Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Kingdoms Of Amalur: First Impressions

Steam tells me I've played Kingdoms of Amalur for three hours now. It feels like more than that but in a good way.

Three hours is enough for a decent "First Impressions" post, I think. I've run through character creation and the tutorial, I've progressed the main questline through several stages and  done some side-quests.

I've picked a crafting profession, Alchemy, and I've done a lot of gathering to support it. I leveled up (just the once - leveling does not appear to be fast), spent some skill points and began to figure out how that all works.

I've also done a good deal of exploring in areas where I had no reason to be, including an abandoned mine, where I found some very nice gear. I've talked to just about everyone I've met and all of them have talked back to me.

Put simply, I've been having fun. So far, I like this game. Let's break that down a little.

Character Creation: 

Seemed very perfunctory although I didn't spend a huge amount of time there. Four races, two "human", two "elven", all of them extremely humanoid. I really didn't care much which I chose. There was some lore and a few racial perks but experience tells me these things never matter much so I just went with the one I liked the look of.

The sliders and choices were pretty limited. I fiddled about for a while, got something I didn't hate and left it at that. An in-game tip that popped up much later told me I could get a house of my own at some point, owning which would allow me to change my appearance. That means I can fix the very heavy lipstick that makes my character look like a particularly grumpy goth although, truth be told, I'm already used to her looking like that, so I probably won't bother.

Any chance we could get a wiggle on? I don't do caves.


Not bad, as tutorials go. It's in a cave, which always gives me Gloomingdale Deep flashbacks, but it starts in media res and moves at a very spritely pace. The game doesn't just give you pop-up tips and instructions, it pauses the whole thing and takes you through stage by stage, which I found helpful.

The tutorial also benefits from being the same as the rest of the game. None of those incredibly annoying pocket worlds (Blade and Soul and, especially, Fallen Earth, come to mind). It gets you accustomed to the absolutely enormous amount of talking you can expect, too.


It's an ARPG so obviously I don't actively enjoy the combat. It's okay, though. There's a load of stuff you can do with dodging and blink-teleporting and ramping up a meter to go batshit crazy. So far I haven't bothered. A simple, relentless hammering of LMB interspersed with a few judicious RMB bursts and the odd prod at the number keys for variety seems to work fine. 

Everyone said the combat was easy and it seems they were right. I'm playing on "Normal", which is what I play all games with difficulty settings on because I consider that to be the "real" game. I wouldn't hesitate to drop to "Easy" if I was having trouble but that looks unlikely.

A sword like that really desrves a name...

Gear makes a huge difference, which I like, so long as I can get some. I was fortunate enough to find a flaming sword in the mine I was exploring, which made me very happy for two reasons. Firstly I love flaming longswords. My very first AD&D character, a ranger, had one and I have had a thing for them ever since. Secondly, KoA is one of those games where mobs have weaknesses to different types of damage and I happened to be fighting a lot of creatures that catch fire easily. So that went well.


I put this separately because it's weird. As far as I can tell you don't regenearate hit points at all. Mana comes back fine but if you're half health after a battle you stay that way until you either drink a potion or visit an NPC healer.

This is why I took Alchemy as my first crafting profession. I was getting some health potions as drops (mostly from chests) but not enough, so I went to buy some from the Alchemist in the starting village. They were so eyewateringly expensive I decided to make my own, which turned out to be a lot cheaper.

Since even the lowest level healing potion completely refills my health bar and has no cooldown, my plan is to make a whole load of them and give myself on-tap complete heals. Be your own cleric.

Crafting and Gathering:

Since we're on the subject of making potions, let's talk crafting. There are only three professions, Alchemy, Blacksmithing and Sagecraft. Alchemists make potions, Blacksmiths make and repair both armor and weapons and Sages make the gems that slot into your gear.

I worked all of those out by myself. Give me a gold star.

I've only dabbled with Alchemy so far (I'm guessing that, since it's a single-player game, your character can do all of them) and I like it quite a lot. It has recipes you can find or buy but it also allows for experimentation. The descriptions of the herbs are meaningful enough that you have a reasonable chance of working out what goes with what to make what, which makes the whole process quite satisfying.

As you skill up (level-granted points rather than on-use skilling) further options open up. It all looks quite promising. Gathering is incorporated within crafting, so some of your "milestones", as the game calls significant skill upgrades, affect what and how much you can gather. It all seems quite elegant but I won't really know until I hit the later stages. Still, good start.


The lure of an open world with few restrictions to exploring it was one of the key reasons I bought Kingdoms of Amalur and so far it hasn't disappointed. It's not one of those games where you can get to anything you see for the simple reason that there's no free jumping, but mostly I've been able to explore without too many problems.

