Within the world of Reckoning humans co-exist with, among others, a race known as the Fae. The Fae are magical creatures who consider themselves above human concerns, but despite this humans and Fae have lived peacefully throughout history. Until now, that is. Gadflow, a Winter Fae, has declared war on all mortals, and he has an army big enough to cause plenty of trouble. The war has been raging for over a decade and humanity is beginning to realize they cannot win. Casualties among the mortal races are high, incredibly so, and on this day, youíve joined them. Thatís right, youíre dead. As fate would have it though, your journey is not over, and through the invention of some talented gnomes you become the first human ever to be brought back to life. Now itís up to you to turn the tide of the war and save all mortal life. No pressure...
Now that youíre alive again you get to create your character, choosing from one of four races, each with a different look and inherent skill bonuses. You also get to choose a patron god or goddess who provide a permanent bonus to select attributes such as damage, armour or mana. Once youíve made your selections youíre on your way into the world Reckoning.
When you level up you get ability points to use in three separate branches; might, sorcery and finesse. You can allocate the points however you like but stronger abilities often need to be unlocked, either by purchasing prerequisite abilities first, or by pumping a certain number of ability points into that particular branch. To reach top-level abilities youíll have to allocate nearly every point you get into a single branch, but thereís nothing to stop you from taking some abilities from every branch instead. Donít stress too much about how you allocate your points because if youíre ever unhappy with your character you can visit a fateweaver, and for a cost, re-allocate your points however you like.
Putting all your points into a single branch specializes your character, making them dominant in that area. Characters with all their points in Might can wield heavier weapons for maximum damage output, and are also much hardier than other builds. Might characters are slower than other builds, so the harpoon ability (think Mortal Kombat) that grabs an enemy and pulls them toward you is great, especially against faster enemies. Finesse characters are stealthier and specialize in weapons such as faeblades (ultra-quick short-swords), daggers and bows. Their backstab ability that insta-kills most enemies is a most potent weapon, and they also employ traps. Characters who put their points into Sorcery become, unsurprisingly, sorcerers. Their magic will strike fear into the enemy with its potency, and can wipe out whole squads in next to no time.
The world of Reckoning is huge and itís chock-full of places to go, things to see and people who need help. Thereís also no shortage of quests for you to undertake and itís almost impossible to complete one quest without picking up a couple more. You can check your list of outstanding quests at any time via the Start menu, where theyíre broken up into the categories main, faction, side and tasks. Selecting a quest makes it the active quest and a yellow marker appears on the map, showing you where to go even if you havenít been to that part of the map before. The map also displays markers for inactive quests, which is especially handy when theyíre nearby on your way to a different quest.
The map is handy at the best of times, but itís possible to add even more information to it by investing in the detect hidden skill. There are nine skills in the game, and whenever you level up you get one skill point to invest wherever you choose. Each skill has ten levels, each level gives you a small bonus to the skill, but at certain points you get something more as well. For example with the detect hidden skill each point invested increases the amount of gold you find on enemies and in treasure chests. The extra bonus you get varies, at level two hidden treasure locations are shown on the map, while at level seven traps are shown too.
Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning does a lot of things really well. The first and foremost of these that I have to mention is the save and loading times Ė theyíre incredibly short. Skyrim was a heck of a game but it was dogged by huge issues with loading and saving. Reckoning handles this with aplomb and shows Bethesda how it should be done. Youíll come across a lot of treasure chests when youíre exploring so youíll acquire a lot of gear. In Reckoning you can compare any equipment in a treasure chest to what youíve got equipped, and either equip it, put it in your inventory or chuck it straight into your junk pile. When you visit a store you can sell all your junk with the press of a button making for less time spent in the menu screen.
Other pluses include help messages that pop up and remind you to use Reckoning mode, or select an active quest. These messages are useful, particularly early on in the game, and rarely get in the way. The map is one of the more useful maps in recent gaming history in my opinion, especially if you invest in the detect hidden skill. Multi-level areas are often problematic for in-game maps, but they are handled with ease here too.
Other issues are niggle-sized. One such issue is the fact you can only hot-key four abilities or spells Ė to use others you have to enter the menu screen, swap abilities, use it and then hot-key the other ability again. Itís clunky, plain and simple. Lockpicking is very easy and as a result thereís no reason to invest skill points in it. Stealth and mercantile are other skills that donít really justify the use of skill points. Speaking of stealth, itís also disappointing that you canít unlock some kind of fast stealth. In most games with stealth thereís an ability that lets you run without being detected; Reckoning doesnít have this and it hurts. And finally, while itís possible to commit crime in Reckoning, thereís no point being stealthy about it because guards are omniscient, and it will be recorded as a crime whether or not someone is there to see it.
Reckoning eschews a realistic look in favour of a more cartoony style, and while this may turn off some people I have to say I quite enjoyed it. The bright, vibrant colours on display are nothing like the browns and grays of so many other RPGs out there. There are a wide range of races and, Fae aside, thereís a lot of variety in appearance within each race. There is decent variety in the environments and in certain areas such as caves, plants will respond to your passing. Wildlife is smart enough to run away from you, but you can still cut them down if you wish. Some wildlife actually have decent item drops, which is a conundrum for those who donít enjoy slaughtering harmless animals.
As far as sound goes thereís an impressive amount of spoken content in the game. Every NPC that you can talk to has a number of different topics you can talk to them about, while quest-givers and key characters have more. Even the characters you canít actively talk to will say something as you walk past. I wouldnít say the voice-acting is excellent, but it does its job well enough. There isnít much music in the game, but whatís in there is suitable. Whenever you get into a fight drums start up and add a little bit of intensity to proceedings, and while this isnít something new to games, it works well here.
Overall Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a high quality game thatís biggest weakness is a story that doesnít engage the player as much as you might like. Combat is fast-paced and entertaining, and there is a wide variety of abilities to unlock. Itís a long game too, with roughly sixty hours of gameplay to work your through if you donít hurry (it could be well over a hundred hours if you dawdle). As a new IP you canít help but be impressed with Reckoning, and hopefully itís a franchise that sticks around for a long time. If youíre an RPG fan Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is well worth checking out, and while itís not perfect it is a lot of fun.
Review By: Mike Allison