Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (2012)

The Epic, Legendary Weapon of Plus 10 Mediocrity

I was really interested in playing today’s game for the span of 20 minutes, and then I constantly forgot about its existence.  It looked interesting, and every time I was reminded of the game I felt like I wanted to play it, and then it went right back into forgotten status.  Either the game didn’t excite me that much or I now have Alzheimer’s.  Eventually, the length of time that I would forget about the game got longer and longer until it was eventually nowhere to be found in my brain.  Then a sale that made the game $10 reminded me of it, so I picked it up.  I cannot imagine any game that is so bad I would not like it for only $10!  Except maybe Duke Nukem Forever.  I bought that too, but that review will have to wait for me to confirm my suspicions.  For now, let’s see how it went with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, written by R.A. Salvatore, with art direction by Todd McFarlane, developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, published by Electronic Arts, and with the voices of John Cygan, Abby Craden, Jim Cummings, Siobhan Flynn, Adrienne Barbeau, Kirsten Potter, and Eliza Schneider.

As in most RPG games like this, you play as “Someone.”  But he’s dead.  Game over.  OR IS IT?!?!?  No, of course it’s not.  Why would you even ask a stupid question like that?  With the help of the experimental Well of Souls, and the gnome experimenting on it, you are brought back to life sans any memories you had.  No time to worry about that now though; the evil Tuatha Deohn are attacking!  So you pull a rusty sword out of some dead guy and get to work fighting your way out of the tunnels before they collapse on the Well.  Then you meet a Fateweaver named Agarth (John Cygan) who tells you that your revival has left you without a fate, and thus able to write your own.  Now people can start calling you the Fateless One!  Hooray!  You also meet a sexy elf lady named Alyn Shir (Abby Craden) who seems to know you, but is pretty tight-lipped about it.  Also, the Tuatha are being led by Gadflow (Jim Cummings), who wants to kill everyone for the favor of his god Tirnoch (Siobhan Flynn).

This game was not without its problems, but overall it worked for me very well.  I would say one thing that did not really work for me was the story, but it’s not really Salvatore’s fault.  This guy got talked up so much for how good he was at writing fantasy stuff before I played this game that I thought the story would blow me away.  It did not.  I won’t be reading any book he wrote (or any book anyone wrote, for that matter) but I expected a lot more for how much talk I heard before playing the game.  Instead, it just seemed like any other sword and sorcery game plot, slightly modified, and with all the names changed.  By the way, can we agree upon a set of fantasy types and just stick with it?  How about “demons” instead of “Tuatha”, or “elf” instead of “Dokkalfar” and “Ljosalfar”, or “dudes” instead of “Almain?”  It’ll save us a lot of confusion in the future.  I suppose it was a new enough idea for me that the main character died before the game which split him from fate when he was revived, but it wasn’t mind-blowing.  Also, for a game about a guy who has broken from fate and now can choose his own destiny, the game is pretty linear.  None of my choices ever really felt like they had much impact.  Of course, there’s also a chance that I missed big chunks of the story because I spent most of the game skipping dialogue and not even bothering to read it.  Yeah, that means you can take what I say about the story with a grain of salt, but every character in this game had about three pages of dialogue and you’d want to have gone through all of it in case it opened up a new quest, but this game would’ve taken me all year if I really invested myself into talking to everyone.  I also took issue with the big reveal of the protagonist’s backstory, but not with the story itself.  I can’t really take issue with that story because I don’t know what it was.  That’s due to the fact that Alyn Shir tells it to you with no subtitles as you’re walking around fighting Tuatha, so I could barely make out anything she was saying.  And this story, by the way, was something they had been building up to for the entire fucking game!  I had to go to the game’s Wikia page to find out what they had been saying.  There was also a big storyline about helping a General find a special, powerful, mystical spear that she later throws at a boss and it’s never spoken of again.  Couldn’t I have maybe gone down there and picked it up after I beat the boss?  And speaking of legendary weapons, it really got on my nerves that at least twice during the game I would complete a mission and be awarded with the greatest weapon, forged by Jesus in the fires of Mount Doom, quenched in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, and kissed by Jessica Alba to imbue it with magical sexiness … only to find out that the weapon was far inferior to the regular weapon I found on a random dead body while roaming the wilderness.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the look of the game.  It looks really good, and I have no complaints … Just kidding.  I always have some complaints.  Thought the game does, in fact, look good, enjoying that is hindered by the fact that the camera is usually pointing down, not allowing you a good look at the lush landscapes and fantastic skylines.  There were also a couple of goofy moments that you could find when talking with other characters.  They would either make strange gestures that were out of place from what they were talking about, or your character would be burying his chin in his chest while trying to talk to a dwarf.

