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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
y job doesn’t really afford me the kind of free time required to get lost in an open world role-playing game like “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” (it’s the main reason I stayed away from “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”), but that didn’t stop me from doing it anyway. It’s incredibly telling as to how much I enjoyed the game that I’d rather be playing it right now than writing this review, especially because I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Although it’s usually ideal to play through an entire game before critiquing it, “Reckoning” is packed with so much to do (with an alleged 60-plus hours of game time between the main story and various side quests) that there’s no way I could have finished it all in time. Based on the 20-odd hours that I have played, however, it’s safe to say that if you love action RPGs, then you'll really enjoy “KOA: Reckoning.”
The game begins, oddly enough, with your death – killed on the battlefield and dumped into the Well of Souls to rot amidst the other dead bodies. Fortunately, the gnome-built device succeeds in resurrecting you (the only time it's worked), and because you've somehow managed to overcome Fate, your destiny is now a blank slate, allowing you to forge it into the shape of your choosing. But as you quickly discover, your return from the dead doesn’t only affect your life, but everyone that you come into contact with as well, transforming you into a very powerful weapon. What kind of weapon you become is completely up to you, with four races and three classes to choose from, including Might (fighter), Finesse (rogue) and Sorcery (mage). As you earn experience throughout your travels, you can purchase points using the game’s skill-tree system to unlock additional “destinies” that allow you to specialize in one particular class or a hybrid of the three.
This is the area where “Reckoning” really excels, because even if you decide later on that you want to specialize in something else, you can always pay a Fateweaver to change your destiny. Better yet, just because you’re an out-and-out warrior doesn’t mean that you can’t play around with magic or stealth, either. Although certain weapons and armor require you to be at a specific class level in order to use them, it really only applies to the more unique items. After all, what’s the point of having a primary and secondary weapon slot, as well as four spellc asting slots (mapped to the D-pad), if you’re not going to make the most of them? The end result is a combat system that seamlessly integrates melee and magic into a balletic dance of death where you can unleash a flurry of different styles of attacks in a matter of seconds. Most RPGs don’t offer that kind of on-the-fly flexibility, and it’s without a doubt the highlight of “Reckoning.”
Falling somewhere between the “Fable” and “Elder Scrolls” franchises on the RPG spectrum, “Reckoning” strikes an impressive balance that appeals to both casual gamers looking for a hack-and-slash adventure as well as the more hardcore genre fans that obsessively complete every single quest available. Although the main story isn’t particularly complex, renowned fantasy author R.A. Salvatore has created 10,000 years worth of history that’s been woven throughout the various side quests for those that want to invest their time in learning more about the world of Amalur. In fact, if there’s any complaint to be made, it’s that the developers tried almost too hard to squeeze everything they could possibly think of into the game – from picking locks, to dispelling magic, to engaging in skills like blacksmithing, alchemy and sagecrafting, the latter of which allows you to combine magic shards that add special abilities to your equipment.
It’s a lot to digest at first, but thankfully, you're not forced to do any of it. And that’s the magic of “Reckoning” – it’s an RPG game that diehard fans can really sink their teeth into, but is still fun for those that don’t want the full role-playing experience. Though some annoying glitches have managed to sneak their way into the completed game – sound occasionally cuts out during dialogue scenes with NPCs and the camera has a tendency to lose sight of players when they’re on sloped ground or stairs – it's all pretty trivial for how much “Reckoning” does right. It probably won’t win any Game of the Year awards, but it’s a worthy replacement for anyone suffering from “Skyrim” withdrawal.