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    dkirschner's Kingdoms of Amalur (360)

    [August 19, 2012 10:32:16 PM]
    I don't think I've ever written this much on one game, but it's such a long one. After I finished it, I looked online to see what else you could do since you get to keep playing after you've beaten the main quest, and people were talking about spending 200 hours and stuff on KoA. Like they tried all three classes and the hybrids, crafted all the best weapons and armor for each class, found all the lorestones, did all the quests, etc. I think there are so many better (action)RPGs out there, I couldn't justify doing anything after the main quest that wasn't challenging. Unfortunately there aren't any special secret hard bosses, and I reached the level cap of 40 before beating the game which means nothing would ever be difficult (nothing was ever difficult in the first place either), so there really wasn't anything left for me to do.

    Kingdoms of Amalur was a really solid experience. It didn't innovate anywhere. Just a jack-of-all-trades action RPG with what I think is an excellent story in an excellent universe. I've talked about how average every system in the game is in previous entries, and it stays that way to the end. For skills, I ended up maxing out or near-maxing out a bunch of them, and they simply aren't that useful. For the talent tree, I got all the sorcery spells maxed out, and then went into the might tree for some nifty bonus health and a cool berserk mode for when I dropped below 25% (which never happened, lol). So I ended up unlocking a couple levels of the warrior destiny for going through the might tree and a few levels of the battlemage destiny for having sorcery/might talents.

    As far as the leveling goes, I've mentioned how unbalanced it is, your level/zone for example. Simply by doing quests, I outleveled all the zones. When I decided to quit doing side quests, the zones caught up a little bit, but even by skipping virtually all side quests in the Plains of Erathell and Klurikon and Alabastra, I STILL hit the level cap of 40 before the end! If someone could please explain to me how that should even be possible, I would love to hear it. What that says to me as a consumer is "Hey, we inflated the amount of content in this game so we can say it has 200 hours of gameplay, when really you'll hit the level cap and beat the game in 50. But do go around and needlessly do 100 more quests because they're there." And I swear, the entire zone of Detyr needs to be wiped from the game. The others were magnitudes more interesting. I really disagree with the people who called the story generic and forgettable. There is SO MUCH detail behind the Fae and much of their culture is very fleshed out. I feel these people didn't spend much time chatting with the NPCs, because that's where you really feel the depth of the lore. Again, EVERY NPC in the game says DIFFERENT things. It's amazing. Alternatively, people who degrade the story definitely have grounds to do so if Detyr is their main source because the gnome mining operations in the desert is such a played out thing in fantasy.

    Turns out I was correct in predicting how the game would flow through Klurikon and Alabastra. You do indeed travel south through these zones with your powerful 4 or 5 super-allies to the heart of the Tuatha. It is much faster paced, less side quests (there is one more faction, which was a fun story to play through), less crap to explore. I do question how there are so many little camps of humans and good Fae in Tuatha lands. If they've had Mel Senshir under siege for 10 years and their army has been growing becoming more fierce, then I'm not sure I believe that there are so many human and Fae camps in Klurikon and Alabastra. I believe the Tuatha would have pretty much exterminated them all. But I guess you gotta have side quests. No, actually, you don't. It is possible to make an even more interesting main quest without 'fetch me 3 pineapples' or 'kill 8 garden snakes' or whatever variety, in order to use all the space and cool places in these zones.

    Here's my biggest thing at the end though. This whole game is about your character being fateless. Everyone else is bound by fate. You, however, can actually change other peoples' fates since you don't have one and are free of it. So throughout the game, they play on this idea so you get some different outcomes by choosing one way or another for parts of the main quest and for faction quests. It's typically basic light side/dark side type stuff, but I always appreciate the effort. But at the end of the game when you have to go stop the God that Gadflow is summoning, you have no choice! You have to stop it! You can't say "I will ally myself with the evil god and herald the destruction of everything! Hahahahahaha!" WHY!? You've let me make some important choices throughout this game which is ABOUT changing fate and changing the world, yet you won't let me change the final outcome?! I mean, technically then you couldn't continue to play the game afterward because the world would be destroyed, but maybe then they could have just replaced all the NPCs with Tuatha or something. And I wouldn't mind it if they'd let me destroy the world and then put me back in the normal world after beating the game. Like, I can deal with that inconsistency. Anyway, sort of lame there.