The gameplay here was solid overall.  I remember hearing it being talked up by one of the people that worked on it about how it was so much more action-oriented than a typical RPG game would be.  It is more action-oriented than a typical RPG, but it’s not nearly as revolutionary as they made it out to be.  It handles a lot like Fable, and even more like a hack-and-slash game.  X is one weapon, Y is the other.  Just keep hitting the one of those you feel like using until the enemy falls down.  As you level, you can add a little more finesse to what you’re doing – like holding the button to charge, or attacking right after blocking – but I never really needed a lot more than that.  There is an achievement for killing enemies with your abilities, and I was very happy to get that achievement because it meant I no longer had to force myself to use the abilities since spamming X worked so much better.  You can take a stealth approach, but most cases I found that to be a waste of time because of other choices they made.  To make things more interesting, they set up some rooms to have ambushes when you entered.  But if you were trying to focus on stealth and you enter a room where the enemies instantly know where you are no matter what you do, it kind of proves that you should’ve just stuck to swords instead.  Ranged weapons come in handy from time to time, but you’ll probably devolve eventually into beating the shit out of your X button.

I’d like to take this moment to talk to games like this.  Game, when you have a set process of randomly deciding whether or not a corpse you just made will have items on them or not, can we not get that decision making process moving a little quicker?  Not much is more annoying than starting to head on your way down the tunnel only to look back and see that one of the corpses you left is now glowing and may potentially have a good item on them, forcing you to walk all the way back.  Random armor drops also got on my nerves in this game because of their armor sets.  They have some armor in the game that, when combined with the other pieces of the set, will give you added powers.  The problem is how rare it is to actually come across an entire set of the armor and still have them be useful just because the armor drops are randomized.  I think I completed two sets of armor in my playthrough, and one of them was given to me outright.  I also hated that the game made you babysit characters on a couple of missions.  If a non-playable character can cause me to fail a mission by dying because they suck and cannot hold their own against the one enemy that slipped past my attention while I was fighting the other 6, then for Christ’s sake give me the ability to tell them to stay somewhere.  It happened to me once in the game, and even reloading my game and trying again, I was not able to keep this bitch alive.  Just let me tell her to hold her ground at the entrance of the level so I can do my thing.  The level cap of the game was a bit of a disappointment to me too.  The level cap being 40 seems fairly low, especially since I got there with about another quarter of the game left, which didn’t really inspire me to go exploring much after that.  It’s also just a strange number to pick as a level cap.  Doesn’t 50 make more sense?  I think I’d now like to make a game with 27 as the level cap.  That would really fuck with people.  By far, the biggest disappointment of this game was the ending, but I can do this without spoilers so don’t worry.  That last boss was the easiest fight ever.  It was so easy that I was worried about the REAL boss battle that would probably be coming afterwards, but it turned out that was it.  I had a harder time being outnumbered by 6 midgets earlier in the game.

The achievements in this game are actually a lot better than I would’ve expected.  I assumed that an RPG would require me to do things that I would find so annoying that I wouldn’t even bother.  But you can probably get 1,000 Gamerscore in one playthrough if you know what to focus on.  I did it in 2 playthroughs, but only because my first playthrough I am just playing and not worrying about achievements, so I never really killed anything with abilities and I didn’t really care about harvesting reagents to use in the alchemy I didn’t care about.  And the hard difficulty isn’t really that bad anyway.

I had read that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning could be described as a “dumbed down Skyrim” or “a slightly deeper Fable.”  Well I just wrote some 1,900 words that can best be summed up with those 6.  But it was a fun ride, wasn’t it?  There’s a whole lot of missions and a whole lot of people to talk to, but I eventually got bored with that and then it devolved into hitting the X button a lot.  It’s good, but not really noteworthy.  Worth a play, but also skippable.  If you can find it for $10 – as I did – you can get a lot of time killed with this game, and it’s pretty enjoyable overall.  But if you never get around to it, life goes on.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gets “Baby’s first Skyrim” out of “And beat the shit out of that X button!”

