Origin

    link to origin.com

    I did this on a weekend when I didn’t have much else to do, finished it and didn’t really feel much desire to play further. The sidequests I did were mostly rather boring, except for some of the fae stuff, so I didn’t feel I was missing much by focusing on the main plot.

  8. fish99 says:

    Loved it, and finished it (115 hrs IIRC). Think I did every quest too. Beautiful colourful world, fantastic soundtrack, combat was fun (although yes it did get too easy), lots of easy-on-the-ears Irish and Scottish accents, and I even liked the lore and story. Probably helps that I played it in stereo 3D.

  9. jonahcutter says:

    Found it about as dull and badly derivative as could be. REally boring writing. The combat seemed decent, but could also be very easy and button mashy. You could play it with skill, but you didn’t need to at all. Just faceroll and win. Art had a budget, WoW knock-off look.

    A really dull, uninspired, overly easy game.

  10. nimbulan says:

    I grabbed this during the first big sale it had, and while it was fun at the beginning, the game very quickly becomes repetitive and boring. Since it was originally intended to be an MMO, it was designed with MMO proportions, and unfortunately MMO content quality which is most definitely not a good thing for a single player game. In addition I found the action combat system with very lengthy animations and no dodge canceling where nearly every enemy attack would stagger you to be quite frustrating.

    It’s absolutely laughable that some people considered this game competition for Skyrim. Maybe if it had come out at the same time as Oblivion it would have stood a chance.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Fallingbadgers says:

    I enjoyed it a lot, more than Skyrim. Though the inability of most of the Sidhe to actually pronounce their own names was a bit of a faux pas.

  12. Freud says:

    I have. It had it’s charms because it looks fantastic and the combat was fun for the first 10-15 hours. Ultimately, it’s MMO-style pointless quests and highly repetitive combat wore very thin and the last 20 hours was me just being OCD stubborn about finishing it because it was a pain to play at that point. It had emptied it’s bag of tricks long before that.

  13. Talahar says:

    I enjoyed my time with it immensely, I got into it way more easy than I ever managed with the elder scrolls games. Still haven’t finished Amalur though, I shall revisit it some day, for sure.

    • Talahar says:

      Oh goody, I think Origin’s cloudsave ate my savegame. So much for that, then. :-/

  14. quietone says:

    I loved the combat, I love the different variations in character building. I always felt this was going to be one of my favorite games. But I just play it for a while and then I abandon it and uninstall it. I get confused with the maps. I have so many quests I don’t even know where to go next. It just overwhelms me.

  15. NathanH says:

    I played this game for a while and enjoyed it. Then one day I stopped playing to play something else for a bit and never had any inclination to play Amalur again. It wasn’t that I was bored with the game, I wasn’t bored. Odd.

  16. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The [I say the word] gameplay is superb meaning all the mechanisms of fighting, exploring, leveling and stuff. The game’s very good on this technical side and I liked the world immensely with the rare celtic faerie court setting.
    It’s like the waypoint /item collecting of Inquisition but even more extreme.

    However the game is extremely shallow on the character side. We have like Bioware Games or Witcher for memorable characters, stuff like Skyrim and Fallout for very few memorable characters. And Amalur for exactly 0 for whatever reason. While I know it’s fun to play I find it hard to motivate me to play it again because the huge world and the quest are so same same. Diablo 3 had a bad story but at least I remember the main characters and the big bad. With Amalur it’s like having amnesia.

  17. Zaxwerks says:

    I’m playing it at the moment, and really enjoying it. The combat is enjoyable in an ARPG kind of way, and I like the art style. The quests are a little derivative fetch-questy which can get a bit monotonous. And of course it suffers from the scourge of most large open world RPGs where is just throws lore and thousands of foreign names at you like a machine gun which you can’t possibly keep track of. But on the whole it’s a good game and just such a pity it came and went so soon.

  18. Eiv says:

    Loved this game. Reminded me of a cross between Skyrim and Fable, 2 of my favourite games.

  19. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I really enjoyed this game, but it’s the only time I’ve ever wanted Oblivion-style enemy scaling. It’s so easy to overlevel for entire areas, and the game has a strict level cap. I’d love to have a mod that removed those things.

    Also, the game didn’t seem particularly well-balanced, especially if you went all-in on a single class. That meteor spell was ridiculous!

  20. aircool says:

    I thought the game was full of bugs, and because it’s no longer supported, they would never be fixed.

    Unless I’m mistaken and it’s a different game I’m thinking of…

    • fish99 says:

      I did the whole game and only had to reload a previous save once due to a quest glitch (stuck NPC). I’d say make a hard save every hour or two rather than rely on auto/quick save. Same advice as for most open world games.

  21. Kasper_Finknottle says:

    Played the demo and thought the combat was interesting – if you’d been able to play as something other than a human (the gnome legionaire types looked cool) I would have bought it :0)

  22. Ejia says:

    I enjoyed it quite a bit, actually. Mostly the combat. I think that there were far far too few magic options, though.

    I also liked the endlessly self-LARPing fae.

  23. Day0ne says:

    Some of these ‘Have you Playeds’ are timely. I picked this one from my pile of shame and am out of the tutorial gate, looking forward to exploring.

  24. Foosnark says:

    I’ve started it three times. I’ve gotten to that big city whose name I don’t remember three times. I played a little bit past that once and a little bit past that once, but then I find myself more interested in something else and drop it.

