Backlogged: Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning

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Time to beat: 52 hours and 55 minutes (Main Story and as many side quests as I could find.)

Now you might look at this and say I disliked more things than I liked and objectively that’s true from the list below. However, I really enjoyed my time in Amalur. The story, the little lore spread throughout, and the fully voiced characters helped tremendously to convey an interesting story in an interesting world. The combat got stale towards the end but I think that was because I choose to go full sorcery. When I play through the DLC’s I’ll be respecing to try out the other class trees. A lot of the time you’ll see this game brought up when people are looking for single-player games that feel like MMOs. I’d agree with that there are enough fetch quests and kill 10 whatever quests to qualify. But there’s also an expansive open world with a lot of little secrets and cool locations to find.

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Things I liked:

The World: The world of Amalur features a number of interesting locations. My favorites being the cities of Ysa and Rathir, the Gallows Tree in the Midden, and Nyralim the oldest living mortal who happens to be a giant tree.

 

The Lore: I went out of my way to learn about Amalur. I went through dozens of conversation options with hundreds of NPC’s and quest givers. I read all the books I could find and found all of the Lorestones in the zone for added stories.

 

The Side Quests: Kingdoms of Amalur shines with its storytelling. My favorite series of quests were the Faction Quests for The House of Ballads and The Scholia Arcana. Both were interesting and complete stories in their own right that outshined the main story. My favorite side quest included helping a local Nobel fake his own death by dueling a war hero and then shipping him off the continent. Only at the last minute his mother showed up and paid me to ship him to the war front instead!

 

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Things that could have been better:

The Loot: By the time I went to Klurikon and until the end of the game I didn’t find anything better to equip than what I had. The last 10 or so hours of the game I kept the same armor and weapons. It got to a point where I just stopped picking up loot and opening boxes. There were far fewer styles of armor and weapons in this game than I thought there’d be. It leads to a lot of items being stat upgrades but looking exactly the same as the thing you just unequipped. Even the purple named weapons which had a variety of flavor text ended up looking like common weapons.

 

The Combat: The combat starts out strong with a good mix of dodging and a fairly quick time to kill. As the game progresses and you’re given more skills and more armor dodging doesn’t do much except ensuring you can get your skill off. Halfway through the only thing that could damage me was a big creature, by the end of the game even the bosses had a hard time denting my health bar. I played on normal difficulty and perhaps the sorcery tree is a bit overpowered. At the end of the game, I cast 2 AoE spells that pretty much killed everything in one or 2 hits. I had stacked enough spell cost reduction that the only spell that cost me anything to cast was Heal because it relied on a percentage of my MP instead of a set number.

 

The Dungeons: The gameplay loop of KOA is getting a quest, going into a dungeon, kill whatever is in there, then get another quest. It’s all well and good until the dungeons start looking the same and don’t have any unique items at the end of them. The worst is when they don’t have an exit at the end of them and you have to run all the way back to the beginning of the dungeon.

 

The Housing/ Mining Operation/ Investment Banking?: By the time I finished Amalur I had 4 or 5 houses with maxed out facilities. Unfortunately, I never had any reason to visit them. There’s a mining operation in Detyer that you end up taking over and will net you profit over time. After I finished the main story I went back to the mine and was rewarded with 4k gold. Considering I have about 1.5 million on me it’s not a ton. You can have a Gnome invest for you in Adessa…it’s something I’ve never encountered in a fantasy RPG so I’ll give KOA credit for that.

 

Crafting: Crafting doesn’t seem worth the effort. I invested heavily in sagecrafting to make gems to augment my weapons but I didn’t use it much. Maybe blacksmithing is better but I didn’t see the point in making weapons when there were so many lying around

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Things I wished I knew sooner:

  • Tasks are repeatable quests and ususally can’t be completed so they stick around on your quest list slowly driving you crazy as you complete everything else. I’m looking at you “Gathering Flames”.
  • The Fateweavers can reset your abilitie points, destinies, and skill points for very little money. This would have been nice to know sooner as I spent a lot of skill points on sagecrafting which I didn’t end up using.
  • Fast Travel is your friend and it is a time saver for all the back and forth fetch quests you’ll be doing.
  • Max Detect Hidden as soon as you can. You’ll find hidden doors and chests, enemies will show up on the mini map, and the final point will show you the location of Lorestones on the map. I didn’t realize any of this until about 30 hours into the game.
  • The end of the main story is worth getting too even if the game loses a bit of it’s magic in Klurikon
  • The PC version of this game is full of bugs. But they’re the kind that make you laugh not the kind that breaks your game.

