Busywork: The Game
HIGH The fast-paced, flexible combat system and final boss.
LOW The mind-numbing, endless repetition.
WTF Is every daughter in the kingdom in some sort of peril?
Back when I was a teenager living at home, there were several summers when I was out of school and had nothing to do for weeks at a time. If I wasn't fishing or exploring the woods, my brother and I would play Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) until the sun went down, or we'd organize all-day Street Fighter tournaments with neighborhood kids to pass time.
During that point in my life, if someone had offered me a game that I could play straight through for hundreds of hours, I'd have jumped at the chance, regardless of quality. Now that I'm older, free time isn't something I have in excess. These days, I crave titles that deliver rich experiences without a lot of pointless filler. As such, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is essentially the opposite of what I define as quality entertainment.
An open-world third-person RPG, Amalur starts off promisingly enough; after the player is invited to create a character, this avatar promptly comes back to life atop a pile of corpses. If nothing else, it caught my attention. The introductory level then quickly walks through the tutorials and does a good job showing off what is undoubtedly Amalur's best feature: the combat. Immediately after these tutorials, Amalur lapses into a coma-inducing cycle of tedium from which it does not recover.
Giving credit where credit is due, the combat is exciting and well-constructed. The player has the choice between magic-user, thief/assassin or fighter classes (or any mix of all three) and a wide range of weapons to be employed freely. Huge swords, fire-spitting staves, deadly daggers and more… taking on enemies is fast and flowing, and it's a simple thing to go from hammer strike to poison arrow to lightning bolt. Action fans will find much to enjoy here, although players used to the slower nature of most RPGs may find themselves overwhelmed in some of the tougher skirmishes.
Apart from this real-time combat, there is little to praise.
Structurally, Amalur is an MMO without the multiplayer or the online. While the game is technically "open world," it's just a series of empty-feeling areas dotted with enemy mobs, treasure chests, and quest-givers. Expect to spend a large amount of time simply crossing these bland landscapes until a good number of fast-travel points are unlocked, and put aside any notions of any detailed exploration, puzzles or environmental storytelling. Amalur's never heard of any of these things.
In terms of character and plot, Amalur is one of the most egregious examples of telling and not showing that I've come across in quite some time. The game takes delight in taking massive info-dumps all over the player—absurd amounts of wordy, useless lore and generic, oddly-spelled fantasy names that can't be remembered a moment after being heard—and cut-scenes never put the player in any situation more exciting than chatting with an NPC about their lost book or that bandit in the hills. There's no chance in hell of mental engagement or emotional connection.
As an example of how unmemorable "role playing" side of Amalur is, I can't name a single character or explain the story even after finishing the game. There was a lot of rubbish about fate and destiny that's never backed up, and a certain old man and a vaguely evil woman in a skimpy outfit kept making appearances, but I've no idea where the plot was going or who they really were—and it doesn't matter, since nothing I did had any weight or meaning. There was no perceivable effect on the world despite doing my best to "hero up," and play never evolved past checking cookie-cutter quests off a list. Accept boring task from person with an exclamation point above their head, fetch their item or kill their monster, and then return for reward. Repeat until unconscious, and constantly wonder what the point is.
While running this infinite hamster wheel of "pifflequests", the game plods on and on while throwing monstrous amounts of loot at the player—so much so, that rather than each new sword or helmet being something to examine and celebrate, constantly clearing the inventory and selling useless items becomes a job in itself. I firmly believe there is such a thing as too much loot, and I didn't appreciate how much time I spent in menus shuffling things around before making yet another run to the nearest shop because my inventory was full. Again. I must have spent at least a third of my playtime sifting through ever-increasing amounts of stuff, and that's far too much.
While it's great to see a developer take a new (and very welcome) approach to spicing up combat in an RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is purely mechanical where the soul and inspiration should be. Players who can content themselves with massive amounts of loot and an endless series of simpleminded errands may be in heaven, but RPG players craving depth and the ability to make real choices or play a role will be out of luck. It might be a great game if the goal is to kill hundreds of hours of free time, but Amalur doesn't have much to offer otherwise.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 14 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, and suggestive themes. Although the game seems to be one to watch out for, I can't say that I found it especially brutal or bloody. The graphics have a vaguely cartoonish look to them, and the violence isn't especially visceral. The suggestive themes are probably due to skimpy clothing on some NPCs… I wouldn't give this to my kids to play, but I wouldn't jump up to turn the TV off if they came into the room, either.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You shouldn't have any concerns. Subtitles are available for all dialogue, and sound plays no role so long as a few points are put into the skill which makes enemies visible on the minimap. I found no auditory barriers to gameplay.