    I kind of like the combat, at least as a pure rogue. And it’s kind of pretty, for its age. And that’s about it.

  25. Ranjeev says:

    The colour and combat in Amalur were great. By the time i got used to /perfected the rogue combat about 3/4 of the way through the game i had a great time switching my character to a warrior and then a mage and finally a hybrid skilled character.
    A flavourful overall story too.

  26. mitsoxfan says:

    Unfortunately, the story of 38 Studios is probably more interesting than the Amalur story. I played through the entire game, and as a completionist, put in a LOT of time. And mostly I enjoyed myself.

    It’s a shame. You can tell 38 Studios put in a lot of effort. It’s kind of like an under-sold, under-hyped Fable. It’s quite easy, but I think it was meant to be an entry to the series. And I think Salvatore helped pen the story (but I could be ‘misremembering’… Another baseball reference, in case you know the 38 Studios back story. And Red Sox based at that…).

    Anyway, pick up the game and give it a go. It’s a shame 38 Studios folded, but you know, EA and all…

  27. Neutrino says:

    On the basis of the review I would have bought this. But unfortunately it appears that this EA game will want to install Origin which may then scan my system and install God knows what malware.

    So my money will have to stay in my pocket.

    • Guvornator says:

      Even the Steam version?

      • Neutrino says:

        Don’t know about the Steam version. In the end I got it off Amazon for £7 (a lot cheaper than Steam). It did install Origin but that hasn’t stopped me and my GF playing it on different machines at the same time.

        The combat, character cusomization and crafting is all really good. The quests I’ve done so far all have far more variety to them than any MMO I’ve played. The animation, voice acting and dialog tree are superb, and I’m even enjoying the story too.

        Probably all the things people are accusing it of being badly derivative of are things I haven’t played since I don’t usually get on with fantasy PC games at all, but I’m really enjoying this.

  28. vahnn says:

    It had a lot of things put together that should have added up to me really liking the game: fast-paced, solid combat catering to a variety of styles; a relatively flexible leveling system allowing you to tailor for fighting style as you progress, and reset-able to allow you to experiment; a colorful, mostly-pretty world with a nice variety of monsters.

    But something else made the game feel like a chore for me and the overall experience fell flat, that thing being the quest system. I was at a point where I had been trying dozens of different MMOs to try to recapture that experience of when I first played Everquest and World of Warcraft but was coming to the realization that the core MMO experience was just growing dull and the excitement of developing a character and learning new tricks and gathering more powerful gear were not enough to cover up the basic form of the game: Running to the !s, collecting a bunch of coordinates, running to them to grab things or kill things, then running to the ?s. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

    And I guess that’s how KoA:R felt to me. Like an MMO’s questing system, running around and kill x things and gathering x things and talking to the next person in the next area with the next group of !s, only without all the other things an MMO has, like player interaction and group content. It really makes sense, because the game was supposed to be an MMO, but due to the circumstances mentioned in the article it was converted to a single player game.

    Which is really a shame on both a personal level for me, because I really should have enjoyed the game more, and for the game, because it could have been a lot more than what we got.

  29. PaladinGunn says:

    To me, EA Partners has been a deeply sad joke for most games it’s been involved in. I remember being invited at the Paris Games Week a few years back, and The Secret World was supposed to be released a few months after that.
    They were supposed to have a booth, and all they had was basically a 2x1m podium, a mike, and a 27″ screen to show demos on.

    Meanwhile, there was a huge SWTOR booth.

    I talked a bit with the guys from Funcom there, and they weren’t really happy with how EA was “helping” them.

  30. Steed says:

    Field. Of. View. GRAHHHHHHH!

    Such a beautiful game, but the FOV is tiny and you spend most of your time with the camera angled down slightly so you can see what’s going on.

    Real shame they didn’t make that first patch, which was supposed to have FOV controls

  31. silentdan says:

    Uninstalled after 20 minutes of play. Really wanted to like it (this was the one written by RA Salvatore, IIRC) but everything about it, from the combat, to the art direction, to the voice acting, just made me recoil. I can’t recall having such a viscerally negative reaction to the opening moments of a game before, but man, did that game ever turn me off. Far Cry 4’s intro is ***dreadful*** but I only bounced off of that because of the shadow-rendering bug (exit invisible due to too-dark shadows) and jumped back in the day they fixed it. Generally, I’m willing to give a game a chance. Hell, I even played half a dozen hours of RAGE before ditching it, and that game sucked out loud.

    With Amalur, a part of my mind was screaming “No, get rid of it, put an end to this misery!” from the first line of dialogue, and the other part was like “Damn, son, give it a chance; the opening cut scene isn’t even over yet.” Fifteen minutes later, the latter voice conceded to the former, and it was off my hard drive. I still don’t completely understand why it bothered me so much.

  32. coldreactive says:

    Yes, I have played Kingdoms of Amalur, and the only reason I didn’t finish it, was because of a progression breaking bug later in the game after you get to the enemy lands via the main story. There’s a “House” side quest where you deal with a house of black/white… and there you can do a quest to go to a cave, when in the cave, you do some things, beat some enemies, get to a specific point, and……. the NPC doesn’t do anything. The NPC counts as a “Companion” or “Follower” so when you exit to try and continue the main story, you can’t, because you need to dismiss followers/companions.

    The developers didn’t want to fix it either, and I even posted on their forums, with no response.