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Gabe / on Fri, Jan 27 2012 at 9:12 am

Amalur

Once again I was able to beg an early copy of a game. This time I scored Kingdoms of Amalur. I’ve been playing it now for a few days and I am in love. I’m probably not supposed to talk about the game yet but I figured it would be much easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission as the old saying goes.

I’m not incredibly far in the game and I don’t want to spoil anything but I do want to give my impressions. Yesterday on Twitter I said I thought it was better than Skyrim and I want to tell you why that is.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a problem with open world games. When given all these options I tend to get paralyzed rather than excited. for some reason Amalur is different and I think I know the reasons why:

The combat in Skyrim is miserable. If games like Bayonetta and God of War are on one end of a spectrum, games like Skyrim are so far on the other end that they have fallen off the spectrum and actually can not even see the spectrum from where they are. It seems like if you want to play a massive open world RPG you have to give up a fun,energetic combat system. The thrill of discovering a cave full of vampires in Skyrim is diminished by the knowledge that once I get in there, fighting them is just going to be a chore.

Amalur is the polar opposite. The combat system in Amalur is fast paced and incredibly deep. I’d say the way this game handles class choice is one of my favorite things about the title. There are three skill trees, might, finesse, and sorcery. As you level up you earn talent points and can invest them into any branch you like. So far pretty standard stuff. The twist is that throwing points into these trees will slowly unlock hybrid classes. For example, I started off in sorcery and chose a pretty standard wizard type class. I got a bonus to my mana pool and that sort of thing. Then I started putting points into finesse and I unlocked a couple of hybrid classes. Now I’m a spell casting rogue with magic blades! I get a bonus to blade weapons and a boost to magic damage. There are tons of these hybrid classes encompassing all the various combinations of talent points and trees. So as you play the game and shuffle your points around you can also be cycling through different class choices each with their own bonuses and special powers.

Having cool powers and a great class wouldn’t matter if the combat itself sucked though. thankfully Amalur delivers a visceral, smooth, flashy combat experience that I’d put up alongside games like Darksiders and Devil May Cry. I think that in Skyrim, story, exploration and discovery are the things that are supposed to keep you playing. Amalur has all that stuff too but it doesn’t sacrifice the game play to deliver it. This combat would feel right at home in an action game but they have combined it with solid writing and a massive open world.

The other big thing that keeps me in Amalur is the art. Skyrim is nice looking in its own way but I found the gray and brown to be incredibly boring after a while. The world felt procedurally generated to me rather than built by a designer. Obviously Amalur’s style isn’t for everyone. It has been compared to WoW and Fable which, honestly I think is fair. If that sort of style doesn’t turn your crank then Amalur isn’t for you. personally I lost interest in exploring Skyrim and Dragon Age 2 because I never saw anything that looked very interesting. A big part of the reason I play games is for “new art”. That is the thing more often than not that keeps me progressing. What will the next level or zone look like? Amalur in my opinion is absolutely beautiful. This world has been thoughtfully and artfully constructed. It is vibrant and unique in a way that makes me hungry to explore over the next hill.

In the end I just want to make sure this game doesn’t slip past your radar. I think it would be easy to look at it and think it’s a pretty standard RPG. In reality Amalur is a unique experience full of great ideas. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

-Gabe out


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