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I’m almost 25 hours in and am fairly close to finishing the first section (can’t remember what it’s called, but its the first area, all forests and such). I did all the side missions thus far and everything he’s said is spot on. I’m actually review searching now in the hopes that it gets better…but I’m not finding much hope. The combat is pretty cool, but if you take the time to do all the side missions, you rapidly outlevel everything (except in certain instances where the mobs are always your level-ish) and the cool combat ultimately becomes a chore.… Read more »
This is probably the most accurate review I’ve seen, by which I mean it matches my experience totally. I love R.A. Salvatores books so had been waiting for the game with a lot of hope. I played the demo, which I found to be very Meh! To quote Bart Simpson, then I played the real game which was slightly better but not much, the combat’s well done, skill progression also but has been done the same way in countless games. The quests are generic, repetitive and boring, the graphics look out of date, I don’t like the boxed in feeling,… Read more »
Game reviewers giving scores less than 7? That’s the most terrible thing I’ve ever seen! Is that even possible? Until now I wasn’t aware of a number smaller than 7.
If user comment sections disappeared in their entirety from the internet, the internet would be a better place. Great review. Btw, I love Skyrim. And somehow I can contain the boiling rage I feel from seeing that others do not.
forgottenmachine…..I agree with your perspective more than Brads due to the fact you are actually playing the game as it was meant to be played. Brad missed a lot of what was happening by skimming through it. Brad seemed to be reviewing Amular from only a RPG perspective, which limited his review critique somewhat. By the way, you are spot on that the player does effect the world. Maybe not in a loud, in your face sort of way. But since I am making up my own fate as I go along. The effect is more subtle…so far. As an… Read more »
As I mentioned if my first comment, I hadn’t yet played Amalur. That situation has since changed, and I now have 24 hours of playtime under my belt (of the Frost Giant), and judging by the fact that I’ve only recently ventured beyond the borders of the first area, I have dozens yet to put in. Brad didn’t like the game, and that’s perfectly reasonable. It didn’t grab him in the first few hours, and I’d even be so bold as to see he’ll admit he auto-piloted through to the conclusion. And again, I take no issue with that. Out… Read more »
You know, I find it funny that a lot of reviewers are claiming this game is derivative and “boring,” but that it’s good because there are a “lot of things to do.” Is that all it takes these days? Throw a bunch of crap in it, and it’s automatically a good game? Even worse is the attempt by some of this game’s *cough* “fans” to make it better than Skyrim. Seriously, every where I go there is some ridiculous comparison to Skyrim (with Skyrim typically being labeled crap). Like it’s mandatory this game be better than Skyrim in order to… Read more »
Your review is mostly spot on. So why am I enjoying playing the game. Well the fighting is top rate. The weapon use, and the freedom in the combat play is what makes the game. The rest is somewhat good filler. There are so many opportunity’s for combat that sometimes I run from it in order to just get the quest over. I do the quests mainly to find chests or hidden loot with stronger weapons. I do not know the replay value yet, but I have a feeling this will be a trade in when I am completely done… Read more »
Actually, if you read what he has been saying, he says based on Brad’s history of rating on Open world games, he isn’t credible towards that specific idea. Its not an attack on his over all credibility. Also, he was saying you should go to a reviewer who seems to rate open world games on a greater parameter, not go to a reviewer that is agreeable to your opinion. Rule one for buying games based on reviews is to read multiple reviews anyways isn’t it? When you base your purchase off of one person’s review, are you not letting them… Read more »
I think what the Anonymous poster is saying is we should give more weight to reviewers who like the same games we do. I wouldn’t weight a review from a sports-game fanatic as much as one from someone who loved Dark Souls as much as I did.
