Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

May 16th, 2012

You know what, I actually quite enjoyed this.  It weren’t no Skyrim, it weren’t no Mass Effect, but it was an enjoyable enough way to spend a few evenings.  Quite a lot of evenings, actually, as it is undoubtedly massive.  Perhaps a bit too big to maintain interest throughout.  A little less size and more work on the character interactions would’ve been time well spent, I think.  It had a slightly young adult feel, a little on the cartoony side, but was certainly very pretty at times.  Perhaps it had slightly the sense of an MMO without any other players in its rapid fire quest giving and constant battles.  Cheesy world-building, one would have to say – you got some kinda dwarves, some kinda elves, a foresty area, a deserty area, a jungly area, you know the type of thing.  Fantasy 101, to a degree.  Lots of background and stuff being said, history of this or that, but I really wasn’t listening too closely after a while because, being honest, the way the conversations were rendered was pretty stiff and dull, not so much the voice acting, although that wasn’t really A-grade, but the tedious way the whole thing was shot with the same three camera angles endlessly employed, the utter lack of convincing emotion on either your character or any others, all made for a bit of a stultifying experience, especially after the quality of Mass Effect, which really does lead the pack in that regard.  The saving grace of Amalur is really the action, which is pretty cool, actually, probably one of the better efforts I’ve seen at combining RPG with arcade-y elements, and a nicely flexible method of character development, all of which ties in nicely with the game’s central conceit of unteasing the threads of fate.  It all does get a bit easy once you’ve worked things out and mastered the item crafting, though.  Game developers seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the whole area of crafting…

Anyway, it won’t blow your mind, but a pleasant enough romp.

Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on May 16th, 2012.

38 comments so far

  • smeej says:

    I quite enjoyed how the fey creatures constantly relived their history. Having reality shift around their reenactments or being able to trigger fairy tales yourself is a fun concept for a video game. I would have preferred more of that, since three months later I can’t otherwise recall anything about the plot aside from, “We made the WELL OF SOULS because of death so we needed the WELL OF SOULS WELL OF SOULS.”

    The combat is glorious and carried me to completion, I only wish the story or difficulty held up. My apocalyptic combos were inappropriate against all those sad, outclassed, palette-swapped monsters.

  • AntMac says:

    Hmm. I supose we have to put up with this time spent game playing, for the sake of your breadth of experience and how that makes the books better.


  • SwindonNick says:

    Ahem. I am hearing game playing. I am hearing drinking challenges, what I am NOT hearing is enough work on current and future books.
    It is a shame you think you are entitled to take personal time while really you are there to feed the reading habits of your fans. All day, every day. Anything else is just being selfish.

  • Patrick Lundgreen says:

    Thanks again mr. Abercrombie nice review.

    I know you are a very acknowledged writer but i can’t help but think that these blogs would take youtube with storm. If you would just read them aloud on a video camera and upload.

    Youtube has too few “high quality” uploaders

  • Ian Hickman says:

    Good review, agree with most what you say there.

    It really did feel a lot like an MMORPG without the MMO bit. I do believe I read somewhere the game WAS going to be an MMORPG originally, but they scaled it back to a single player game in order to build the IP a bit first (which hasn’t really happened, last I heard the developer was in a bit of financial trouble.)

    The combat was quite nice, but everything else seemed highly generic. I did like the art style though, reminded me of Fable and Warcraft, and the cartoony aspect was a nice change after the grimness of Dark Souls and (to a much lesser degree) Skyrim.

  • ColinJ says:

    Yeah, it was definitely meant to be an MMO. I follow the site and those guys are tight with Rich Gallop (all of them formerly worked at of Gamespot), and he always referred to it as an MMO throughout its development.

    Maybe they saw how ruthlessly new MMOs are crushed by the might of WoW (even a really good one like AGE OF CONAN) and settled on just a single-layer game.

