Oh, the combat is so good, you guys
I've gone on about how it works but execution is the thing, and with the exception of some... stickiness, I guess, I could say... with the way it handles, killing enemies is very satisfying in KoA mostly because at any given time you have all of the tools of monster and enemy-slaying available to you. Your dash, and primary and secondary weapons, are all mapped to the face buttons and by holding down the right trigger you can execute one of the game's many visually interesting spells, the left trigger lets you block with your shield. Potions and consumable items are tied to the left bumper while the D-pad feels a little under-used with health and mana potions mapped to the left and right directional respectively.
There's also a bullet-timey maneuver you can pull once you've collected enough energy from defeating enemies on the purple Fate meter that allows you to slow down time, provides a bonus to your attacks, and if you're able to time it right, provide up to double your XP after completing a finishing move on the remaining enemy in the fight before the meter runs out. The story conceit is that you're unraveling the fate of the enemies that you just killed, and one of the sort of games-within-the-game you'll be playing is trying to decide the best time to deploy this ability for maximum effectiveness and XP.
It helps that the games' systems are really very simple to pick up, and like any really worthwhile mechanics take some time to master.
Like an extra-pretty version of Fable
This will either be good or bad depending on the kind of gamer you are, but the style is very much exaggerated, colorful fantasy. My qualms with the story aside, I really was impressed with the level of detail and pretty unique art style that had no interest whatsoever with dwelling in modern fantasy visual tropes. It never goes as far as something like WoW, but Kingdoms takes advantage of the fact that it's a game and it can visualize anything interesting or odd that comes into the artists' minds. Whatever your feelings towards the actual look of the game, that has to be refreshing on some level.
Tricky, sticky combat
You can do a lot with the combat, but on occasion with the 360 version of the game I was playing, the responsiveness of the combat wasn't always there. A few times, when chaining from an attack to a spell back to an attack, the game seemed to register that I was still attempting another spell. This wasn't a persistent issue, but it happened often enough that I couldn't simply wave it away as an issue with my own clumsy mitts.
There's also a little bit of a learning curve with the game's evade and block down to the timing of the many enemy types in KoA. Niggling issues with the camera and enemy attacks that might push you around into indefensible positions mar what's otherwise some very, very strong combat.
I couldn't be bothered with the story... and that's not entirely the game's fault
I went over this in the opening, but let me clarify a little here: nearly every conversation in KoA is a huge wall of exposition, even when dealing with side characters and it constantly feels like I'm simply catching up. Contrast this to Skyrim that has its own wealth of expository conversation and KoA still comes up lacking given that the roughly-told story is paired with some simply terrible voice acting (a lot of bad fake British and fake Scots accents in there) that take you out of the experience somewhat.
Menus and inventory management need some work
This is a "your mileage may vary" thing, but I often felt like I had trouble getting at my stuff when digging around in KoA's menus. There are separate screens for Weapons (with sub menus for Primary and Secondary weapons, both of which come from the same list), Items, Consumables, and Armor—oh, and let's not forget Junk where you store gear that you want to sell down the line. Also, anything you pick up is color-coded for rarity (I actually like this system), and it just feels like you have a lot laid out over too many screens.
And don't get me started on the choice list dialog system which switches between raw lists and radials depending on how important the conversation is to the narrative, sometimes with way too many options spilling over into a new "page" (typically redundant, rudimentary information about the world and its story).
Story complaints aside, I feel like KoA is mechanically a title update away from excellence. At 15 hours in, I'm well past the point of commitment for the game, and obviously will be digging into it at least through the endgame. It's a very strong showing for the team at 38 Studios, and I hope in the future they're able to articulate on and flesh out the vision here.
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