Platforms: PC | PSN | Xbox Live
Developer: Big Huge Games
There's no rest for the fateless. Amalur's mythic hero is capable of unravelling the fabric of reality itself; a harbinger of change freed from the shackles of destiny by blasphemous magic that mortal races were never meant to harness. The implications of his/her very existence have yet to be explored, and coupled with the enormous scope of the world of Amalur, Big Huge Games have a fantastic springboard to flesh out the background story and explain more about how a truly free agent can affect a universe where everything is predestined.
It's strange, then, that Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning's first story DLC shies away from the momentous and the revelatory, instead offering a disconnected mini-campaign set on a deserted island that has no bearing on the story or lore at large. Big Huge Games have certainly provided a lot of content, but is The Legend Of Kel a case of quantity over quality and innovation?
The Legend Of Dead Kel makes a horrible first impression. Within a few minutes, players are introduced to some bad poetry (a series staple) and a truly hateful support character who appears to be on an NPC exchange programme from the Fable franchise. Captain Brattigan is an atrocious piece of character design: an aggravatingly preppy, infeasibly incompetent, stereotypically-voiced disaster who's unsuccessfully played for laughs yet occasionally vainly tries to engage with you as a well-rounded person. With this mewling puke in tow, you'll agree to hunt down and destroy an undead pirate - the eponymous Dead Kel - and find yourself marooned on the island of Gallows End. And then thrown into the most drab and uninteresting dungeon to feature in a videogame since Dragon Age II's optional missions.
But once you've pushed through the appalling start, The Legend Of Dead Kel opens up and reveals its true colours.
Gallows End isn't just a linear set of missions, rather, it's an expansive patch of real estate that's packed with plenty of environs to explore, a small town with some reasonably interesting characters (by Amalur standards), optional dungeons to raid through and subquests aplenty - many of which are pleasingly dotted around the map. The main story quest will take about three hours to complete, but rooting out every hidden treasure, lorestone and sub-mission will require at least double that. Some new Twist Of Fate cards and an assortment of unique weapons will come in very useful when you return to the mainland.
The highlight of the package is undoubtedly Gravehal: an imposing fortress that you can occupy and turn into a new home once you've wrestled control from its demonic squatters. As well as providing a seriously nifty homestead and item stash, Gravehal can be upgraded with an armoury, resident NPCs and even a stable that allows you to collect pets that provide permanent buffs when you feed them. It's a fantastic new addition to the game, and one that constantly provides you with persistent character improvements.
However, while The Legend Of Dead Kel is undoubtedly big, it's also fairly bland. There's nothing new or even particularly exciting to do, just the same assortment of tedious fetch and kill quests that we've gotten used to from the original game. Apart from a single new enemy - the chitinous Scavs whose blocking prowess makes them fearsome in groups - and a couple of bosses, foe variation is disappointing to the extreme. Even Dead Kel's skeletal crew just turn out to be reskinned Faer Gorta. Worse, Dead Kel himself is a damb squib of an antagonist, possessing little in the way of poise, gravitas or charisma. At least his generals are imbued with some semblance of personality.
All of these gripes make The Legend Of Dead Kel a poor investment if you've already completed Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning. High level or game-complete characters can just bludgeon through the homogeneous campaign without incident, scoffing at the underpowered new weapons and wondering why the experience brings nothing new to the table from a narrative standpoint.
Conversely, this DLC pack is an absolute godsend for new players or those who are less than halfway through Reckoning's campaign. Your character will emerge powerful and potent from his or her labours, ready to bring what they've learned to the rest of the game. You'll get the most out of the new weapons and twists of fate. You'll return to Gravehal throughout the campaign, utilising it as a base to rest and recuperate from the war against the Tuatha. And, if you're a genuinely new player, you won't notice the recycled enemies and missions. The Legend Of Dead Kel is a fantastic sideways step that feels fresh and relevant when enjoyed in the middle of the narrative, but seems utterly pointless and inconsequential if you've already saved the world.
- Expansive island to explore, lengthy campaign, great value
- Gravehal is an excellent new home with profound upgrade potential
- Low-level characters will massively benefit from new weapons, twists of fate and experience
- Bland, samey quests; nothing remotely new to do
- Limp antagonist, little in the way of real personality
- Feels irrelevant, inconsequential and pointless if you've already completed Reckoning
The Short Version: The Legend Of Dead Kel is a good start for Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning's singleplayer DLC, and sensational value for the price. While its bland and stodgy campaign offers nothing for players who've already completed the game, low-level characters will revel in a wealth of new features that remain relevant throughout the main storyline. Hopefully future DLC packs will offer genuinely new and interesting things for the Fateless One to experience while really building on Amalur's lore.