Despite the thunderous fall of Curt Shilling and 38 Studios, they managed, though the chaos, to release the year’s best RPG. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is the game Fable wishes it always had been: epic tales, awesome combat, a deep and rewarding progression system, and a massive, engrossing world. It is sad to wonder what might have been, as few new IPs offer the level of promise and polish that KoA brought to the table.
The game, by utilizing an elite design team, solves many of the problems that have plagued Western RPGs for year. Quests, instead of feeling random and cobbled-together, are interwoven into a series of commentaries on the nature of fate and the universe. That theme, fate, pervades every aspect of the game, showing a level of thorough design thoughtfulness that competing releases cannot match. Combat, a sideshow in even the best Western RPGs (like Skyrim), is given complete, full billing here. It feels fantastic, as your skills are just as important as the weapons you carry. Magic, missile weapons and melee all combine into a wonderful cornucopia of beautiful death. The game also solves, once and for all, the issue of having chosen the wrong skill early in the game. By visiting a fate weaver, the player may, for a fee, alter any or all of their skills, allowing them to completely respect their character at any time. Bored of archery? Become a swordsman, or a mage. And you don’t have to waste though many hours of play by starting over. You can simply become something else, whenever you want.
I miss 38 Studios and Big Huge Games. This wonderful effort will never have a sequel, and it truly deserves it. While I will never see another KoA game, I can honor this one, as it is clearly the best RPG of 2012.
-Tony Odett, Features Editor
Runner-Up: The Last Story
Final Fantasy XIII was criticized for being overly linear and lacking in exploration. I suppose those same complaints could be leveled against Mistwalker’s The Last Story, with the added notation that it is quite short for a Japanese RPG. The difference is that The Last Story presents an engaging narrative from the beginning with characters that play against type and along with game systems that make it easy for anyone to jump in and enjoy while still being deep and incredibly nuanced. It is a beautiful swan song for Nintendo’s Wii console and one of the few beacons of light this year proving that Japanese roleplaying games can still be masterfully done when in the right hands.
-Chris Scott, Reviews Editor