  • smeej says:

    The franchise began with the idea of creating an MMO world, but Reckoning got pushed out first due in part to it already being in development under another name. Now it’s an introduction to the world the MMO will be set in.

    Though I read some news of the Reckoning devs begging for a government bailout now, so who knows.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Hmm. I’d been considering this for a while (waiting for the price to drop before deciding), but now Dragon’s Dogma has come along and that looks like it might be quite tasty.

  • innokenti says:

    You know? Me too. It was surprisingly good and the action really did carry it on through to the end.

    However… obvious it may have been, I still rather enjoyed the ambiance and some of the ideas it brought to the fantasy world. A lot of the stuff was boring and common, but the way of treating the player (as unbound by fate, which was deliciously twisted by the fact that as a computer game you were to some extent bound to a limited number of ways things could go) was interesting and some of the ways the fae worked was good.

    And it was very good-looking. Accusations flew about it being just like WoW, but I think its art style was stronger and more confident than that.

    Didn’t blow the socks of, but was a good experience.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    It being an MMO in development explains a lot – the huge openness and profusion of side quests, the lack of expression in the characters, the blandness of the dialogue.

    Government bailouts do not augur well for the ongoing success of the brand. Not that I’m all that interested in MMOs anyway. Honestly I’m not sure I’d play another single player one of these, I was interested for half to two thirds and then pretty much was phoning it in, and I don’t think after about the half way point I was ever really in much trouble in a fight. My lavishly handcrafted armour was utterly impenetrable and instantly regenerated any damage taken, even on hard difficulty. A hell of a lot of hours of gameplay, for sure, but if something more interesting had come along I’d probably have given up. Doesn’t bode well when you’re automatically skipping through even the important central-quest dialogue, yeah, yeah, blah, blah.

    As for those demanding that I play less video games and drink less whisky, I need to be fully rested, inspired, and slightly drunk in order to produce my best written work, mkay?

  • Gary says:

    Hmm, after playing the demo of this I was a bit ‘meh’ and found it a little bit boring as it just felt like something I had played hundreds of times before. Perhaps I should give the full game a go, rent it out or something.

    However, I do like the look of Dragons Dogma and found the demo of it on playstation network to be alright with some good concepts in there like climbing creatures ala the classic Shadow of the Colossus. The only drawback I had with the Dragons Dogma demo was that when all the action happened and everyone waded in with axes, swords and magic flying everywhere, I sometimes couldn’t see where I was half the time and quite often found my character flat on his back with some nasty thing snarling in his face.

    The concept of player pawns being shared out online to other players sounds interesting. I really hope this game turns out to be good. Skyrim is coming to a close for me so I need another open world of quests and magic.

    Joe, have you had a chance to have a gander at Dragons Dogma? Have you got any initial thoughts on it?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I know nothing about Dragon’s Dogma except that I just ordered it along with Max Payne 3. So I guess we’ll see…

  • AntMac says:

    Just kidding around, boss. Anything you do is good in my book, because you are going to give (sell) me my book, after all.

    And the review was thoughtful, and useful, thanks mate. Amazing to think of all the games that get half made, isn’t it?. Sacred and Sacred2, all that effort to retail a box of bugs.

  • Kreso says:


    Just wondering, have you tried The Witcher 2?
    (or read any of the books for that matter)

    Apart from it being much harder that your average game these days, the story branches very much to your choosing, and the world is “real” and brutal (as are the characters), I thought it was the easily the best RPG in the last few years (apart from Skyrim).

    Anyway, as a massive RPG/fantasy fan, that’s the game I’d recommend to any fellow gamer – with the warning that the combat is fairly difficult until you get the hang of it.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    No, though I’d very much like to as Witcher 2 looks like one of the benchmarks of recent times for fantasy RPGs, but I stopped playing games on PC a while back because I just couldn’t be arsed to keep up with the technology and tedious compatibility issues, and I have a PS3 rather than an XBox (for largely arbitrary rather than fundamentalist reasons) so currently no Witcher 2.