Games that don't let you jump are always odd. The worst I've ever seen were probably FFXI and Guild Wars, where a two-inch kerb might as well have been the Grand Canyon. KoA does better than that by having specific "Jump Points" when the terrain offers a sudden drop. You have to hit "F" (the universal "do a thing" key) and your character hops down to the lower level. It's clunky but not terrible.

I think I've been here before. About a thousand times.

Other than that I haven't run into any invisible walls, restricted areas or roadblocks of any kind. Well, not unless you count bandits, who do like to jump out from nowhere and try to rob me at inconvenient moments. Their mistake!


Not much point exploring if there's nothing worth looking at. KoA's graphics aren't going to win any awards for Most Original or Most Gorgeous but they're perfectly fine. The scenery is a bit World of Warcraft here and there but that's ok. I'm probably going to need to see a few more biomes to make a real judgment but for now it'll do.


Not great. Quite fiddly with far too many button presses or mouse clicks to get to where you want to be - and particularly to get back again. I'm guessing the UI was designed for console controllers and only minimally revised for mouse and keyboard.

Come on, who takes screenshots of the UI? Seriously....

That said, the entire game pauses as soon as you open any window so there's all the time in the world to do whatever you need to do. I'm already fairly used to it and it isn't actively annoying me so I imagine after a few more hours I won't even notice.

Questing and Story:

So far, so good. An anonymous commenter on yesterday's post called the dialogs "primitive" but I've found them to be generally par or better. I do think that MMORPGs set an exceptionally low bar for both narrative and dialog, so anyone more used to single player RPGs probably has higher standards. For my money, though, just about all the dialog I've seen so far is significantly better-written than most of what I remember from Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG widely thought to have superior writing for the genre.

If the writing is solid, the voice acting is better than that. Absolutely everything and everyone is fully voiced and with very few exceptions so far the actors are more than competent and the line readings are correct. 

In this one a gullible newbie is tricked by a human wearing false ears into believing he's working for the Fae, who will teach him magic if he just gets a powerful item out of a dungeon for them. I soon put him straight. And I've got the item.

Line reading in MMORPGs is a particular bugbear of mine. By and large it's terrible. Far too many NPCs end up sounding like they've been called on by an English teacher to read the next few lines out loud to the class and they're trying to read ahead and guess the sense of something they don't have a clue about because they haven't been paying attention.

How this can even happen with a half-way competent director beats me but then so does all that quest text in imported games that looks like it's been run through Google Translate then poorly transcribed. You could hire a native-speaking student from a language school and pay them a pittance to fix it up but apparently no-one cares.

With one bizarre exception, none of that applies to KoA. The dialog isn't just coherently and competently written and performed but it's interesting, too. The main quest is ticking along but mostly I've been learning about the local religions, the ongoing war and the ambiguous and fragile relationship between Fae and Humans as they attempt to co-exist in peace.

This one's self-explanatory and suggests a very positive tone for the game. I was more than happy to get Zelda the book she needed, even if I did have to steal it from a priest.

I particularly appreciate the way every NPC has a different take on this sort of thing. When you see the same dialog options come up over and over (Fae, The War, named NPCs...) you might be inclined to ignore them, thinking you'd already heard all about that. You'd be wrong. So far I haven't had the same response twice and the differing points of view on the same subjects and individuals create a fascinating mosaic.

All in all I'd give the writing and questing a firm thumbs-up.

(The one exception  I mentioned is a gnome called Hugues, who every voice actor insists, presumably under direction, on pronouncing as "Hughes". I can't believe anyone actually meant to spell the very common and familiar name in such a ridiculous way, not even when it's attached to a gnome, so it's either a typo or a directing error. Either way it was driving me nuts while Hugues was in the picture but luckily he's dead now!)

Overall First Impression:

Very positive. I'm enjoying myself considerably. I like my character, I like the progression mechanics and I'm finding the stories interesting. 

We'll see if it lasts.


  1. I thought about linking to my own, rather dramatically more negative take on this game, but I see no particular reason to rain on your parade. Hopefully you'll continue enjoying this. I'm led to believe certain questlines are better written/more interesting than others, so there's surely a lot in there I missed.

    1. I've been playing it all day, on and off. Steam has me at 12 hours now. I've enjoyed just about everything about it so far. I just got my first house which has solved my inventory problems, which was the main thing that was begining to be annoying.

      Every quest I've done so far has been interesting. Mostly they've been side quests. Haven't gotten very far on the main quest yet. I'm more than willing to accept that it's mediocre for a single-player RPG but I'm comparing it with MMORPG questing and by that yardstick it seems well above average.

      We'll see how long that lasts.


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