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Nearing the End of Amalur

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I’ve finished up the desert zone Detyre and I can confidently say it is my least favorite zone. The Gnomish city of Adessa wasn’t only confusing to run around, there were a bunch of Gnomes there who thought they were better than me and kept saying so over and over again! Detyre itself was, ok. Each zone had it’s own story again and most of that story was helping a Gnomish mining corporation kick people out of their homes and businesses….the Gnomes are wonderful people in Amalur. I enjoyed the Red Marches the most. The whole zone takes place in a big canyon which leads to some great screenshots. There’s also a tunnel system you have to go through to get to places you can see but can’t reach any other way. I thought that was nifty.

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The main story leads me to find Fomorus Hughes, who raised me from the dead, in some cave trying to recreate the Well of Souls. It turns out the gnome templar who was funding his operation also wants me dead…I hate these gnomes. After finishing up with that quest like and the zones of Detyre it was off to Mel Senshir to break a siege.

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Mel Senshir feels like where the game should have ended. It’s this massive battle where you’re completing objectives and hunting down the big bad Niskaru Balor who you must stop or Mel Senshir will be burned to ashes. The fight with the Balor is the first time I’ve actually lost a boss fight. I mean, this one has mechanics that need to be avoided, I couldn’t just meteor strike my way through it. The battle culminates in a thrilling conclusion where I rip the beast apart with my magic Fate powers and am celebrated as a hero!

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And then I’m told I have to go to a swamp. I can’t even enjoy my time as the “Hero of Mel Senshir”, which the locals now address me by,  because Gadflow still has to be stopped. I had mentioned that I was excited to see the zones of a Klurikon and Alabastra. The zones have cool names like Cursewood and The Twighlight pass. I though Klurikon was going to be more of a spooky foggy place but it’s actually a rotting swamp. The winter Fae live over here and while their counterparts, the Summer Fae, represent life and growth, they represent death and decay. So this swamp is their holy ground. The Midden is my favorite zone in Klurikon. It’s supposed to be a fae graveyard celebrating decay. But the Tuatha are using it as a graveyard for the mortals they kill. The most interesting set piece here is the Gallows Tree which takes up most of the zone and has hundreds of bodies hanging from it. Again, it’s supposed to be a celebration symbol as the Fae do not actually decay when they die. But the Tuatha stuck a bunch of mortals up there who do. Everyone in the zone keeps complaining about the smell.

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Klurikon and Alabastra have fewer locations and fewer side quests than the previous zones. This was a blessing as I’m starting to get a little burnt out on the game. There is a new faction questline for the House of Sorrows in Klurikon. To be honest, I’m not really sure what the point of it was but I did a lot of running around to collect “Sorrows” before someone else did which was supposed to aide in my fight against the Tuatha. It runs you through some dungeons throughout Klurikon but nothing really interesting comes out of it.

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Alabastra was even shorter than Klurikon. It’s actually very streamlined and I believe I only did one or two side quests here. There are some tunnels that will bypass some of the zones and get you closer to the final boss. I didn’t take many screenshots of the place as it’s just various shades of gray rock and blue crystals. At this point, I also stopped delving into dungeons. They were marked on the map and I kept expecting quests to lead to them but they never did so I never went in. Also at this point I’ve stopped looking in chests and even looting enemies because I haven’t seen single gear upgrade since Mel Senshir.

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I’m always surprised how long these zones take to get through. They don’t look that big on the map but by the time I finished Klurikon I had added another 5 hours to my playtime. Alabastra took another 3. I’m not complaining, I enjoyed my time but I also felt like both zones should have been over sooner.

 

 

 

Fleshing out Amalur

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While the dialog and books do a fantastic job of expanding on the general lore of Kingdoms of Amalur, it’s the side quests that flesh out each zone. Much like an MMO, the open world is split into zones with their own names and subsequent quest hubs. Completing a zone is satisfying, it plays on my enjoyment of checkbox gaming.

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Dalentarth

Dalentarth is the region the game starts out in. This is the Fae forest where the Fae mostly live secluded away in their city of Ysa away from mortals. However, I discovered upon visiting Ysa that mortals live there too and the Fae didn’t seem to happy about it. For the most part, the zones in this region had a series of side quest that had a story arch. For example, In Webwood the city has been under siege by spiders and all of the quest center around finding out why the spiders are attacking and stopping them. Glendara has the city of Didenhil which is experiencing a plauge brought on by the sudden appearance of bogarts in the area. The quests here center around getting medicine and finding out where the boggarts are coming from. These mini stories made going through the zones really enjoyable.