Brad reviewed Ninja Blade more favorably than Mass Effect 2 so, for me, I don’t read his reviews to help with a purchase decision as much as for the spectacle his words seem to create.
Brad’s 2008 GOTY : Fallout 3, an open world game Brad’s 2010 GOTY : Deadly Premonition, an open world game Brad’s 2011 GOTY : Dead Island, an open world game …clearly Brad doesn’t like open world games, and has an agenda against America’s greatest genre. You guys should try to make peace with the fact that not every one loves every game you love. This site is one of the only game site where reviewers gives their own opinion according to their personal taste and not the “expected consensus about what gamers are supposed to like”. And, believe it or… Read more »
Like it the someone mentioned above, for whatever reason, scores do not show up for me either. And you know what? I really don’t care. I come on here for the excellent writing, not to look at a number. A good reviewer, like Brad is, makes the number irrelevant. Everything you want to know about what he thought about the game is in the review, so I think any misgivings about the scoring scale are missing the point a little. If there should be any criticism towards Brad it should be directed to his writing. I however think it is… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous]So if you don’t like how he reviews certain games, well don’t rely on his reviews for those type of games and find one you trust more. I mean personally I would give this game a 9.5, it is IMO a better game than Skyrim. If others disagree, cool beans, I don’t need others to back up my personal opinion.[/quote] If you don’t need others to back your personal opinion, why are you labeling Brad a non-credible reviewer? That, IMHO, makes no sense. You even suggest that people should find reviewers that bolster their own (set in stone) opinion of… Read more »
[quote=Anonymous][quote=Googoo24]The reviewer over at IGN was essentially calling this the best modern RPG (better than Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Dark Souls, etc.) out right now. Pure comedy.[/quote] I agree with them, its the best one I have played this gen.[/quote] I agree as well. Unlike the reviewer, I have actually played more than what is necessary, and I find everything to be wonderful. The story is much better presented than DOA:2 in my opinion, and the quest variation isn’t special but I have yet to do the same old stuff you always do. So far I have unraveled some… Read more »
[quote=Googoo24]The reviewer over at IGN was essentially calling this the best modern RPG (better than Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Dark Souls, etc.) out right now.
I agree with them, its the best one I have played this gen.
The reviewer over at IGN was essentially calling this the best modern RPG (better than Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Dark Souls, etc.) out right now.
I just think people need to start being more discriminating in who they go to for reviews and such, I mean based on Brad’s other opinions on open world RPGS he is the last person’s opinion I would want to seek and that is just the reality of the situation. i know going in based on the precedent already formed by his previous reviews that I am probably not going to agree with him, so why even read it but out of curiosity and nothing more? Simply put when it comes to these types of games, he isn’t a credible… Read more »
Guys , just a little advice , get on gamerankings and search this game with an average of 8.7 of 10 and read a few other reviews.
Ive been longing for something since fable , to grind a skill tree , with visible enjoyable and upgradable satisfaction. Everything else I’ll leave to skyrim ..
Cant wait !
And of course it got 9 out of 10, “Amazing”, on IGN. Go figure.
So sad to see people incapable of enjoying games because of scores; as if Brad’s singular opinion is the end all in one’s decision to play the game. If you disagree with Brad, than explain why. But to call the review ridiculous is a bit absurd. It’s his opinion.
BTW, the game has been averaging an 80%, and number of reviewers/gamers share Brad’s opinion.
[quote=Anonymous]Brad, you clearly aren’t much of an open world fan (unless it is called fallout), and that is fine. But please stop reviewing them. In fact, it sounds like you should stop playing them altogether.
The genre is not for you.[/quote]
His game of the year last year was Dead Island, an open world game. But please, don’t let my “facts” disrupt your baseless generalizing. =)
Forgot to point out my “cue angry response” comment was directed at the generic response Brad gets when he reviews a highly-anticipated game as mediocre (such as ones he highlighted as examples on Twitter), not the people who’ve commented on this review (which have been, by and large, positive (and rightly so)).
