5 things Kingdoms of Amalur does better than Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls is the king of the genre - everyone knows that. We gloated about it in our review, posted countless videos of the wonders and oddities we discovered, and even named it as a runner-up for our game of the year. Needless to say, we never expected that 38 Studios’ Kingdoms of Amalur would come anywhere close to providing the massive, overwhelming world that Bethesda put together in Skyrim.
But despite being a smaller game from a smaller studio with smaller goals, there are certain areas in Amalur that shined especially bright, and even some spots where the newcomer bests the grizzled veteran.
1. Skills and Abilities
Skyrim: Each level earns you two things in Skyrim: a stat to buff, and a single skill point to use. This point is extremely valuable. There’s no differentiation between combat, social, or crafting trees, so it’s remarkably easy to screw yourself over. Put too many points into crafting at an early level and you’ll barely know how to use the weapons you make. Split your points between a few social and stealth skills and you’ll be lucky to survive a single encounter with a dragon or giant. Spreading yourself too thinly can lead to having a much less powerful character, and since there’s no way to reset skills, you might need to restart if you mess up. Oops.
Above: The skills and abilities of Amalur are explained in this trailer
Amalur: Amalur has a clear definition between “skills” and “abilities.” At each level, you’ll gain one point to put into a skill, which includes things like crafting, persuasion, and stealth, as well as three points to put into combat abilities. You’re still not able to become a master of everything, but the system promotes trying out different elements of the game without fear of getting trapped. If you do decide that you made a mistake, or don’t like the skills you picked, you can return to a blank slate for a few thousand coins, which lets you experiment even more.
Skyrim: You’re sort of creating your own class in Skyrim, which allows for a good deal of customization – but since skill points are so limited you’re never really able to take full advantage of the different trees in a single playthrough. You might be able to put some points in stealth and some in light armor or archery, but there are only some minor synergies between them. There's no room for experimentation. Also, since there’s no way to get refunded points, multiclassing can end very badly.
Above: Choose wisely, because you can't go back on this one
Amalur: Though the combat skills are much more limited than they are in Skyrim, Amalur’s multiclassing rewarding players for dabbling in the different skill trees. Putting a few points into the Warrior skill tree and some in the Finesse tree will unlock special multiclass perks, and the more points you spend the more powerful these synergies become. Mage/Warrior will turn you into a magical warrior with enchanted blades and the ability to teleport around the battlefield. It works in every direction and rewards you for mixing the classes as you please.
Skyrim: Loot eventually became “the heavy stuff that you’d need to find ten different merchants to buy so that you could buy more potions.” You’d occasionally find better items, but it wasn’t that common, and they were usually only slightly better than what you had, adding one or two more fire damage over your old sword.
Above: We'll admit that one item in particular was really awesome
Amalur: It’s more akin to a traditional loot-fest game, with enemy’s corpses exploding with rewards and chests hidden around every bend. There are still plenty of trashy items to be found, but the good items usually come with a wider variety of stats, making different swords, bows, helmets, and boots feel… different. There are also more classifications of items, including Set Items that will reward you for collecting multiples of the same set.
Skyrim: Combat in The Elder Scrolls is usually clunky, and Skyrim’s is no different. Using a melee weapon is slow and draining, and ranged attacks are sometimes imprecise. The magic system isn’t terrible, but digging through menus to access spells is a UI nightmare. Plus, the best part of any combat situations is using your fus ro dah and knocking people down.
Above: Amalur's combat makes Skyrim's look downright dull
Amalur: The third-person action is fast, and more reminiscent of God of War or Zelda than anything else. Amalur rewards players for mixing up different combat types, and though it might seem run of the mill, it’s still somewhat deeper than expected. The blocking system is timing-based, and puts an emphasis on moving around the battlefield and countering attacks instead of just mashing buttons. It’s more rewarding, more complex, and just more fun, with the ability to chain together different attacks to create long, fast, fluid sequences.
5. User interface
Skyrim: The UI in Skyrim felt like an amalgamation of several ideas that didn’t work all that well together. Leveling up had the player looking to the stars, using the map was a chore, and finding certain items requires you to dig through dozens of inventory screens. It wasn’t uncommon to need to pause the game several times each battle to find the right weapon to use or potion to drink.
Above: UI is boring to look at, so here's a guy k!lling a thing with a sword instead
Amalur: While far from perfect, Amalur’s UI is significantly better than Skyrim’s. Everything works together cohesively, and it all feels like part of the same game. Everything can be found in the same menu, and sorting through the inventory is much easier thanks to collapsible screens that made finding items simple. Even the quickslot feature is nicer, mapping things to a radial wheel instead of a long, encumbering list for faster access.
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