  • Harvey Quinn says:

    I personally thought the Witcher 2 was far far superior to Skyrim and I really hated Kingdoms of Amalur, I just didn’t buy into the world at all and couldnt shake the feeling that I was just playing a game.

    The Witcher 2 was really really amazing, great story, great world, Batman Arkham Asylum style combat, but deeper.

  • Hawkeye says:

    This game was okayish. Felt like a single player version of world of warcraft. I quit playing around lvl 21. Just got bored.

    Started Max Payne 3 yesterday and I’m loving it so far. I played the Dragon’s Dogma demo and didn’t care for it.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Mr. Quinn, was it because of the art style or lack of an engaging story/lore in Kingdoms of Amalur?

    I think slightly cartoonish can sometimes work. I liked Dragon Quest VIII, and not just because Jessica had a fantastic voice. *sighs*

  • Tim H says:

    KoA was a fun way to pass the time, but now Diablo 3 is out. There’s a lot of griping out there regarding server issues, but it’s fully lived up to my expectations. More tactical and challenging than D2, at least playing wizard. Love the crafting system and auction house.

  • Weedypants says:

    “As for those demanding that I play less video games and drink less whisky, I need to be fully rested, inspired, and slightly drunk in order to produce my best written work, mkay?”

    It annoys me (a lot) when people slate George RR Martin for watching football, attending conferences, or whatever. I guess there’s all sorts of rational arguments one could make, or evidence one could point to, but it seems like common sense to say that writers need time away (need to be rested, maybe even ‘happy’) in order to be inspired.

    That said, Joe, it would intrigue me to know how you developed your writing style, given that you don’t often mention your reading – more often it’s film or gaming. In interviews you have mentioned George RR Martin as an inspiration, but your style is your own (the shorter sentences, lots of grappling commas/sentences that add pace and cut on words). Are there authors that have influenced or are influencing your style?

  • Curtis says:

    Personally Joe I dont care one bit what you do with your offtime cause I want you in a right proper (slightly drunk) frame of mind to do your normally kickass job. Im going to get Max Payne 3 in the morning (im in the states) I would want to hear your take on it when you play.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I must admit I don’t read that much these days as I find it a bit of a distraction when I’m writing. Your style gets drawn towards whatever you’re reading. So while reading Blood Meridian I later realised I was writing like a really shit Cormac McCarthy. Most of what I read is research directly related to a given book. So I read some westerns and some western non-fiction for this book. In the past, though, a lot of diverse stuff, from James Ellroy to Solzhenitsyn, a few poets, and a lot of trial and error. Style I guess derives from everything you like or don’t, and just how it works when you try and apply it. I try quite hard to vary style according to the character in question.

  • Harvey Quinn says:


    I think it wasn’t so much the art style, a cartoony art style can definitely work (I personally love the Warcraft universe) it just wasn’t at all believable. I feel the same way about Oblivion.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Ah, right.

    I had somewhat mixed feelings about Oblivion. I loved the Dark Brotherhood, but really disliked the levelling system.

  • Aidan says:

    Speak of the devil, seems the same guys who made amalur just announced an MMO today. I’ve not played Amalur yet. Does this game look related?

  • Kieran says:

    Speaking of MMOs, Elder Scrolls Online looks…well, not like Elder Scrolls. Also, after reading that you no longer play PC games, I’m surprised. Any “gamer” worth their salt knows PC is pretty much better in everyway but price and upkeep. Morrowind mods bring me back even now. I can still hear “You n’wah!” even when sleeping.

