Developed by 38 Studios & Big Huge Games. Published by EA / PC, 360, PS3 / Â£28-Â£45
Reviewed by Phil Lunt & Janey Barnet
You wake up on a pile of rotting corpses with no knowledge of who you are and where you came from. Always a good start for a roleplaying game.
But this isnâ€™t just any old RPG. No. This is an M&S RPG.
OK, not quite, but this is a game that has been put together by a dream team of creators: Fantasy author R. A. Salvatore (Forgotten Realms, DemonWars Saga) created the overall story and lore; Artist Todd McFarlane (Spawn, Spiderman) oversaw the art direction; Ken Rolston (games designer on Morrorwind and Oblivion) led the games design team and Grant Kirkhope (composer for Rare on many games such as GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark) the soundtrack.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, in all fairness, not much has, really.
The story revolves around decades of war ravaging the land which sees a new race of tyrants enter the scene: the Tuatha Deohn, a sect of Winter Fae who are determined to bring chaos to all of Amalur. These guys are brutality and war compared to the Summer Fae who embody nature and the ethereal. Youâ€™re thrown into the mix as someone whose destiny is undecided. You begin the game as a blank slate, resurrected from a gory death with your whole life ahead of you. Again. You have to find out why and what your role in the grand scheme of things really isâ€¦
And this is just tip of the iceberg stuff, thereâ€™s a huge back-story on the Kingdoms of Amalur world available on the official website. 10,000 years of back-story, actually.
This is old school video game RPG done bloody well. Fine, the wheel has not been reinvented here but it is fun to play, easily accessible and the story will keep you coming back for more. I got the impression that initial quests and side-missions were a bit samey, and a bit of an experience point grind, like â€œMy son/dog/husband/wife has gone missing, please find them!â€ but they do vary as you progress through areas.
Combat can range from button bashing madness to intricate strategy, juggling the plethora of weapon choices with playing style, magic over cold steel, ruddy great warhammers over swishy little daggers!
Thereâ€™s just so much to do! The talent trees are interesting and require some thinking about choices depending on your playing style. You can lean towards being a Mage (Sorcery), a Warrior (Might) or Rogue (Finesse)â€¦ Or mix it up and be a bit of everything. Each one comes with skills that can be upgraded which give you extra fighting moves or spells and effects.
The quest areas look great! Not too big, but large enough to be interesting without getting boring or repetitive. The entire game world is very stylised and colourful. The contrast between areas such as the magical, Fae inhabited forest and the desert areas, for example, is quite striking and well executed. The music is very enchanting and magical and really does help to enhance the game-playing experience.
To many gamers, Amalur will remind them very much of the Fable series of games with its similar look and feel. Thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing and, up to now, I think Amalur is certainly on a par with the Fable series, minus the Monty Python humour and forced moral choices which many people might be happy about!
Iâ€™ll get some niggles out of the way now. The lip-syncing isnâ€™t brilliant and the accents, oh the accents, are pretty bad in places. They try Irish but it comes out asâ€¦ Iâ€™m not sure what. There are also occasions when old characters have young sounding voices which just grates. This makes me stick on the subtitles so I can skip through dialog a lot quicker.
The inventory system can be a little clumsy, too. Having to scroll through a ton of stuff before finding what I want just hurts the flow of the game. There is a quick access inventory option, using what is called a â€œradialâ€, but for reasons unknown not everything can be mapped to this. Itâ€™s mainly there for potions and other consumables. I like swapping weapons a lot, though. Itâ€™s always good to have the right tool for the job. However, thereâ€™s no quick way of doing that beyond being able to pick a primary and secondary weapon, it seems.
While Iâ€™m currently on a sabbatical from Skyrim (I played that a lot over the Christmas holidays but then I took an arrow to the kneeâ€¦ and Lydia just wonâ€™t stop going on about carrying my burdens!), this more than nicely fills the gap and can eat up just as much time. Fun, accessible, good to look at and engrossing. Well worth the RRP any day.
Janey Barnet can be seen blogging about her experiences in Skyrim here: http://obsessivecompulsivedragonborn.blogspot.com/