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Kingdoms of Amalur: seven ways to make it a 10/10

Further thoughts from our reviewer on where Reckoning could improve

I hate reviewing games like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. You've got a bazillion hours of role-playing game to quarry, and only a thousand words or so in which to detail the results. It's like trying to balance an inverted pyramid on your head, or suck an elephant through a straw.

Fortunately, this is the Internet - insatiable word-maw and pusher of conceptual boundaries. Is there room for a follow-up feature dissecting a few of our review's criticisms, explaining where this generally decent role-player goes wrong in more depth? You bet there is. For reference, here are our features on how to make Battlefield 4 a 10/10 game and - questionably - how to make Skyrim worth an 11.

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Hope you like plains.

1. Sharpen up the direction
You can have the most insipid, least literate and/or most offensive script in the world and still make the player weep/giggle like a schoolgirl/applaud like Citizen Kane, providing your direction is engaging. Amalur is stuffed to the seams with rich albeit musty, enthusiastically performed dialogue, but all of it's communicated via cutscenes that trade on precisely three camera angles. It's about as exciting as flicking back and forth between comic strip frames. If you're going to yank me out of real-time play for the sake of interactive cinema, make your interactive cinema cinematic.

2. Cut the filler
Most of Amalur's NPCs have opinions on exactly the same things. In fact, most of them have the same opinions on the same things. All human villagers seem to agree that rogue Fae sect the Tuatha are a bad lot, for instance, what with the endless bloodshed and all. It's nice that there's consensus, but after trawling through hundreds of pointless, tortuously distinguished responses, I sorely wish it was an unspoken consensus. Or at the very least, a consensus confined to on-the-fly dialogue rather than dumped below every new quest prompt. Sure, it's all stuff you can ignore, but this is an RPG - excavating the backstory should be part of the thrill.

3. Chop up the terrain
In theory, Amalur's open, welcoming, gently graded world is empowering. Resist the plentiful distractions, dodge the high-level enemies, and you can go pretty much anywhere straight off the bat. But the geography's failure to put up a fight takes the satisfaction out of exploration. One thing Skyrim proved is that finding something (or somewhere) is far more valuable than what you actually find. Its scenic spots and incidental rewards demand sustained attention to the world itself. Whereas Amalur's crypts, castles, treasures and townships are just there. All you need do is keep walking.

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We love a punch-up, but there's more to life than punching.

4. Make the art design weirder
Fantasy is a funny old word. It should mean anything, but in the eyes and ears of many, it has very definite, cast-iron connotations: florid Elven sculpture, bearded peasants, fluting turrets, bubbling cauldrons, spangly robes, yadda yadda. There's nothing wrong with that - I like donning dresses as much as the next man, providing the next man's Matt - but I'd argue that even the most determined piece of genre fiction needs a flash of pure unreality, of the utterly alien, and Amalur never bothers.

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