Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not the same genre

Kingdom of Amalur is, well, it certainly is a thing. It is a big thing, a sprawling thing, with many things to do to other things with sharp things. There are quests things all over the place; I would often stumble across two new things to do on the way to do a different that also had nothing to do with the main thing I was supposed to be doing. Volume does not necessarily have anything to do with quality, so while there are many, many things to do I have found myself not giving a damn about any of them.

Last night I dropped off of a cliff and landed on top of thief. Instead of killing me for my gold he assumed I was looking to join his illustrious cadre and told me where to find the leader. Let me say that again: a thief told a total stranger who fell out of the goddamned sky where the head of his guild was. At least the fighters guild made me run one cursory fetch quest before whoring out the details. Amalur's problem is certainly not the variety or quality of side quests, it is how they are presented. In Skyrim the guilds are part of the world; they make sense and have full stories all their own. So far it feels like Amalur is putting these things in because there is a rule in the big book of western RPG rules that says they have to be there.

This poor narrative and completely absent world building is a shame, because as a game Amalur is quite good. The third person combat is crisp and responsive, rewarded timed attacks instead of massing X over and over. Stealth actually feels like it works. The leveling (or fate) system is very customize-able, allowing people with short attention spans to grab abilities from three different classes, creating a Frankenstein class of their very own. I have an incredible fear of change and multi-classing, so it will thief all the way for me. Back stabbing a sleeping bear is one of the coolest things I have ever done in a game.

Amalur is certainly not better than Skyrim, but I am not certain they are even the same thing. Amalur is an very good game, but I will develop no affection for the world and its characters. Skyrim was a place that I went every night for over a month, a place that I would to go back to as soon as Bethesda gets around to releasing some DLC for it.

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