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Oh boy, this is a tough one. See, what we want to tell you is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning's first add-on pack, The Legend of Dead Kel, is absolutely worth your time and money—that it’s a shining example of quality DLC. For a mere $10 (or 800 MS points), you get a lot of reasons to revisit Amalur: a giant new island to explore, a bunch of new side quests, enemies, weapons, and a rather entertaining main quest line that had us hunting the dead-but-not-really-dead pirate, Dead Kel. This DLC is truly great stuff, but you may want to proceed with some caution.
Why? We're part of what seems to be a very unlucky minority. In our time with The Legend of Dead Kel, we encountered a glitch that prevented us from exiting the final dungeon upon defeating the last boss. What’s worse, though we’d been keeping a couple save files, we had overwritten both from within the cave prior to discovering our plight. Our level 40 character? Permanently trapped in the dungeon, unable to leave by any means. There are some workarounds you can do prior to hitting that crucial point, but we'll need a patch to save our character. According to the Kingdoms of Amalur forums, we're not alone. It’s a shame, really, because the ghastly island of Gallows End is loaded with interesting things to see and do. It should be noted, however, that EA has become aware of the issue (which, according to them, is affecting a very low percentage of players) and is addressing it as of the time we're publishing. We'll be tweaking this article to reflect any updates that fix the problem that triggers it. That said, here's why the content is still very good.
Upon reaching level 10, you'll speak to Commander Garrick in Rathir to begin this “suicide mission.” The navy is a bit upset that its ships keep disappearing out at sea—it’s suspected that Dead Kel, an evil undead pirate, is pillaging said ships. So they’re willing to pay any able-bodied sword-for-hire (you) to go to the island of Gallows End and put a stop to Dead Kel once and for all. Unfortunately, the ship is attacked by the bastard and destroyed en route, and you’re left stranded on the island with only a handful of survivors.
The main quest sends you to explore the origins of the curse that has kept Dead Kel alive for ages, which leads to all kinds of interesting environments: The skeleton-strewn docks of the dark harbor eventually lead to a grim cave in which Dead Kel keeps his ship, while the shrine-like interior of Souldeep Fasting results in an encounter with one of Dead Kel’s hideous (and rather powerful) lackeys. There’s a lot of content within this quest line, rivaling some of Reckoning’s more memorable main quests, and its serious undertones are often punctuated with quips from humorous characters, like the lovably aloof Captain Brattigan, whose personality mirrors Merrill from Dragon Age II.
As for Gallows End, the island is a diverse setting. There’s the cliff-faced beach by which dozens of ships have been destroyed over the ages; there’s the creepy, dark forest populated by gloomy billows of fog, thorny trees, and nasty spiders; and, finally, there are the many caves and dungeons overrun by skeletons that, for some reason, love wearing pirate hats. Exploring these various locations is a reward on its own, as no two areas ever feel the same. There's always something new to see just across the way.
Gallows End's citizens are just as diverse as the island. These are stranded folks whose boats were either destroyed at sea by Dead Kel (he is, after all, a pirate), or had crashed into the island’s rocky cliffs. Many of the inhabitants are religious fanatics. They worship a god named Akara, convinced that he protects their small camp from the bloodlust of Dead Kel and his goons. They offer up many interesting side quests that let you explore their day-to-day struggles, most of which are fascinating. Some quests devolve into lowest common denominator fetch missions --seriously, how many times do we need to retrieve a book / necklace / whatever from a monster’s den?-- while others were enveloped in desperation. A young woman pleaded with us to talk some sense into the refugees to prevent them from sacrificing her to their god; in another, a man asked us to seek revenge on a woman who had murdered his mother.
Yet, one of the most interesting additions is Gravehall Keep, an expansive building you'll come to call home. With the keep in your possession, you'll set off on multiple fetch quests to grab materials to rebuild it. First, we simply fixed up the age-old building, repairing its crumbling foundation and interior. Next, we built an armory; a library; an expansive set of underground tunnels, a beast pen, and more. Eventually merchants set up camp in our courtyard. Peasants visited our throne room. We even raised pets, which granted us boosts to our stats. Gravehall Keep provided us with a variety of worthwhile rewards, and though many of the sections we spent time building were more cosmetic than beneficial, we still felt the urge to continue the expansion of our castle-like keep. It was nice knowing we had some kind of permanent foundation amidst the chaos of Gallows End.
Thankfully, the six hours or so we spent there were filled with more than just a simple change of scenery. The island is packed with so much content it could almost pass as a standalone game—even level 40 characters will find additional stat boosts, new Twists of Fate, and some badass new armor sets to parade around in. Ultimately, The Legend of Dead Kel easily rates among the top tier of DLC—but for now, you might want to wait for that patch, just to be on the safe side. We will be updating our overall take on the action once 38 Studios and EA have updated the bug issue.
Wait For It.
This downloadable content was reviewed using the Xbox 360 version.