  • Alexander says:


    I didn’t know you played video games! It does them credit that someone of your caliber plays them!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I’m not sure that every gamer worth their salt does know that. There was a time the sort of games I was into were only available on PC. These days, not so much. I miss total war but I don’t really have the time these days to sit gazing at the Sims or Civilisation for hours on end. I got seriously bored of keeping up with the technology, the compatibility, the bugs and crashes. £1500 for a system that’s aces for a year, OK for a year, and then bordering on obsolete. I’m not especially technical and I can’t be arsed to learn how to change out a graphics card and reinstall my drivers and whatever. That stuff just drives me bloody crazy. Buy a console, you know it’ll be up to the minute for what, four or five years, and everything you buy on it will run fine.

    Don’t know how you could follow this blog for long and not notice that I play video games…

  • Alexander says:

    Yes, I’m new to this blog. I realize now though that it’s common knowledge you play video games, speaking of which have you had a chance to play Diablo 3 yet?

  • Tomek says:

    i hear your pain, Joe. i’m about to update my gaming rig, or build a new one rather and i’m fixing to do so in a way that it’ll last more than 2 years, hopefully.

    as far as KotA, i’ve tried the demo and decided that it was definitely not for me. i will buy Dragon’s Dogma for xbox 360 though, looks fun, you should check it out.

  • Reignmaker says:

    Damn shame that you don’t play computer games anymore, Joe. Diablo 3 is awesome fun.

  • Late to the party with this, but have you heard about the drama this game’s maker has been going through? 38 Studios, headed by an exbaseball player who loves his games, took a huge loan backed by the state of Rhode Island to move his company here and get the game going. Everything I’ve seen has received the game pretty well but I guess the company is hemoraging money. They’ve missed payments, laid off the entire staff and the state is pissed. That 75mil was suposed to create jobs. ‘Round here we’ve been calling it Kingdoms of Rhode Island: Reckoning

  • Alejandro says:

    “Honestly I’m not sure I’d play another single player one of these”

    Not sure if we will see any new game by the developer:

    And it is really a shame that you won`t be able to check out The Witcher 2 – I think that game would be exactly right up your alley.

    Btw: Any plans to check out the GoT-game?

  • Kevin says:

    I enjoyed your review, thanks! As mentioned above, however, I also advise on trying out the Witcher 2. If you are playing on a 360 they made it available on it, but not on the ps3 yet. That game, for me anyways, was actually far superior to Skyrim in almost every aspect. I played it on the 360 and let me tell you, never have I spent so much time replaying an action/rpg game because the decisions you make in the game actually put you in different spots of the map with quests you can only do if make that decision. The only thing is, it’s a VERY mature game to say the least, meaning some scenes are nsfw. But the combat is amazing, the leveling up, the inventory system, the crafting, everything. I think it’s Skyrim +10.

  • Andrew says:

    I’ve heard very good things about the Witcher 2 if you have any time for gaming coming up. Its supposed to be a very mature fantasy storyline, reminds me of something…

  • Pawel says:

    Since a few people mentioned The Witcher 2 already, I’d like to say that CDP (the producer) took a very rare step nowadays in that they made the story really branch out (and the branches are huge). No false choices that lead to the same outcome or a very similar outcome – based on your choice at the end of first act you actually get a different game (different characters, different locations, different quests). There is absolutely no way to see it all if you don’t play at least twice (making a different choice at that branching moment, there may be more). Video game studios shy away from those techniques, because it costs money and the content you produce won’t be even seen by half of the gamers who purchase your game. But they did, so huge kudos to them for that.

    And Skyrim… just sucks. ;P

  • Morgan says:

    The American baseball player who founded the company that made “Kingdoms” is utterly bankrupt. He was worth 250 million prior to founding the company.

    Have you ever considered teaming up with a quality game company and writing a story for an RPG, Joe? Skyrim sold 3.5 million copies after two days alone at $59.99 per copy. I can’t think of a better way to cash in while infusing SHITTY-ASS games with some quality prose/story-arc for once. Royalties would be immense!

  • For all the fun I’m having with this, having finally jumped on it once the price dropped a bit, I’m finding it more buggy than I ever did Skyrim. Still, it’s good fun and all. Certainly for fun than the Witcher 2

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