When I first played Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning I was really disappointed.
I think the main reason was the hype turning the game into something it wasn't. The game had been described in the marketing as having a 'vast open world'. So naturally, in a post-Skyrim market, that statement comes with a lot of baggage. I was really disappointed with the boxed-in environments. The game isn't an open world. It's a series of defined spaces. You can't go off the beaten path, you are stopped by invisible walls, the paths that connect the environments are contained and linear.
Then I had other hang-ups. You couldn't loot every body, you couldn't pick every ingredient from every plant, you couldn't interact with everything you saw. Only the stuff with a sparkling glowing aura is a thing of interest and everything is just generic nailed tot he ground scenery/filler.
It seemed the longer I played the demo the more things I discovered that Kingdoms of Amalur didn't do, I kept finding things that Kingdoms of Amalur wasn't.
I really wanted to like the game too.
Then I figured out that the problem wasn't with the game, the problem was with me.
Here's why. Having played 150+ hours of Skyrim up until the minute Amalur came out my perspective had been unrealistically skewered . I was spending all of my time measuring Amalur against Skyrim. It was so easy to see the multitude of things that Amalur WASN'T. So I changed my perspective.
Instead of focusing on all of the things Amalur WASN'T, I started l appreciating all of the things Amalur WAS. And then I realized, you don't have to be able to climb a mountain side and watch the sun rise over a distant city for a game to be an RPG. You don't have to be able to pick up every object, read every book, look every potato from every sack for a game to be an RPG.
Suddenly Amalur was fun because I wasn't trying to measure it against Skyrim.
Amalur is focused, streamlined, efficient. It might not have the amount of detail and depth of Skyrim, but on the same hand there's no aimless wandering, no excessive looting of every piece of apparel from every body. It trims the fat. Amalur is less of a vast open world and more of an action packed adventure story. Skyrim is a place I go to get immersed in living breathing world filled with wild animals, dragons circling villages and taverns full of folk chattering about their world, it has so much depth and layers of detail. Amalur is a place I go to engage in some fast paced combat and slick action. When I finish combat in Skyrim I go and pick up every spent arrow that's lodged in the scenery and my fallen foes, I pick through each corpse and find the most valuable salvage. When I finish combat in Amalur I special meter fills up and I mash a button to fill up a special meter that has an over the top finishing move and my arrows auto refill in my quiver.
They're two very different and two very fun experiences.
If you spend too much time looking at all of the things that Amalur ISN'T you can easily miss out on what Amalur IS.
Now, my only real problem with Amalur is it's lack of any originality. Although the game is confident and well executed, everything from the title screen music lifted from Danny Elfman's Spiderman score to the lock-picking, to the stealth 'eye' logo and even art style feels borrowed. For the sequel they really need to focus on some things that identify Amalur as a franchise, some aspects that make people say "oh, that's a KOA game". Even the dialogue can't make up it's mind what it wants to be. Sometimes times there's a vertical list of responses and, for no apparent reason, other times it's a Mass Effect dialogue wheel. The game really needs some identity.