@forgottenmachine You raise some very good points and I completely agree with you. Entertainment with a slow start can result can still be a great overall experience. Just to clarify my post was directed at @nslickerough comment. So my point was to challenge his feeling that 14 hours was not enough time to fairly judge this game. So I was trying to broaden the question of what is a “fair” time sink requirement? 14 hours for many could be an entire weekend or two, and if that is considered to short to get a solid grasp of the experience then… Read more »
Big-named, over-advertsied EA published title turns out, typically, dull. Cue angry response when a reviewer who’s not a moron reviews it properly.
I can imagine the ‘Top Critics’ section of a gaming version of Rotten Tomatoes would only consist of 3 people tops. So, so dire is this medium in regards to writing (both in games and media). Please please continue to write good reviews, Brad, and give us gamers whom aren’t so easily swayed a reason to even bother with gaming media at all.
[quote=Anonymous]This seems like the case. The game is getting great reviews from numerous other reviewers. It actually is averaging around an 85%……and yet this reviewer decided it was basically an F or 50%. That is kind of a ridiculous score in my opinion. I’ve played it and really enjoy it. This guy is probably one of those guys that has to give a negative review to try and stand out……FAIL.[/quote]I don’t understand why this has become the case with ratings and young people’s perception of said ratings, but to clarify: However you are used to grades on your tests or… Read more »
Stare at the text like it’s a Magic Eye and it should pop right out at you.
I kid, I kid. Highlight the last sentence of the review like you’re going to copy/paste it then go a little bit farther.
[quote=Anonymous]Brad, you clearly aren’t much of an open world fan (unless it is called fallout), and that is fine. But please stop reviewing them. In fact, it sounds like you should stop playing them altogether. The genre is not for you.[/quote] This seems like the case. The game is getting great reviews from numerous other reviewers. It actually is averaging around an 85%……and yet this reviewer decided it was basically an F or 50%. That is kind of a ridiculous score in my opinion. I’ve played it and really enjoy it. This guy is probably one of those guys that… Read more »
Brad, you clearly aren’t much of an open world fan (unless it is called fallout), and that is fine. But please stop reviewing them. In fact, it sounds like you should stop playing them altogether.
The genre is not for you.
@Bondage12 Not to sidetrack the comments on the review, but just wanted to respond to this particular question, as it’s something I’m seeing thrown around a lot lately. My question to you would be, do you expect every other form of entertainment in your life to deliver the punch first up, or it’s not worth your time? If I’d put down every novel that didn’t grip me in the first 100 pages, switched off every movie that didn’t have my rapt attention in the first 30 minutes, thrown out every album that just seemed kind of mediocre after the first… Read more »
Finishing a game before reviewing it is not a vital requirement for a good review. Not being interested enough to finish a game is telling in and of itself. Even if he did not finish it, he would have a good explanation. He’s an adult now and doesn’t have time to spend on mindless stereotypical busy-work quests. As I grow older, I find myself feeling the same way, so the review is helpful in finding out if the game is worth my increasingly scarce time. During the summer vacations of my youth I was able to collect all the stupid… Read more »
Sorry to go off topic for a moment, but this has been bothering me for a while, and I’m just going to ask at the risk of being called an idiot, but… where can I find the score!? I mean, I always thought that Gamecritics did not give numerical scores to reviews, but occasionally someone will mention a score even though, try as I might, I cannot find one on screen. I’ve tried reading on IE and Google Chrome but it makes no difference. So, uh, can anyone tell me where the score is and/or what I should do to… Read more »
Just to clarify: the game WAS finished before I wrote the review.
Another clarification: the critical path is *nowhere* near 40-50 hours. Not even close.
If you do every quest in the game I could imagine Amalur lasting over 100 hours, easily. If you do the CRITICAL PATH, it’s closer to 10-12.
Don’t believe me? Check my Achievements. Proof’s right there.
Well, one of the first ads of Kingdoms of Amalur said something like “the first real contender to The Elder Scrolls Throne” and it as last year, so I think this makes the game somewhat susceptible to Skyrim related critics.
The main story line is suppose to be 50 hours, how did you manage to beat it in 14 hours when the other outlets were unable to do so? Sounds fishy, no wonder it’s got a bad review, probably didn’t finish the game. At least you were honest about the hours invested though.