    And there you have it.
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    [August 15, 2012 10:34:46 AM]
    As I raved in earlier entries, the first chunk of KoA had me mesmerized with the story and level of detail in the world. That lasted through most of the epic play sessions the first weekend. After playing KoA now for a bajillion hours it was dragging pretty horribly until the end of my last session before today renewed my hope. I thought about it and figured out what went so wrong in the mid-portion of the game (at least what I think was the mid-portion of the game), and it is this: the story derails through the entirety of the Detyr zone and only picks back up halfway through the Plains of Erathell. If you do the math, that's about half of the territory covered so far (~12/24 subzones, plus cities) where the events of the main storyline and even the faction quests are largely abandoned. The number of side quests and tasks ballooned in these zones relative to main/faction quests, and my character's life began to feel meaningless. Also, as ranted in the last entry, I realized my level was getting ahead of the game. Apparently by doing all the quests the game offers, you end up outleveling it by the 3rd zone, which is just bad. But like I said, I ended the session-before-last on a high note...

    The first three zones are essentially friendly territory in the war against the Tuatha. They comprise a continent separated by sea from the eastern lands where the Tuatha have occupied. So up until this point you're following the story to the giant city of Rathir on the coast. The port city across the sea to the east is Mel Senshir, and its battered walls have been under siege by the Tuatha for 10 years. If the Tuatha take Mel Senshir, then they can sail in force to the western lands, to Rathir, and sweep across that continent and win their war.

    The session-before-last, I picked up where I left off in Detyr, the pointless desert land filled with gnomish mining companies, and where nearly every quest has you going into one mine or another. After becoming frustrated with the never-ending brown of the landscape and the endless mine shafts, I made a few decisions: (1) finish Detyr and get to the Plains of Erathell as fast as possible (I was close to finished already and figured I'd close it out); (2) once in the Plains, focus on the main quest and the faction quests only, minimizing side quests and exploration and letting the main quests lead me around; (3) quit picking up so much junk to sell - only take magic items. These were all good ideas. I barely visited a couple subzones in Plains and didn't miss them at all. I got way more enjoyment focusing on the more interesting main and faction quests. These made the side quests pale by comparison, which made me worry less about ignoring farmers begging me to find their families and whatnot. And since I am filthy rich in the game, learning to ignore the majority of items has saved a lot of time sorting inventory and traveling to sell. The money thing, by the way, has gotten really out of hand. I have almost 3 million gold now with nothing to spend it on. So again, the mercantile skill turned out to be addition to most of the others that are also pointless. ANYWAY, I made it my goal to plow through the Plains and get to Rathir, and at the end of my next-to-last session, I'd almost explored all of that city, leaving off with the excitement of knowing the next time I turned on the game I'd get to sail to Mel Senshir and plunge into the siege.

    Today I started with the intention of setting sail, but remembered I had faction quests to finish, and I like those, so I started on them first, partly to make me anticipate Mel Senshir even more. And Oh My God I love these faction quests. I had the second-coolest experience of the game tonight (first was seeing Nyralim and that'll be real tough to beat). There are three factions, the Warsworn (Elder Scrolls fighters guild), Travelers (Elder Scrolls thieves guild), and Scholia Arcana (Elder Scrolls mages guild). Tonight I finished the Warsworn story arc and it was AWESOME. I don't want to ruin it in case someone here reads and plays, but there's a twist of fate at the end that is really badass and gives you the option to be unbelievably evil (or maybe you were manipulated). This had the first real consequences on the world of anything I've done in the game and I'll have to live with them until the end. Then I pursued the Travelers quests some more, and it looks like there's another cool twist right at the end. This one I definitely didn't see coming and I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can do about it next time.

    Also looking forward, I did go to Mel Senshir but stopped short of leaving the gates. I HOPE, I really really hope, that the game's narrative pace quickens and it moves through this eastern continent quickly. Technically there really shouldn't be a whole bunch of side quests since it's occupied by the Tuatha, the enemy, and there aren't any allied settlements as far as I know since the Tuatha are laying siege to the only allied stronghold on the continent. I imagine I'll be traveling south to the Crystal Throne of the main Tuatha King guy or whatever with a band of other heroes I've met throughout the game. I expect a bunch of epic battles! I've already been prepped that the Witch King and his demon niskaru lord Balor are moving toward the siege and I'm to intercept them. Those two enemies are badasses that I've been hearing about half the game, so I'm really excited.

