Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an action-heavy RPG
The 38 Studios and Big Huge Games' Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning felt like your typical big-budget EA title long before release. There were hardly any of the usual signs you would expect to see when a new IP makes its way to the market; no uncertainty, nervousness or fear of colossal failure. You only got the impression (thanks to some clever marketing) that Reckoning was an awesome game with incredible combat that you simply had to play because it was going to change your idea of an RPG entirely. Banging their heads to make Reckoning so amazing were R.A.Salvatore (a New York Times best-selling author), Ken Rolston (game designer, Elder Scrolls Morrowind and Oblivion), Todd McFarlane (Marvel comics superstar) and Grant Kirkhope (composer, GoldenEye, the video game). Impressed yet? The fact that anybody would even consider playing Reckoning after Skyrim makes the marketing campaign a resounding success. But how does the game stack up?
Since Reckoning is an RPG, as always, you play a ‘chosen one' type character who after his/her death is somehow alchemically sprung to life by the ‘Well of Souls'. Through this death-defying act, your character has rewritten fate, an ability that will impress most of the game world's inhabitants, and is the game's recurring theme for obvious reasons. After the said resurrection, the opening act doubles as a tutorial that gives you a sense of all the game's classes culminating in a boss fight that will put your abilities to test. Needless to say, it is your job to get to the bottom of everything after the prologue through extensive exploration, questing, gratuitous killing and ultimately, regicide (of someone evil, obviously). The combat system in Reckoning is immediately impressive — it is free-flowing, tactical, outrageous and fun all at the same time, having more in common with God of War or Darksiders than Skyrim or The Witcher. All the game's weapons pack a punch, but the heavy weapons such as the greatsword and hammer are particularly punchy. Apart from the usual fare, weapons such as faeblades (rogue) and chakrams (mage) make for some interesting additions. Thanks to Reckoning's class hybridization system (mix and match class-based abilities) and system of ‘fate cards' (which grants added bonuses), you can pretty much equip, and use everything. The ability trees also have some interesting magic attacks unique to each tree, but not all of them are impressive or useful, and because of this, you will find yourself using only the ‘good' ones all the time.
As you would expect, Reckoning also sports a system of creating potions, blacksmithing and gem crafting. It offers little in the way of immediate rewards, but ends up being useful nonetheless. There are also plenty of ingredients/crafting components scattered across the game world in addition to generous volumes of loot.
Its main quest isn't particularly interesting, while the side missions are derivative and can feel tedious at times, but the overall appeal of Reckoning isn't either of these —it's the finely-tuned, over the top combat. There's enough randomness and variety in the loot to keep you engaged and the ‘Fateweaver' system is a great tool that enables you to change your class/play style at any point in the game (however, this could diminish replay value). Its quirky, lacklustre visual style is an unnecessary reminder of the limitations of today's consoles and even if its universe leaves us all a little underwhelmed, there sure is a lot of gameplay here (potentially over a hundred hours). There's no denying the wealth of content on offer in Reckoning, a game that is driven to the brink of greatness by its exceptional combat system but brought back down to earth by nearly everything else. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is available on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.