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The Wolds

The Plains of Erathell have not given me that same experience. The Wolds was the only zone that had any kind of theme around it. This is where refugees were escaping to from the war but the town didn’t want them so they camp out on the roads hoping for a better life once their allowed in. Tala-Rane was a zone filled with monsters and ruins of a city that used to be there but for the most part was a “kill 10 rats” filled zone which wasn’t that interesting. However, I enjoy the scenery in the Plains of Erathell zones more than Dalentarth.

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Ysa

 

I’ve visited tow major cities so far: Ysa and Rathir. These cities are whole zones themselves. Almost all of the quests take place within the cities themselves. Again this adds a lot of flavor to the cities via lore. Rathir has a whole homeless population living underneath it even though it’s a hub for wealth. There’s even a faction of people underneath who live by sorting through the garbage of the rich and selling it elsewhere. Ysa has the contentions of the Summer Fae living amongst the “lesser” mortal races.

Here’s to hoping that Detyre and the Klurikon are more like Dalentarth with their zone quests. I’m looking forward to Klurikon the most with zones like Cursewood and the Drowned Forest.

 

The Slow Road Through Amalur

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I’ve settled into a nice groove with Kingdoms of Amalur. Lately,  it’s been taking up most if not all of my solo gaming time. At 30 hours in, I find myself in Rathir, the city of the Dokkalfar (Dark Elves) which is where I thought I left off playing on PS3. I can’t be sure though, I know I left off in a big city but that might have been Ysa, the city of the Fae,  and that was way earlier in the game. Perhaps I didn’t actually play this as much as I thought… The main story has me boarding a ship to the next continent so I’m guessing I’m halfway through the game.

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I’d like to say it’s the riveting gameplay or the stellar story that’s kept me playing but that’s not the case. In fact, the combat I remember loving so much has turned out to be just so so. Especially now that I have two AoE attacks that will one-shot almost anything that’s not a large creature. The main story isn’t bad but it’s not all that exciting. What it boils down to is: I’m the chosen one who’s going to break the stalemate in a war that’s been going on for 10 years. Probably, by killing the leader of the Tuatha, Gadflow.

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AoE in action

No, what’s kept me going is the world-building going on in this game. In yet another deviation from how I usually play RPGs, I’m taking my time reading and listening to text that isn’t needed to progress. I’ve found this extremely rewarding thus far. Most NPC’s will have a few lines of dialog relating to the quest and then a list of topics that they’ll also talk about. These range from the zone/city your in, themselves, other NPCs, and events going on in the game world. At first glance, it seems like most of the NPCs will talk about the same topics but I’ve found that each NPC adds just a bit more information about any given topic. I’ve also been reading the books I’ve found on my adventures which do a great deal to flesh out little bits of the world and unlike Skyrim, most of them are interesting to read through. It’s actually kind of amazing how much time and effort was put into completely optional dialogue and text. Especially when you consider that everything is voiced too.

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Kobolds are basically very large rats

I mentioned that I was choosing which quests to do based on urgency. Right now the main quest has me meeting with 2 people who I might be able to help and turn the tide of the war. The way I see it, the war’s been on for 10 years they can wait a few more days to turn it around. So I’ve been doing side quests, a lot of side quests. As of right now, I’ve completed 76 quests. Most of these quests have been interesting and added to the world. I have run into a few quests that are of the “kill 10 rats” variety. For the most part, though they’ve been thoughtfully amazing. I just finished up a quest in Rathir where I helped a wealthy merchant’s son fake his own death by starting a duel with a war hero, putting a sedative on the war hero’s dueling sword, and then arranging for a ship to load him on and take him far away from the war. Unfortunately for him, his mother found out and paid me handsomely to ship him instead straight to Klurikon, the front lines of the war.

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Sir, do you know you’re bleeding all over me?

So I’ve been taking my time with the game. I’ve been completing zones even when they’re no longer a challenge, I’ve been going out of my way to find books I haven’t read yet, and I’ve been drilling down into these dialog trees. The fact that it’s all voiced makes it easier for me to choose those optional dialog trees. That being said, I haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of an RPG in a long time. I’d be open to trying this method with another game in the future even if it’s all text.

Questing with Urgency

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I ran into an interesting Reddit thread last week that I can no longer find. The jist of the discussion was about how different people tackled open-world RPGs, especially when it came to questing.

Typically, when I find myself in an RPG I follow the same pattern. Create a character, do the intro exposition main quest, then vacuum up all of the side quests, and tackle them one at a time until I run out. Once the area is clear I’ll pick up the main quest again until I find another side quest to distract me. And then repeat. This is actually burned me in a few games to the point where I just stopped playing them. I’m looking at you Skyrim and The Withcer 3…

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So I was looking for a new way to approach  Kingdoms of Amalur. KOAR lends itself perfectly to the above method. There are side quests everywhere and also conveniently located in MMO style quest hubs. There are a few quests I’ve run into out in the world but the majority of them are picked up in towns.

