Kingdoms of Armalur is a labour of love, an in-depth shout out at how a role-playing game should be, or at least what joint developing house 38 Studios and Big House Games believe a role-playing game should be. With a delicate dose of anterograde amnesia we are reckoning some Armalur.

Trapping our expectations, 'Kingdoms of Amalur' both intrigues and bores. It's a strange composition that makes this action RPG an interesting and substantially hard to put down. Starting off with the obligatory role-playing game narrative jump-start, memory loss, you start to see how "Kingdoms" tries to be a different while being the exact same. Although we have the standard damaged pathology of temporal lobes, the switch is having “your death” and being dead as starter match for the narrative. After what is a dull indolent patch of “medieval” media, “Kingdoms” pulls you in just enough to make you curious about its world. Sure “Kingdoms” isn't always going to “awe” you with its dynamic storytelling or its barbaric justification of serial killing, but when it all comes together you will can find some enjoyment here.

The tale which I will leave to self-exploration twists around the threads of fate, or better put, the will of the gods. You are one bad dude (or girl) who can manage all sorts of unimaginable power; so powerful you begin rewriting history. Following the pattern (or in your case, not following the pattern) your mini-map will push all over the world solving other peoples problems. Mixing this together is the scenery has some nice touches, but it feels like “Kingdoms” really struggles to find its own way. The cartoon-tilted art direction helps, however, most the time, you will feel a sense of “ho-hum.” Simply put, it has been done better. Now this doesn't mean “Kingdoms” doesn't have a heart, because it does and you can feel a certain sense of pride while exploring its digital realm. But it's not going to blow you away like other sandbox titles. Then again, is you are craving something different than storming another fort while shouting, “Kingdoms” might be that escape.

Helping hold the interest in exploring the land is the astoundingly competent combat mechanics. Filled with several options to despise of your enemies you will be feverishly enjoy mashing buttons, “Kingdoms” really lets you customize your fighting style from scratch making this much more than a strait up battler. Upgrading is free, so you are not forced to predetermined into one form. Surprisingly the combat is the main motivator and helped encourage me to push through the frequent dungeons or another pointless encounter. It works, it's that simple and has enough substance to switch up your playing style and try something new. You never really feel restricted which is exemplary.


Character creation is your standard -- choose a gender and race (Almain, Varani, Ljosalfar, Dokkalfar) which basically translates into two variations of elves or humans. Each will have a racial bonus like a boost to Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Stealth and so on. This breaks down the “race” to more of a skill assessment of what bonuses you desire. For something a little different you can also align yourself with a god (water, fire, war, death, mischief, or none) by doing this you will gain more bonuses to help define your character. However compared to the Skyrim, “Kingdoms” feels like an adolescent trying to cling to a parents leg. Still, a few options can be fooled around with to create a somewhat original creation.

The upgrading skill tree branches into three levels (Basic, Advanced and Master) with the ability to spend point one several categories. Levelling up also encompasses mastery of weapons under might, your magic under “sorcery” and your thievish skills under “finesse.” All together this can help make you feel more affixed to your character, but it doesn't fix the personality holes. The menu system might not be the most ergonomically designed. Actually, this applies to the entire games' interface, it's a little crude is design, but hey, it gets the job done.

About the personality holes, the protagonist doesn't have a voice which is a minor grip depending on your expectations. Thankfully, the other characters are fully voiced, which is a plus. Additionally, morality doesn't have a role in the game which is a little unfortunate because everyone likes to feel like their choice has a palpable affect on the universe. There is a lot of choice, but it never really feels like it is sticking. Small rewards or openings in dialog trees are one reason to work on your Speechcraft, however, it is nothing like other games we have seen. A 'Mass Effect' styled radial also wheel acts you interface, although they oddly break away from it after the main conversation is finished. For more on the odd, the audio seems to have an infinity to keeping voices in your ear. Often when townsfolk are talking to you, if you run away from them, i mean far-far away, like you are in the next town and you can still hear them as clear as day in full volume. A minor programming flaw this is excusable, but this something you might notice.

Beyond a few minor flaws you have a fairly large mission to complete “Kingdoms.” Doing everything lacks some motivation, but if you have it, you will be busy with this one well over the 30hr mark. It's nice to see a steady difficulty, well until the later stages, “Kingdoms” actually feels like you are working at something. No it's not 'Dead Souls' crazy, but it is refreshing when compared to something like the latest Fable game. This combined with the somewhat original art-style, the sweeping attempt and sometimes successful charge at being grand make “Kingdoms” feels special.

"Kingdoms" has a lot to offer, but it's only if you take the bait. Similar to 'Dragon Age: Origins,' not everyone is going to bite. However those who do will be extremely satisfied with their meal. No matter how you look at it, “Kingdoms” is one role-playing game that should be investigated if you are a fan of the genre. Sure at times it feels like a chore, but it can also feel grand and exhilarating.


  • Large world with lots to do beyond the main quest
  • Combat is surprisingly tight and interesting
  • Lots of choice when it comes to developing your character
  • Traditionally speaking, Kingdoms hits all the right spots
  • Base character creation is weak in comparison to other titles
  • Crude interface
  • Narrative will either grab you or leave you expecting more
  • Some minor glitches
  • Not enough motivation given to the player to work through the side quests
  • No morality on choice to cement you into the world
Quote: "Similar to 'Dragon Age: Origins,' not everyone is going to bite. However those who do will be extremely satisfied with their meal. "
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 02.15.12 | Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3

Similar Games: Rise of the Argonanauts (7.0) | Fable III (9.3) | Dragon Age: Origins (9.5)


Kingdoms of Armalur Reckoning

Electronic Arts

38 Studios
Big House Games


US Release
February '12


PS3, X360

Players 1
5.1 Surround
HD 720-1080p
D/L Content