    Other than hopes and dreams, my sorcerer is a super badass. I filled out the sorcery tree to the top for the spells, and am putting the rest of my points into the warrior tree to pick up some extra health and elemental resistance and this passive skill that increases my damage and health regen when I fall below 25% HP. The only downside is I won't unlock the final Sorcery fate card, but I'll live. I'd rather have more HP and that passive skill than all the sorcerer weapon skills because I rarely use weapons. My favorite spell is Meteor. It takes care of most groups of enemies in one shot and feels very overpowered. But luckily I've let the zones' levels catch back up to me by skipping a bunch of areas and ignoring tons of side quests. When I get into the eastern continent, I should be right on the high end of the level caps, which is acceptable to me. Oh also, I've maxed out and filled up a lot of my skills. I can make epic gems now with sagecrafting. Unfortunately I never use equipment with gem slots, but I need to look out for some worthy upgrades because I can make epic gems that give me +20% to all elemental damage. Holy crap. I'd love to stack those. Since the levels are higher in the eastern continents, I think the item levels should increase too and so maybe I'll get upgrades real fast.

    And that is that. Onward and upward. Backward not forward. And spinning, spinning.
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    [August 8, 2012 12:05:48 PM]
    A handful more things I've remembered/observed/done since last time...actually...they're all criticisms.

    I was wondering about the potential monotony of the battles later on since I've now reached the top of the Sorcery skill tree in the early 20s. One thing that DEFINITELY will contribute to it, and that has been annoying for a long time already, is that you can only have 4 spells active at once. You map them to ABXY. But there's no equivalent of Shift+ABXY to get 4 more spells and there really should be. As a sorcerer, you learn your basic fire, ice and lightning spells almost immediately. Then pretty soon after you can learn heal and summon your ally. That's 5. I keep my ally mapped instead of healing since I can make and use practically infinite potions, and since my ally now leeches life for me. But now I have some mixed elemental spell and I'm about to learn a Meteor spell. That's 7 spells for 4 buttons. If you want to change ready spells, you have to go into your skill tree and manually change every time. Why did they do this? I have a simple solution: L3 or R3 brings up 'page 2' of your spells. Or L3 page 2 and R3 page 3 so you can have 12. They have a radial menu with like 8 slots too. They could have doubled that also with an L3 control. It's stupid. So now instead of using more variety with my sorcerer who is already lacking in variety and feeling a little stale, I actually WANT to stick with 4 spells because changing them is so tedious. Fail.

    Another fail is the voice synchronization on the lorestones. Kingdoms has really nice voiceovers. The only problem with the voices is on the lorestones, which are these pillars you find scattered throughout the world that contain an interesting story or poem or something to listen to that tells you about some legendary hero or whatever. You click on the lorestone and it just reads to you, except the subtitles and the sound are totally off for all of them. I can't just listen to it because there are a bunch of fantasy names and places so I don't understand the nouns coming from it, and I can't read along because the voice is usually lines ahead of the text by the end. What I want to be able to do is listen/read/continue running at the same time, but if I want to get the lorestone story I have to stop what I'm doing and strain my ear to pick out what Kholgardarion the Munificient, Lord Herald of the Barathian Gogdlund Wastes is up to. I can't understand those words without reading them! A minor gripe, all things considered.

    Another annoying thing is the sound of my protection shield's spheres. I have this constant shield on, the one I mentioned last time that distorts my view of landscapes and things. As you level it up, you get these 4 spheres orbiting you that damage enemies. They make a hefty noise when they hit enemies. Unfortunately, they hit everything else too, like walls, barrels, doors, and NPCs, so I CONSTANTLY hear PSSH PSSSH PPSSSH PSSSH PSSH PSHH when I'm running especially in towns or in dungeons through the narrow corridors, which is like half the time. It's gotten really irritating and I wish I could turn their sound off.

