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Critical Reception: Big Huge Games'  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Critical Reception: Big Huge Games' Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

February 8, 2012 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Big Huge Games' open-world action-RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which reviewers describe as "immaculately crafted and beautiful, yet still simple and accessible." Reckoning currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Richard Mitchell at Joystiq gives Reckoning 5 out of 5 stars, praising its "lovingly crafted world," in particular.

"That love is evident from the moment your character emerges from the first dungeon into the light of day, escaping from the murk into a world of fantastic, vibrant beauty," Mitchell says. "Landscapes are bright and colorful, spanning golden and green forests to arid deserts and mountains that saw at the sky. Cities are gigantic, sprawling places with a sense of scale so vast as to make your character insignificant."

The game is rich with content. "The world of Amalur is bristling with quests," Mitchell assures. "While wandering about to finish a main quest, you will undoubtedly encounter a village on the way. Villagers, naturally, will ask your help slaying beasties or recovering items from caves. Should you make for said cave, you will meet a weary traveler with yet another quest."

Character advancement is similarly complex. "Each class of abilities offers a different experience, but all offer a thrill that isn't often found in an open-world role-playing game," Mitchell writes. In addition: "Interwoven with quests and combat is a whole other layer of peripheral systems, ranging from Stealth to Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Sagecrafting and more."

"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning presents a world that is immaculately crafted and beautiful, yet still simple and accessible," Mitchell summarizes. "Every corner reveals a person in need, a treasure to collect, a secret to uncover, a battle to wage. I don't know how much more time I'll spend in Amalur (dozens of hours? hundreds?), but I plan on savoring every minute."

Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb gives Reckoning 4 out of 5 stars. "In very broad strokes, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is comparable to games in the Elder Scrolls series and, to some extent, games in the Fable series," he notes. "You'll be able to call the names of other games out as you see the various things contained in Amalur, but it has a different style and scope than the games you're most likely to compare it to. That's just enough to give it a feel all its own."

"The main quest line and the world surrounding it is probably the most gripping thing in all of Reckoning," Gerstmann explains. "As the first non-immortal to be resurrected (...), the natural order of things is being upset, and by inserting yourself into various situations, you're literally making a difference in the world. This starts as a quest to figure out who you were before you died and returned -- a detail you've conveniently forgotten -- but quickly blows up into a quest to save the world."

Combat is another high point. "The combat feels active, especially when compared to the slow, block-and-strike moves of an Elder Scrolls game," Gerstmann says. "You can equip two weapons at the same time, and each weapon gets its own button. If you like, you can combine fast-attacking daggers with a slower hammer or greatsword, but I found the bow to make an excellent secondary weapon for dealing with enemies at a distance."

"It's hard not to be at least a little disappointed when you start seeing the various spots where the game doesn't live up to the high bar set by its best content," Gerstmann admits. However: "If you finish it fast enough to prevent those doldrums from setting in, you'll have a much better time than the person who digs through every nook and cranny to finish every single side quest."

Edge Magazine scores Reckoning at 6 out of 10. "Much has been said about Kingdoms Of Amalur's 10,000-year backstory, concocted by fantasy author RA Salvatore to act as a springboard for 38 Studios' future projects," Edge explains. "It's certainly as comprehensive as any virtual history in recent memory, and yet arrives in a game intent on cutting through the RPG fat, presenting a more accessible take on the open-world RPG."

"What arrives on shop shelves is an epic RPG with a user-friendly pick-up-and-play ethos," Edge continues. "This most obviously manifests itself in the responsive player character. If you've hacked and slashed a bloody path through God Of War, you won't need any introduction to Reckoning's combination of button mashing, evasive dodges and timed parries. (...) Combat isn't deep, but it is wide, thanks to multiple weapon classes and the mountains of loot within them."

This streamlining hurts the experience at times, however. "Ranged combat, for example, employs an auto-aim that removes all the skill from the player," Edge's writer notes. "Reckoning never quite balances accessibility with the depth expected from an RPG either. Systems are present and correct -- smithing, alchemy, sagecrafting (think: Elder Scrolls' soul gems) -- but are streamlined into neat little asides."

Edge continues: "Amalur's problem, like so many ideas in Reckoning, is its refusal to ask too much of the player. Clarity should be championed -- in interface, control and item management -- but not to the extent that the world is laid bare. Part of the appeal of RPGs is losing yourself in a virtual place, which is impossible if the entire game is a deliberately beaten track."

"At its heart," Edge concludes, "Reckoning is an interesting tale about disrupting cyclical fate -- ironic, considering the game's largely repetitive nature -- and when the story gets to shine, 38 Studios and Big Huge Games' friendlier design presents a welcome change of pace."


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