I found one unique answer in the thread that I wanted to put into practice for my playthrough. It suggested doing quests based on their urgency. Whether their the main story or a side quest, rescuing someone from immediate danger takes precedence over meeting with someone to discuss something or fetching materials for someone. I’d never thought of doing this before.

So far I’ve found this method to be quite immersive. It’s also been limiting the amount of time between story quests which tends to happen when attempting do all the side quests I see. I’m finding that the story flows better and I’m more engaged with the main quest. But it also leads to situations where I’ll do a whole sidequest line because it feels more important than meeting up with the next story beat.

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For example, the main quest was having me meet up with Alyn Shir, a mysterious assassin looking character who keeps showing up at the worst times, to meet with someone in the House of Ballads to decipher an ancient artifact. While that’s all well and good, on the way I stopped at a town that was suffering from a plague. Didenhil was on the brink of being wiped out when I arrived. I put the learning more about the Codex of Destiny on hold to run several quests to not only gather materials for the medicine to fight the plague but also find its source and destroy it.

I found it difficult at first to skip the yellow exclamation marks when the main quest called for it. Old habits die hard but it’s getting easier as I do it. I’ve had to remind myself several times that I can always come back if I want to. It’s not like I need to do the side quests, I’m already feeling over-leveled for the zone I’m currently in, but there’s that chance that a side quest could reveal an interesting tidbit of lore or launch a quest chain that’s more interesting than the main story.

How do you guys tackle the whole main quests vs side quest thing in the games you play?

 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – The Second Time Around

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I spent most of my gaming time this weekend on Kingdoms of Amalur. I’m trying to make a real effort in playing games I already own this year. And what better way to start that off then playing a game you already know that you like? The benefit of playing a game 7 years after you last played it is that you don’t remember much. Go figure, it’s almost like playing for the first time again.

The last time I played this for more than a half-hour was in 2013 on PS3. I don’t remember why I stopped playing I must have had to go back to school or something. I got decently far and then never touched it again. I endedup buying it at the end of 2018 in a Steam sale with all the DLC since the PS3 has been long since deceased.

Actually, I’m surprised that I can remember so little from it’s had a lasting effect on me. I’m always quick to recommend KOA to friends when they’re looking for a great RPG. What I do remember from playing the first time is the excellent combat and the class system which allows for a lot of flexibility.

There’s also the tutorial which I could run in my sleep at this point. What ends up happening in RPGs for me is it takes at least 8 tries before I’m happy with my character. Sometimes I don’t like the hair or the face. Sometimes I don’t like how a race looks walking around. Sometimes I just want to play a different class after playing for 3 hours….So I get very aqauinted with RPG starter zones.20200118094615_1

The original plan was to make a hammer-wielding melee character. So Boris here was born looking like he was born with a hammer in hand. Unfortunately, halfway through the tutorial, I found a staff that has a very satisfying move set. So instead of starting over at character creation I know have one burly looking mage. The more I look at him the more OK I am with the whole thing.

With this in mind, I also decided to do something I wouldn’t normally do. When you level up you are given a skill point to put into one of 9 different noncombat skills. I wanted to see what happened if I put as many points as I could into Persuasion. So far all this has done is given me a 3rd conversation option that involves convincing people to give me the quest items I just found for them. Which is very useful and sometimes hilarious. At one point I convinced two thieves the hat I stole was cursed and they just believed me and left. Another encounter the option was simply to tell the quest giver that I’m keeping this ring and you’re going to pay for my trouble.

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I’m also not investing in skills that require foraging for items in the world *cough* Alchemy *cough*. I did this last time I played which turned exploration into flower picking simulator. I tend to be cheap in games opting to do everything possible to not spend my hard-earned gold on health potions. But I’ll suck it up this time, I think there’s a heal skill in my future.

I decided to play a pure mage this time around. Last time I was a Finesse/ Sorcery hybrid so I didn’t want to play the same class again. This is yet another odd choice for me in RPGs where I usually roll some sort of DPS melee character. I figured if I’m going to make all these other new choices I might as well switch up the playstyle too. Though this decision was heavily influenced by the Chakram weapon type. Still to this day my favorite weapon in any RPGs. They’re a kind of magic throwing disc that comes back to the user and they are so satisfying to use. I’m glad that the combat is as good if not better than I remember. Its fluid, it feels good, and it makes me feel like a fantasy action hero.