Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.
Fate can be a funny thing. As beings of independent thought and action, the notion that our future is already laid out for is a hard concept to accept. This is why we're always skeptical of fortune tellers, horoscopes, and get that tingly feeling whenever we experience déjà vu.
Imagine, for a second if you will, that your future is written in stone and that there are people in this world who can tell you exactly when and how you will die. Would you want to know? If you did find out, would you try to change your destiny, even though you know that you can't?
Now let's take this a step further. What if someone came along and destroyed your destiny and the destiny of everyone else in the world? Would you see this person as a savior or as a scourge?
Unfortunately, no such soothsayer was able to help the developer of this week's Easter Egg game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
. The story/fate of 38 Studios and Big Huge Games
is not a kind one. It's rife with tales of mismanagement, political scandal, taxes, angry politicians, and, ultimately, financial failure. The saddest part of this downfall is that, before the doors were closed and the talented team scattered to the winds, they created a great Action-RPG.The Basics
you play as a character simply known as "The Fateless One", the product of a grand experiment bent on granting immortality to mortals. This experiment ("The Well of Souls") was necessitated by an ongoing war with an immortal race known as the Tuatha Deohn who are bent on wiping mortals off the face of Amalur. An unexpected side-effect of your character's resurrection is that he/she is no longer bound by fate and is actively rewriting the pre-determined destinies of everyone they come in contact with, thus changing the path of the war, the lands, and the people of Amalur.
Sticking to standard fantasy character tropes (Warrior/Wizard/Rogue), your "fateless" character is fully customizable and skill points can be spread around the respective skill trees, allowing you to mix and match across each of the three archetypes. Each archetype has their own skill tree complete with special weapons, powers, attacks, and passive bonuses. In addition to archetype-specific powers, there is also a separate tree with universal skills (like Lockpicking, Stealth, Detecting Hidden Objects, and Blacksmithing) that can be upgraded with each level.The Hook
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "That sounds great, obj, but it sounds pretty by the numbers, what makes Reckoning
so special and worthy of being an Eggo?"
I'm glad you asked. Let me tell you.
First and foremost, you can respec all of your character's skills and attributes at any time
. That's right, not only does Reckoning
let you mix and match your every skill allowing you to create a custom blend of tropes, but you can also reset your character and start over whenever you want.
Also receiving top marks is the combat. RPGs often (and rightfully so) get panned for poor combat controls and dynamics. Reckoning
is not like those games. Each character (regardless of class) gets a primary weapon and a secondary weapon that are dedicated to the "X" and "Y" buttons. Dodge is mapped to the "B" button. Pulling the trigger also accesses up to four powers which are mapped to the four face buttons. While only four powers are mapable at any given time, the variety of combat dynamics is an absolute joy and gamers will soon find combos that incorporate both weapons and every power. Within a few levels, the combat of Reckoning
reaches that special place where you actually feel powerful and in control of an amazingly destructive character.
The cherry on the top of the combat design is the "Reckoning Mode". Defeating enemies and varying attacks gains your character "Fate Energy". When this meter completely fills, pulling both triggers allows you to enter "Reckoning Mode", which slows down time, amps up attack damage, and ends with a pseudo-quicktime event (not in a bad way) that allows you to multiply your XP bonus up to 100%. "Reckoning Mode" is like that last scene in The Matrix
where Neo "gets it", stops every bullet, and lays waste to Agent Smith. In short, it's an amazing rush and a great "Get Out of Jail Free Card" against boss characters or hordes of enemies.
The backdrop for this amazing action is just as good. The design dynamic (directed by Spawn
boss, Todd McFarlane) offers amazingly diverse environments from the woodsy beginnings, to arid deserts, to oppressive swamp lands. The character design, while not of high verisimilitude, also fits and feels like a gritty Fable
-esque style. While the graphics, sound, and voice work won't blow you away, they certainly don't detract from the experience or break the immersive quality.
If the game has a drawback, it's the story. The story isn't bad, per se, but the delivery of it is tantamount to throwing you into the deep end of a pool of heavy lore and asking you to drink it with a straw. There's just too much too fast. It's like R.A. Salvatore (the game's story-master) was so proud of the narrative that he wanted you to know every single thing about the universe RIGHT NOW. After a few hours, I reached a point of not caring about the story and only gave character dialogue about 60% of my total attention just to get back to that luscious combat faster.The Achievements
One of the best side-effects of the customize-at-any-time character is that it makes achievement hunting a breeze. A small bit of planning (play the game on Hard right away) can net you every achievement in a single playthrough. What still amazes me is that the ratios are so high even though every single achievement is easily obtainable.
The biggest obstacles and time sinks will be locating all of the game's "Lorestones"
and succeeding at 50 persuasion attempts
. With careful planning and a bit of practice, even beating the game on Hard
isn't terribly tough.
Fortunately for lovers of the game, 38 Studios managed to release two quality DLC packs, "The Legend of Dead Kel
" and "The Teeth of Naros
", before ultimately going under. These packs add an additional eleven achievements and 300G to the base game.The Stats
Just under 25,000 community members have discovered the amazing experience to be found in Amalur and just over 2,800 have completed it. When totaled together with the DLC, Reckoning
sits at a sweet, sweet 2,173 TA score.
Our community has also given the game a pretty resounding thumbs up with a 4.2 rating and the critics agreed as the Metacritic score sits at a solid 80
Gamers in the States can pick up Reckoning
from Amazon for under $20
and gamers in the UK can get it for £12.99
. As always, those prices are for new copies and you'll probably have luck finding it cheaper if you want to go the used route.The Verdict
The saddest part about Reckoning
is that this might be the end of the road for the IP. With the fiery rubble that was/is 38 Studios, the fate of the franchise is in limbo. Much like Amalur, this IP is sorely in need of a fateless publisher or developer to pick up this gem of a title and give it another life.
Fate is what we make of it and the path of the Fateless One is completely up to the gamer. The combat and openness of customization make Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
a shining example of what can go right in a role-playing game. Even the game's dragging (but deep) story can't keep down the fun of this excellent title. With a lower price point (and often available on sale), frequently discounted DLC, and kind achievements, this game shouldn't be missed by fans of RPGs.
If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!