    And one more fail is the zone levels. Like I said earlier, there are 5 like megazones with about 8 subzones each. I've almost completed 2/5. I got curious today and looked up what level enemies are in these zones and how Kingdoms handles enemy/player level. Turns out there is a min/max enemy level for each little zone, and once you enter the zone at your current level, the enemy levels are locked to match if it's within the zone's range. If you're higher than the zone's range, then enemy levels is at the zone's max and if you're lower then it's at the zone's min. Makes sense. Except that I'm just now at the max for this current zone, and thus the megazone since this is the last zone in the megazone. The problem is that the next megazone is the same level at it's end. But I already out-level the first 6 zones in the next megazone, so it's going to be really easy. Of course it makes me wonder what the hell is the point if there's no challenge. Story lines, okay, but still. What should I do? Should I play just to hear all the quests? Should I make a beeline straight for the end of the megazone to catch up with my level? Why would they design the game such that if you follow the quests and just take the ride, you out-level an ENTIRE ZONE before the midway point, rendering it practically useless? By the time I get to the end of that megazone, I'll out-level its end zones too. So I'll have played the entire megazone at least a few levels higher than its intended. That seems like pretty weak design to me. So if I play 4 megazones rather than 5, the game basically shrunk 20% because they designed it such that I'd out-level an entire megazone. Why?

    I made some discoveries about the criminal acts in the game. First of all, the lockpicking skill is pointless. Lockpicking and wards range in difficulty from Very Easy to Very Hard. For lockpicking, very easy barely differs from very hard, and none of them are hard. There's like no point in even making the distinction and if you put skill points in lockpicking, they are wasted. Dispelling is another story and is challenging to pull off, which I appreciate. I understand it's really hard to do these mini-games well.

    Secondly, I still don't understand why NPCs sit and watch you pick their locks without saying anything, but then get pissed and call the guards if you take what's in the unlocked container, unless you sit there for a minute in which case they seem to forget about you and you can steal. I have two stories about crimes.

    The Mayor
    I waltzed into the mayor's home unannounced, and was pleased to note my intrusion was not unwelcome. He and his swarthy guard were in the main room, the mayor rocking in a chair by a fire in the hearth. My Detect Hidden skill alerted me to a hidden room behind the fireplace. After making friendly conversation with the two men, I walked to this hidden door and opened it. Neither man said a word to me about opening this secret room. I spotted a large treasure chest inside and resolved to steal its contents from the mayor. But how?! Surely the mayor and his guard would be watching my every move like a hungry hawk. I walked into a corner of the secret room. The stealth detection indicators appeared over the two men's heads, and I remained crouched until the indicators went blank, signaling high time to get my theft on. I cleaned out that hidden room from floor to ceiling and strolled out, greeted only with a 'hello' from the guard and an unsolicited string of complaints about local ruffians from the mayor. I turned right toward the hallway and walked to a locked door, which also was in plain line of sight to the guard and the mayor. Do you know what I did next? Yes, I removed my trusty stack of 89 lockpicks and picked that Very Hard lock. That door led to the mayor's secret villa! He must have secretly wanted me to explore (and steal from) it because once again neither he nor his guard remarked about my behavior. And I lived rich and happily ever after. The end.

    It was soon after this that I became bolder with my thievery since I was officially a millionaire in Amalur. The fine for stealing or pickpocketing being a mere $500-3000 or so, I could afford to be reckless. I began simply stealing quest items in open sight and pickpocketing NPCs from the front rather than the rear. I was still a millionaire, and better yet, the NPCs I'd wronged forgave my transgressions. Apparently the phrase 'criminal record' does not exist in Amalur.