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A Goofy Movie (1995)

It’s Only Powerline, Dad, The Biggest Rock Star on the Planet

Today’s review request sat my butt down in the Delgadoian and sent me back to my childhood.  Oh wait, I mean DeLorean.  How could I have made such a mistake?  Either way, this movie is a cartoon from my childhood that I’ve always been super fond of.  So much so that it lead me to purchase it the first time I saw it on DVD.  But then I never watched it.  There have been far too many things from my childhood that have been smashed by watching them in adulthood, and I didn’t want this to become one of those things.  But when my friend Christian posted a video to Facebook of two of the songs from this movie, it lead to it becoming a review request.  There’s a very real chance that Christian may have just shattered a beloved childhood memory of mine.  We’ll see, I guess, in my review of A Goofy Movie, written by Chris Matheson, Jymn Magon, and Brian Pimental, directed by Kevin Lima, and starring the voices of Jason Marsden, Aaron Lohr, Bill Farmer, Kellie Martin, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Pauly Shore, Jenna von Oy, Frank Welker, Wallace Shawn, Pat Buttram, Joey Lawrence, and Julie Brown.

Max Goof (Jason Marsden speaking, Aaron Lohr singing) is trying to make it through high school.  The combination of the clumsiness he’s inherited from his father, Goofy … Goof, I guess (Bill Farmer), and his own teen angst makes it kind of difficult.  His mega-crush on schoolmate Roxanne (Kellie Martin) doesn’t help things.  On the last day of school before summer Max, along with his friends Pete Junior, or PJ (Rob Paulsen), and Robert “Bobby” Zimmeruski (Pauly Shore), stage an elaborate concert, in tribute to everyone’s favorite “rock star” Powerline (Tevin Campbell), to interrupt an announcement by Principal Mazur (Wallace Shawn), with Max as Powerline.  The concert has the desired effect of making Max instantly popular and making Roxanne talk to him, but he also gets in trouble for it.  Worth it!  Max now has a date with Roxanne to watch the Powerline concert.  Unfortunately, the combination of the phone call from the principal and some bad advice from Goofy’s friend Pete (Jim Cummings) lead Goofy to think his son is in danger of going down a trouble-making path that will eventually lead him to the electric chair.  Goofy’s response is to take Max (against his will) on a trip to Lake Destiny, Idaho, on a family fishing vacation the likes of which Goofy himself went on with his father.  Max must tell Roxanne that he can’t go to his date with her because he’s been shanghaied and, not wanting to disappoint her, he fabricates a story about going across the country to dance onstage with Powerline.  Roxanne is now really excited to have Max wave to her from the stage, and Max is now in really deep shit.  Can he hijack his dad’s roadtrip in order to somehow get onstage and get the girl, and what will happen to his relationship with his dad if he does?  We’ll find out!