My question to you is at what point is a game suppose to be enjoyable? Five hours? Twenty or thirty hours? If the games pulls in a player in, players will naturally play longer and take care in exploring every aspect of the game, correct? So if a game feels like busy work and is boring, who in their right mind would think: “this game will get better in five to ten more hours.” When you do not like a game, do keep playing and exploring everything or do you shoot straight for the finish line? This is dragging on,… Read more »
Great review. Although I have only played the demo, your review highlights many of the same feelings of “busy work” that I was getting. Thank you for your honest insight on yet another over-hyped game.
>>No it isn’t the kind of game you can breeze through so you can pump out a review. If you do that you aren’t playing the game as it was intended to be played. >>What a silly review. “Intended to be played”? And pray tell, how is that? Sorry my friend, you’re looking at it backwards. Instead, turn it around… Ask why the game wasn’t able to sustain interest for a longer period? Why did I (the writer) feel no pull to see more and do more? We’re under no compulsion for a day-one review, and there’s no time pressure.… Read more »
Only 14 hours in…just played the main quest as fast as humanly possible…I wonder why he didn’t enjoy it?? It’s a mystery to me. I’ve played now for about 5 hours and am beyond hooked. I’ve completed two side quests, both of which I was absolutely enthralled with, and have no doubt that this game is going to be a dear favorite of mine. No it isn’t the kind of game you can breeze through so you can pump out a review. If you do that you aren’t playing the game as it was intended to be played. What a… Read more »
Two things first up: firstly it really is a pleasure to know that particular reviewers will always measure games to an exacting standard. The rate at which brilliant review scores are handed out at present is concerning, but that’s a separate discussion. Secondly, I haven’t played Amalur as yet, including the demo, though I do still have it on preorder. Thus, my comments naturally can only be taken with a pinch of salt, and I’ll be the first to admit that my opinion of the game may match yours come the weekend. So I’m not questioning the score you attribute… Read more »
IMHO, labeling a game “soulless” or “lifeless” overshadows even a horrifyingly bug ridden experience. Since what good is a game if it can not manage to engage the gamer in any respect? Bugs can, in some respects, be fixed. Lifelessness? Fraid not. I think Brad’s score perfectly reflects that. I felt Skyrim’s level of detail—in regards to the structuring of the world itself–overshadowed much of its failings in regards to a plot that could be affected by player ambitions. By contrast, Witcher 2 (which I just finished recently), while offering such complex choices, felt constrained in many respects. IMHO, there… Read more »
@Eric Bowman: I agree with you on DAII and Skyrim. We now apparently have the trifecta of soulless, lifeless RPGs with the arrival of “Reckoning”. I actually downloaded the demo twice because I was so sure that the first time I played, I just wasn’t giving it a fair shake and I really wanted to like this game (I’ve been keeping track of it ever since I first heard about “Copernicus” two years ago). After I played the demo the second time, I realized that: 1) there was no way I could force myself to like this game because 2)… Read more »
Ha! I knew I’d see Skyrim getting mentioned at some point. LOL. It keeps being compared to this title (for whatever reason). Personally,(as some of you know! LOL!)I Loved it. But, hey. Everyone won’t.
Anyway……From the general consensus (including this review) this game seems be standard RPG fodder. Combat seems to be the main attraction.
I’ll wait till it hits the bargain-bin.
Sounds like yet another soulless fantasy RPG. Coming off of last year’s Dragon Age 2/Skyrim double-whammy of dullness, we seem to be forming a pattern. Here’s hoping Witcher 2 on Xbox 360 restores the sub-genre.
Nice review, B!
It was about 1-2 hrs of sidequesting, and the rest was critical path.
Once i realized how bad the writing was and how little the story/quests mattered, i just went straight for the end. there’s like INFINITE play if you do all the quests, though… I just didn’t find them interesting at all.
beat the game in 14 hours? That is surprisingly short from what I’ve been reading around the web. And no, this is not one of those comments criticizing a review for not playing a game for 100 hours. I’m just trying to make an informed decision. Can you speak a little to how you devoted those 14 hours? For example, 50% main quest/ 50% side missions? Or some other mix? You’ve already established one third of that time was spent dealing with loot, so is there really only 9 hours of actual meat here?