    The Armory
    This afternoon while exploring the beautiful gnomish city of Adessa, the most fleshed out city in Amalur so far, I stumbled upon the armory. Imagine my surprise when, after traveling for 40 hours within Amalur, I was met with my very first 'Do Not Enter' sign. Finally, a place it was against the rules to enter, the equivalent of a lock that I wasn't allowed to pick! Of course I hastily entered the building, with no more than a 'what are you doing?!' from the guard outside. Inside, however, the peace was short-lived. Three gnome soldiers, Praetorians, kept watch over the armory. They verbally reminded me of my trespassing, but appeared willing to leave me alone had I not stolen from a chest. Well, that woke up every guard in the city. These gnomes must have developed walklie talkies to call for backup because once I dispatched the three initial Praetorians, another pair immediately rushed inside. Once I finished them, another pair, and another, and another, presumably forever. Since I cannot loot and fight at the same time, I had to save my nimble fingers for the small window of time between when one pair of guards died and the next pair attacked me. This way, I was able to loot the entire armory and dispatch 30 or so gnome fighters before fleeing the premises. Outside the armory, things were no better. It seems the entire city had turned against me! Every NPC swung her sword or cowered in fear. The UI constantly kept me updated of my crimes: "Crime Committed: Theft!" "Crime Committed: Assault!" "Crime Committed: Murder!" I thought I may be safe once outside the city walls, that if I left and returned, they would forget my crimes. So I left and traveled quickly to Sun Camp to fence my stolen goods. It turned out all the effort was for primarily weak items of little value and I escaped with no rare or set items. I wondered then, "Why was the armory so off-limits if there was nothing of value inside?" "No matter," I thought, "the most important thing now is to win back the hearts of the people in Adessa." Back I went, and I was still a villain, except this time a brave guard approached me and presented me with 3 options: Go to jail, Pay your fine ($116,000!), or Resist arrest. Although I was a millionaire, spending 10% of my net worth on fines for murdering 30 gnomes, ransacking their armory, and shoving down women and children in the streets as I madly fled did not seem the wisest choice.

    So, having never been to jail, I decided to see what it was like. It turns out jail is a simple thing. They stripped me of my possessions, yet overlooked a single lockpick. I was presented with another choice in the form of a quest. I could use my single lockpick to escape the cell and then fight my way out of the dungeon, or I could go to sleep and serve my sentence at the cost of about 5% of my current experience points. I attempted to pick the lock, but my lockpick broke, so I had to sleep off my sentence. And I woke up a free man, missing only that 5% of my current level's experience. I speculate that had I any stolen goods, the guards would have confiscated them, but luckily I had just fenced everything at Sun Camp. I had all my money, all my clothes, and 200% of my street cred, having served hard time. I only regret not getting a prison tattoo during my stay.

    So what have I learned from all this? Well, despite the still-nagging questions of "Why don't NPCs across Amalur care what I do except for looting the armory" and "Why are fines so cheap," I have learned that there is really no deterrent for bad behavior. Because there's no real penalty, and because I'm super rich (I AM the 1% yall), the entire system of crime in Kingdoms of Amalur is rendered meaningless.

    I'm still having a lot of fun though!
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    [August 6, 2012 12:24:28 PM]
    I desperately need to stop playing and write about Kingdoms of Amalur. I've been tearing it up all weekend, like, main activity from Thursday night through today. Haven't been this into a game for a while, and it's one of those that's ridiculously easy to sit down on the couch and begin and then you just, you know, sink into the couch, and at the end of the day you have to pry yourself away from it. Okay if you've got free time. Not so good if you've got a lot of work. Guess which is me?

    And I had no intention of ever playing Kingdoms either. I'd followed it a bit in development because I like the genre, but it ultimately turned me off because it seemed like it was taking too much from action games like God of War for my purist tastes. I like God of War, but I don't like the idea of swinging Kratos's blades around in a fantasy RPG. You might ask how Greek mythology isn't fantasy. It just looked out of place, okay! Anyway, turns out the combat is the only real non-RPG bit of the game. When I was collecting data last semester I had this participant talking to me constantly about Kingdoms for months. He would tell me all about it, and I developed a negative opinion of it from the things he focused on telling me, which turns out to be just how he played, as in he loved to go hunt for treasure. I don't care to scour the map for all the treasure. He loved the action-RPG fighting and when he'd tell me about it, I'd be like meh, played God of War, played Devil May Cry. Then N bought it and I played it for 30 minutes at his house a couple months ago and again wasn't really impressed with the beginning. It seemed very generic high fantasy stuff about elves and gnomes, and the story about Fate upon first impression seemed really gimmicky the way they tied it into the combat. But again, N raved on and on about it. I also thought it looked like Elder Scrolls Lite, which I kept writing down as I was playing. So, in the end, N finished it and insisted I try. I put it in the Xbox Thursday and here I am 33 hours into it.

