Your Daily McMaster: what I reckon

, | Games

Every time I get into the groove of Kingdoms of Amalur, something shoves a stick in my spokes. Just wandering through the world and discovering new locations is a thrill. The game is littered with enemies to encounter and places to explore. The combat is exciting. All of these things go into making a successful game, but something isn’t right.

What’s missing, after the jump

It took a while but I think I’ve figured out what Amalur is missing – a soul. Each quest I’ve encountered has been forgettable. The dialog is presented from the standpoint of the mute protagonist, allowing you to choose an option and then watch as the NPC you’re addressing canters and cavorts around like an automaton in the Hall of Presidents. This is only amplified by the dead stares you give everyone as they talk. It’s a bit awkward, but so is a lot of Amalur.

In a weird, Frankenstein sort of way, Amalur has taken many parts of other games and cobbled them together. It’s hard to play for more than a few minutes without noticing something new it borrows. While the pedigree may come from Salvatore’s story, McFarlane’s art and Rolston’s design, the gameplay and world come from every other fantasy RPG setting out there.

It seems like the design team sat down and wrote up a giant list of things they like from other games and then just decided to do it all. This sounds like a good idea – hey, more of all the stuff you like – but the reality is never as good as the concept. The pieces of a game are only made enjoyable by careful design inclusion, which is missed in the “everything and the kitchen sink” method. And then there’s the difficulty.

In the over forty hours of Amalur that my wife and I have played, she has died twice and I have yet to shuffle off this mortal coil. And, before you ask, no we’re not playing on easy. We’re not playing on hard, either, mind you, but certainly not easy.

I really want to like this game. I kind of do like it. I just don’t imagine I’ll be playing it much more. Either way, I hope Amalur had a good opening and 38 Studios gets another chance. I think they’re close to something great.