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this, but I still really like this movie.  I don’t doubt that my own reminiscences are kicking it up a notch or two in my brain, but I found this movie to be really charming with a good message and some pretty catchy songs.  The premise of the movie is pretty ridiculous, but then again, it IS A Goofy Movie.  The first thing that struck me about the story in this movie was that it was probably the reason I was always so excited for summer.  I can recall at least three animated movies that I loved back then that started with everyone in school being so excited for summer, thus getting me very excited for summer too.  Unfortunately for me, I never went on adventures in my summers.  In fact, I barely went outside, but I was still excited for the IDEA of summer.  After that, I got a little confused about why Max was thinking he was a loser after the song in the auditorium.  You just impressed the entire school AND got in trouble for it.  Neither of those things point you towards “loser” status in high school.  You’d be the bad boy that is a pretty awesome dancer!  But that got thrown back in my face when he actually WAS made popular AND got the girl as a result of his actions.  I found it a little weird that this was clearly a kid’s movie but the biggest motivating fear that Goofy had was that his son would end up in the electric chair.  I understand that is motivating and all, but isn’t that a little dark for a kid’s movie?  The thing I didn’t understand even more was that Max ramped up his lies to Roxanne so much.  It didn’t work to just say “I really want to go on this date with you, but my dad is forcing me to go fishing with him”, but you don’t need to take it to “He’s taking me on a trip … to LA … to dance on stage with his old buddy Powerline … and I’ll wave to you from stage … but only after Jesus comes out … and only if I can defeat Albert Einstein in a boxing match on stage … I’m going to shut up now.”  For the remainder of the short movie, they fill it with ridiculous situations, over the top goofiness and slapstick while Max is being a buzzkill and we’re just feeling really bad for Goofy.  Goofy was trying so hard to connect with his kid, who was in turn not having any of it.  I felt bad for the guy.  And it gets worse for Goofy when Max changes the trip on Goofy’s map in order to get him to LA, but I feel like Max was harshly judged for it.  First of all, fate was CLEARLY telling Max to do it when the map pops out of the glove compartment on it’s own and the pencil rolls out and stops, pointing to LA.  God clearly wanted him to change this thing!  Secondly, Goofy gives him the map to navigate and tells him he can pick any stop on the way to Lake Destiny he wants, but then gets all butt hurt when Max takes them to LA.  You told him he could pick ANY stop he wanted!  He just chose LA.  It’s still on the way!  The movie ends with a nice little message about how your parents might not be your cup of tea, but they love you and just want to connect with you, so you should stop being a douche about it all the time.  I definitely didn’t listen to this message when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure I took another message that messed me up.  I feel like I’ve avoided getting into any relationships because of this movie, because it is so hard to find out what a girl’s favorite artist is and get on stage with them at a concert just to impress them.

The characters mostly worked in this movie, but they were also just well known Disney characters for the most part.  Max was the main star of the movie and was pretty easy to relate to when I was that age.  We all know what it’s like to be embarrassed by our parents and think they’re the worst, but most of us grow up to at least realize that they were trying their best for us, even if it wasn’t what we wanted.  I hope my mom doesn’t read this and come at me all gushy and huggy over this.  I felt really bad for Goofy through the movie.  His heart was in the right place.  Pete, as he was supposed to be, was an asshole.  Most of the bad situations Goofy ended up with Max in was because of bad advice from Pete, who was no great father to begin with.  I feel like most kids nowadays could probably count themselves lucky that they don’t know who Pauly Shore is, but this movie reminded me.  His character was pretty obviously just trying to capitalize on his inexplicable fame at the time because it was just Pauly Shore as a dog … thing … or whatever the hell Goofy and Max are.  Speaking of which, Roxanne was pretty attractive for a … whatever they are.  She had the classic hair in front of one eye and the little Marilyn Monroe beauty mark on her cheek.  I don’t know, this is probably an attraction I should not be having.  I didn’t get how Max was calling Powerline a “rock star” when he was OBVIOUSLY  a “pop star”.  Tevin Campbell supplied the singing voice for Powerline, but I really enjoyed the songs in this movie, particularly his songs “Stand Out” and “I2I”.  And this movie is REALLY a musical, having two songs in a mere 10 minutes of movie, but the songs were all enjoyable to me.  But the star of this movie for me is Frank Welker as Bigfoot.  That Bigfoot character still makes me laugh today.  He’s somewhat intimidating when he needs to be, but most of the time he’s kind of adorable.  I still laughed when the headphones landed on his head and he started getting into “Staying Alive” by the BeeGees.  The part that made me laugh was when Goofy and Max were having a serious conversation in the car and, through the back window, you could see Bigfoot dancing in the background.

Sure, this movie is goofy, clearly for kids, and really cheesy in parts, but it charmed me.  I loved the animation, the songs, the characters, and even the cheesy message of the movie.  I even laughed during this movie, and that is completely left of the ordinary for a kid’s movie.  But it’s a fun, charming little movie to me.  I grant that there is a very strong chance that people won’t like this movie if they didn’t see it when they were 12 as I did, but it’s worth taking a look at, especially if you have kids.  I still enjoyed this movie.  A Goofy Movie gets “It’s the Leaning Tower of Cheesa!” out of “It’s been handed down from Goof to Goof to Goof … and now, it’s yours, son.”

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