    So what do I think about it now? I've got a list of pros and cons. The main pro is that the big name artists scored big. Todd McFarlane did the art. He did Spawn and is awesome. R.A Salvatore did the story. He's been doing D&D stories since I was a kid. He is also awesome. Curt Schilling, all-star Baltimore Orioles pitcher, runs 38 Studios that developed it. He was one of my heroes as a kid. He is not an artist, but he is still awesome too. But let me state for the record that Kingdoms looks phenomenal. Beautiful. Jaw-dropping. Mesmerizing. My character has this magical shield that protects him from some damage. One of my biggest complaints about the game is that the magic shield is too shimmery, that it distorts my view of the environment. Weird gripe, I know, but I want to look at the backgrounds when I play, not see everything through blue mana-shield-tinted eyes. If it wasn't so beautiful I wouldn't care. And the story, wow. A lot of people hated on the story, but I find it engrossing. The story of the main character itself isn't particularly interesting, but the world of Amalur they've built sure as hell is. There's intriguing backstory and so much culture created for the game. There are tons of characters and zones and so much going on. I feel like I'm playing a book, that level of detail.

    And the game world is HUGE for a single player game. Maybe not Elder Scrolls huge (Elder Scrolls Lite!), but it's gonna take you a long time to go everywhere. At 30 hours, I had cleared either 8 or 9 zones. I think I'm up to 10 or 11 now. Yeah, there are more than triple that. Looking at the map, I'm maybe 33% through the game. At 33 hours? Holy crap. My character, however, is level 21 or 22 out of a 40 cap, so that puts me more than 50% developed. There's a downside to this, and that is if you choose a pure class type, like my pure sorcerer, then you are very close to the top of your skill tree at this point. I think by 25 I'll have all the abilities I can get, which leaves me with just damage upgrades and nothing new for a long time. Will it get dull? I've thought about respeccing to might or finesse, or doing some dual 'destiny,' as Kingdoms calls it, but I think it kind of will suck if I have to respec just to not get bored with a spec by halfway through the game. That means the specs can't compete with the length of the game, which is a problem. You should be unlocking cool new stuff up until the end. Of course, there may be a surprise or two waiting for me later, who knows.

    In addition to the game being huge, it's fully voiced. On the plus side, the voice actors are very good and it's very engaging to be able to read and listen and watch every conversation. On the downside, due to the massive scope of the game, they can't possibly hire all different voice actors, so there are really obvious repetitions. "Hey this Homer NPC sounds just like Lenny...who sounded just like Carl, who is the same voice as Moe." The huge world is a double-edged sword in another way regarding the characters. The story is wonderfully detailed, as are the quests, and I think out of necessity of making such interesting storylines, they had to try and make every character The Most Interesting. So on the one hand, every single character will comment on a range of topics and every single character says unique things! It's nothing short of incredible. They don't just repeat what other NPCs say or reword what other NPCs say; they say their own thing as they would. Like I've listened to probably 50 NPCs tell me about the Tuatha or the Summer Fae or whatever, and because each one of them said something unique, I know A LOT about the Tuatha, what NPCs think of them, their relationships with other peoples and places, the war they're waging, where they come from, what their goals are, how they are affecting characters' lives...this is one of my favorite things about the game. That's the positive. But on the other hand, at times, it's like they tried to write too much significance into each NPC. They've all got some story of how they came to be wherever they are, they all tell you what they think about other characters, or whatever. It can get a bit much. Typically in games you have all these 'common' NPCs who aren't that important and will tell you the common line. In this game there are no common NPCs. Because of this, though the world is beautiful and humongous and richly detailed, it can feel a bit dead, especially in settlements, because there aren't any NPCs just going about their day a la Elder Scrolls games. The only ones you really see are the important ones. There's supposed to be this big war going on, but like there aren't any orphans, no wounded soldiers, no burning villages, no battles or battlefields. It's an odd contrast of such a rich story and detailed world with relative lifelessness.

