Today I’m going to talk about a game that, while surrounded by controversy, still holds a place in my memory as one of my favorites. If you’re a Rhode Islander, you’ve most likely heard of this one.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning released almost exactly five years ago, developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games Huge Games. I won’t get into the details surrounding the company itself, they don’t factor in here really. Suffice to say, 38 studios wound up going bankrupt and its founder, to my knowledge is still dealing with the fallout. And it’s a damn shame too because the one game they produced was, at least in my opinion, amazing.
The story of Reckoning pulls inspiration from multiple different sources, chief among them stories of the Fae, or faerie. The game is set in a realm known as the Faelands, ancient home of the Summer and Winter Courts of faerie. A once minor sect of the Winter Court known as the Tuatha Deohn and their mad ruler Gadflow have slain the king and begun a genocidal crusade against the moral races known as the Crystal War. As Fae, the Tuatha are immortal. This means that while they can be slain, they will inevitably be reborn again no matter how many times they are cut down. Faced with such a threat, the mortal races fare poorly against the Tuatha and begin to despair of survival, let alone victory.
In an effort to replicate the immortality of the Fae, a gnome named Fomorous Hughes creates the Well of Souls, an arcane invention designed to recycle mortal souls so that men and elves will stand a fighting chance. The experiment is largely unsuccessful, until your character dies elsewhere and is reborn in the Well. Your adventure begins as your freshly created character crawls out of a pile of corpses and makes their way into the festering bowels of Hughes’ lab in search of answers. You find the gnomes under attack by the Tuatha and help them clear the way to the upper floors, getting used the mechanics of the game as you do. When you finally do reach Hughes’ himself, any extended explanations about what’s going on are cut short when the Tuatha catch up and the tower begins to collapse around you, your only lead after that being to look for a man named Agarth. You fight your way up and out, emerging into the tranquil forests of Dalentarth.
Wander a little ways onward and low and behold, there’s this Agarth fellow just waiting for you. In the Kingdoms of Amalur, everyone has a predetermined fate. When you are born, your life is set in stone from that moment on. Certain gifted men and women can read these fates, laying out destinies plan for you to know. Agarth is one such person, known as a Fateweaver. But when he tries to read you, he finds that you don’t have a destiny. As one who has already died once, your character exists beyond fates grasp, and moreover, has the power to alter the fates of both the people and the world around you.
There’s a lot more to the story and I don’t want to spoil it all here, but that’s the bones of it. I love the premise of it, the idea that you can quite literally change the fate of the world by your actions. They also put a fairly crazy amount of effort into building up the lore of this universe they created, there is a ton of information in game to check out about the history of Amalur.
The gameplay itself is well put together, combat is seamless and fluid. For their time the graphics are actually really good and they hold up fairly well now, five years later. As befitting a game where you choose your own fate, you can pick from a pretty wide variety of classes which determine your characters fighting style. These combine three different skill trees, much like World of Warcraft pre-Mists of Pandaria and you can mix and match them to suit your personal preferences. Each class has a variety of weapons to choose from, including my personal favorites the chakram and the iconic ‘faeblades’ (quite literally demon hunter weaponry right there). You also get multiple ‘trades’ to max out, including such RPG staples as blacksmithing, lock picking as well as less commonly used ones like dispelling and detect hidden.
All in all, Reckoning is a fun game with an interesting story, memorable characters and gameplay with plenty of customization to suit you and your preferences. I played through the game multiple times when it first came out after pre-ordering it on a whim and I was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. My only regret is how things went down with the creators and the fact that we’ll likely never see another title. Nevertheless, give Reckoning a shot if you’re looking for something new (old?) to play. You won’t be disappointed.