|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC*|
|Dev: 38 Studios, Big Huge Games|
|Pub: 38 Studios, Electronic Arts|
|Release: February 7, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Suggestive Themes|
But Kingdoms of Amalur does falter when it comes to story and the characters, and does so in many respects. Despite Salvatore's "creation" of Amalur through written lore, the scripting and execution of conversations feel disjointed. Every plot character you talk to will discuss your topics at length, but the discussion is completely one-sided as you have no opinion, save for a sporadic reply at times to indicate agreement or disagreement. And even then, neither choice has dire consequences or sends the plot in a new direction. The voice acting only accentuates this flaw, where again we have a world full of vibrant and opinionated characters (which thankfully lacks redundancy in the casting), and yet the most important character—you—is a mute.
But not only that, while the NPCs spill their praise or disdain with vocal and physical inflections, your stature remains neutral, with a rigid composure and vacant expression. This lack of connection to the character you're following for possibly hundreds of hours completely removes any amity you feel towards his or her pursuit. There is also no companion system, save for an odd quest where the computer-controlled ally tackles a dungeon alongside you for their own inscrutable purposes and then promptly bids you adieu. The lack of a fellowship gives us no diversity in attitudes, no long-term characters we can grow affection for, and a solo campaign that has you moving from quest to quest feeling like little more than an errand boy (or girl).
The rest of the music and sound blend perfectly with the world. The score fills the background ambience without being too intrusive, and the bass and percussion pick up nicely during boss fights and more intense scenes. Every strike, no matter which weapon you're using, resounds with perfect weight, and you'll never feel shortchanged as you slash, incinerate, or pummel your enemies to a pulp.
The world of Amalur looks absolutely gorgeous, whether you're traversing a lush forest or a barren wasteland, it's just plain beautiful. It's a welcome change compared to more recent RPGs that lean towards the realism, which often means tons of gray. It seems like 38 Studios made an effort to use every bold color in the spectrum, and things just pop as a result. The crafting of the enemies is also top-notch, and each has such a distinctive look and presence that you'll never grow bored hacking your adversaries to bits. The fine detailing is where the graphics seem to lessen in quality, especially obvious in the character models when having a conversation. The facial design matches the overall aesthetic of the game, but you certainly won't spot wrinkles, freckles, and other minutia that would give believability to the world's inhabitants.
While not the first game to be called a hybrid of action and RPG, it certainly is the hallmark of the former, with the robust content that's generally expected of the latter. If you were hoping to be connected to the characters like you did in some of R.A. Salvatore's great fantasy novels, you will undoubtedly be disappointed. But Amalur is still a beautiful and immense world with plenty of secrets to discover and combat that is ceaselessly satisfying.
Date: February 8, 2012