    Kingdoms moves you around with quests just like any RPG like it. The quests are really well integrated into the story and they feel very fluid, not like you're running from quest hub to quest hub 'picking up quests' and then making your rounds through the zone to turn them all in and pick up the next set. Quests are really thought out, many have multiple parts, and they all relate to the larger story, whether it's a faction or some trouble plaguing each individual zone. The quests are really well done. Like in my 33 hours, I've done like 60 quests. So they're involved! That comes to like half an hour per quest. Compared with most MMOs, this is really nice. In WoW and others, questing is just something to do as fast as possible to level, and no reading the quest text or anything, so I love that they're interesting and meaningful here and not just a means to an end. But there's always a downside to everything in this game it seems. There's one particular type of quest that's gotten a bit monotonous, and that's the kind to go into some cave or barrows or underground somewhere to do something. All the caves in the game are the same with different skins. They're all roundabout mazes of tunnels. Pick a direction and you'll eventually come to the quest objective and circle around to the exit. And they're all narrow corridors that open up occasionally for skirmishes. Some have lots of pretty glowing plants, some are fire caverns, some are ruins, but they're all the same experience. Oh, and also although the outdoor environments are gorgeous, there is very little variety. I just today made it to a new environment, desert, whereas I'd been in forest for the entirety prior.

    The few quests that are different really stand out and make the similar ones feel all the more monotonous. I remember 3 in particular that I enjoyed. One was in one of the cave networks, and I was pursuing a guy who had these cursed boots that made him invisible. It was set up like a hunt where I was hunting him and he was hunting me. He'd pop out and attack until I got his health down to 75%/50%/25% and then he'd disappear and I'd have to continue on and find him again. So the whole thing was a bit scripted with pounding music and everything. It was really cool. Another was searching for a missing caravan. You're sometimes given an ally or two who will help you. This time it's you and this commander you're reporting to, and 3 other recruits like you. The 5 of you split up to look for clues and patrol the area when you hear one of the recruits screaming. You meet up with the rest and realize that was him dying. So you all move on, and another one gets killed. Then the three of you stick together and move on again and eventually the thing attacks you all and murders the last recruit and you fight it off and solve the mystery. Another cool scripted quest. Then finally there's a type I've done 2 or 3 of that are little puzzles where you have to read through a few books to piece together some order of events for an NPC or talk to a bunch of NPCs to figure out, in one case, which order they are supposed to line up in to see the the king. It's like one would say "I don't want to be behind Moe because he smells." Then Moe would say, "Homer should be in front. But I want to be behind Marge because I like watching her butt [actual NPC sentiment]." And you talk to a handful of people and arrange them so they're all happy. It's silly but a fun diversion.

    I've written down a bunch of other random things. Like I said, the game is very Elder Scrolls-ish, like a more structured and simple Oblivion or Skyrim. There are the typical factions you can join up with, the thieves, warriors and mages. There is the array of skills like persuasion, pickpocketing, blacksmithing, etc. There's the map complete with fast travel. There's the lockpicking and sigil ward minigames. There's the stealthing, the theft, the paying fines/resisting arrest/going to jail for getting caught, the fencing stolen items, the trade skills...and on and on. It's all similar but lighter. I like the Elder Scrolls way better because it's more in depth and there's more freedom to play. Elder Scrolls is just a more developed world. I mentioned the NPC schedules already and how there are none in this game, or very few. In Elder Scrolls games, NPCs will go to bed, take walks, eat dinner, pray, meet friends, and do all kinds of stuff. Here, they just hang out in their house. If you go in someone's house at 4:00am because you need to steal something, don't be surprised if they're awake sitting in a chair for no reason. Then say you try and steal from them, there are magic guards that rush in if you get caught. Doesn't matter if there are guards around or not. And the entire town will automatically become hostile to you. But then if you get caught and pay the fine, everyone is magically fine. I like Elder Scrolls how you have a standing with every NPC from 0-100. Also in Kingdoms there's this weird thing with stealing. Say you go in a house and there are a few NPCs in there. Sometimes there will be a chest that will be like free to loot. Other times it will be marked as a theft if you take things. It seems weird to me that it would ever NOT be marked as a theft if you take it. But whatever. So Kingdoms has a % chance on any theft item that NPCs will notice you taking it. If they can see you in stealth, it's 99%. At some point I figured out that if you just stand by the treasure chest in stealth, that number will drop to 0 most of the time, and sometimes even if the NPC is staring right at you or sitting right by the chest. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So if you want to steal something, you just open the chest, see the 99%, close it, stealth, wait 10 seconds or so, then all the items should be about 0%. But I don't spend a lot of time stealing. It's really easy, and stealing isn't a big part of the game anyway. You find so many items that it's unnecessary. Which also means that skills where you make your own items are pretty unnecessary, like blacksmithing and alchemy. You find items EVERYWHERE. You find so many items so often that you quickly become filthy rich with nothing to spend your fortune on. At first, the 15,000 gold required to train a skill was a lot, and the 3,000 gold required to remove curses wasn't pocket change either. But now I have like 600,000. The most expensive thing I've seen at a shop is like 50,000 and I don't want hardly anything at shops because I find so much better stuff. I'm decked out in sets and rare pieces. So money becomes pretty meaningless. Actually this pisses me off a bit because I devoted a lot of skill points to Mercantile so that I would get more money from selling items and so things would be cheaper for me to purchase. Those points could have been spent on other skills. Now I'm putting points in persuasion because most of the other skills I don't see much point in putting points into, and persuasion just gives me some different dialogue options, which I enjoy using but haven't been too successful at with a low persuasion skill. I was short on cash in the very beginning of the game for a while, but then my stash just increased exponentially and I foresee having a hilarious amount of money by the end with nothing to spend it on. I think that's too bad. They should at least have some money sinks for neat things.

    That's pretty much it. Just a few more annoying things. Sometimes the map is hard to navigate because I find the buttons for using it kind of strange. Also the A button is unresponsive during dialogue wheel conversations and the Left Stick is the same during lockpicking sometimes. It's odd, I'll have to mash the A button sometimes because it won't read during dialogue. One of the options for characters' faces is golden rings (lip, eyebrow, nose). But by now I've seen so many random golden lip rings or nose rings that look so stupid on so many NPCs, I am really questioning the choice to make golden rings such a prevalent piece of jewelry. My favorite recent one was a bearded gnome where I caught a shimmer of a golden lip ring under his mustache/beard. Aaand finally, the game revolves around the idea that your character has no fate, no destiny, and therefore you can change the fates of others. This makes you dangerous because the world is changing, and you may be the harbinger of it or you may prevent it. Dunno! But, the game incorporates fate into combat in a gimmicky way. When your 'fate meter' fills up, by killing enemies, you can 'fateshift,' which makes you essentially go berserk and kill everything real easily. Enemies killed during fateshift have a big 'A' over them, so you do a little quick time event finishing move exactly like in God of War. When you do that, you get extra experience from all the enemies you've killed while fateshifted. It's pretty much the only unique idea in the game, and even it's half borrowed from the family of quick time event using games. It's cool to strategically fateshift when you're up against tough enemies that will next you lots of experience. I try to plan for this and always drink an experience potion for another +10% or +15% xp. If you score big, you can net thousands of experience and make a nice dent in your level progress. But, again a downside. Don't think you're going to pull this trick and fateshift during bosses or minibosses even. If there's ever a cut scene during a fight while you're fateshifted, it ruins it. Wasted fateshift, wasted potion. It's really really irritating because you never know if there's going to be a cut scene during any given quest. It's like if you want to be sure, you need to use it on normal enemies, but if you want to take a risk, try it on a boss, but you might waste it all. It's a stupid gamble that they should have designed around so that players can fateshift during boss battles and during quests and not fear it being ruined by an unanticipated cut scene.

    That's all for my first Kingdoms of Amalur log. Longest one I've written in a long time and worth the words. I plan on slowing down considerably because I've got other things to do and I don't want to burn out on it. I'll probably write again about my expectations and how the rest of the game turns out regarding character development and anything new or significant gameplay-wise I discover.
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    dkirschner's Kingdoms of Amalur (360)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 3 August, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 19 August, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Rich fantasy, detailed world and a lot of fun! Looks stunning ----------------- Good times. Big dull part in the middle of the game. I suggest skipping most of the side quests and you'll be golden. Also, talk to NPCs! Great story detail!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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