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By Ryan Noik 4 April 2012

0
Fantastic combat in a vast and immersive world.
8.5    Gameplay
8.0    Story
8.5    Presentation
9.0    Lasting appeal
4

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning showed great promise in its demo, leaving us eagerly wanting more. It also left us wondering whether the full title would live up to our expectations though. In short, it does.

Amongst the many things that a great game needs to do, a role playing game (RPG) in particular, such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (KAR), must accomplish one task above all else in order to succeed.
 
It needs to draw you into its world and leave such an indelible impression that you keep coming back for more. KAR does just that, and quite a bit more.

Seductive story

The game begins with you being resurrected by the mystical Well of Souls, which has reunited your soul with your body and also granted you the honour of being its first success.

This apparently is essential in turning the tide in the ongoing the war with the fearsome Tuatha Deohn, the soldiers in a seemingly unstoppable army which has waged a relentless war on Amalur, under the control of a mad king.
 
"Do I get cold? Not really. Why do you ask?"
Custom made

While customisation of one’s character was not as deep as Skyrim’s, it was still sufficiently varied to pique our interest.
 
As in many RPG’s, which race you chose can depend on the style of play you favour. In KOA, you can immerse yourself in a (significantly vast) world by opting to garner the best weapons and armour you can, looting every treasure chest you come across, or stealthily stealing from NPC (non player characters) and try get away with the crime.

How you intend playing the game  may help sway which race you would be best off choosing from amongst the warlike and religious Almain, the seaborn and dagger favouring Varani, the righteous Ljosalfar and the stealthy Dokkalfar.

Each  race has its inherent bonuses – while the Almain receive blacksmithing bonuses, which helps with crafting equipment, the Varani are more adept at lockpicking; the Ljosalfar gain dispelling (breaking magical wards) bonuses, and the Dokkalfar are particularly suited to stealth.

Whichever you choose, the opportunities to find armour, unlock treasure chests, dispel wards and indulge your inner kleptomaniac are all plentiful; however, they each come with a price.  

Fail to get away with a crime and players can quickly find themselves ganged up on by exceedingly tough guards; fail to dispel a ward and you are liable to find yourself being cursed if not killed, while unsuccessful attempts at picking locks can see you going through lockpicks like Hollywood goes through its flavour of the week star.
 
"I told you ordering the lobster was going to be bad for our karma!"

Gathering weapons and armour unrelentlessly can take its toll in a different way, as your inventory is limited to 70 items and you may well find yourself spending a fair amount of time comparing the minutiae of statistics each weapon has before getting rid of one to make room if you happen to have packrat tendencies.

If you do, you will be happy to know that your inventory can be extended via the use of backpacks (the best invention since the wheel, the telephone and the lightbulb, combined!).  

While there are five presets for each race, the face, jewellery and tattoos can be broadly customised. Our initial Vorani character for example, looked distinctively different from our second attempt, and both of which looked entirely different to a later Dokkalfar avatar. Additionally, you can elect to follow a god or goddess, which grants further bonuses.

A world worth returning to

The game’s world was no less engaging when we ventured further into it, encountering an array of side quests that were interesting enough to compel us to wander from the main story. Whether it was finding a cure for a brutalised Fae, aiding a wolf regain his animal form after being cursed, tracking down and destroying a shipment of a deadly plague, or aiding a village beset by giant spiders, KAR gave us enough reason to keep exploring off the beaten path.

While some of the sidequests are brief, and easy to complete in a single sitting, others are far more in-depth. Indeed, the latter spider quest mentioned was engrossing enough to make us forget all about our main quest, as we found numerous smaller sidequests wrapped up into that quest alone.
 
"Ah, nothing like a good home cooked meal after a long journey...I just hope my 
sister-in-law doesn't ask me for more help retrieving poisonous spider glands." 

Additionally, the graphics and environmental design proved time and again to be top notch; whether it was passing from lush to eerie forests, derelict edifices to grand castles, caves to enchanted lands, each were beautifully detailed and a pleasure to wander around and explore.
 
To its credit, the game’s music became neither staid nor annoying, and reminded us a little at certain points of Fable 2’s score.
 
Convincing combat

Another of the game’s many strong points was is its deep and satisfying combat. Melee combat with a sword or axe felt especially visceral for a role playing game, while quick access to a secondary, ranged weapon, made switching between the two fluid and easy.

Melee weapons include the quick and relatively powerful broadsword, the large, slower but more damaging greatsword, the slow, heavy and devastating hammer and then very fast but less damaging faeblades and chakrams.
 
Add to this staffs which are slower, but add magic to melee combat and sceptres, which are ideal ranged magical weapons; along with bows, and you have a variety of ways to defeat your enemies.
 
"Try coerce me one more time to get an e-tag and I promise you, I'll get medieval!!"
  
Additionally you can set any of the above to primary and secondary slots, enabling you to begin with a slow melee weapon such as a greatsword or hammer, and at a press of a button switch to a ranged weapons, such as a bow, to deliver ranged damage. 

Alternatively, you could just as easily rely on a staff as your primary weapon and then deal more magical damage from a distance with a sceptre as a secondary weapon. All these  are further complemented by magic (sorcery) attacks, at least until your mana runs out.

Making the combat even more satisfying is the presence of a ‘fate meter,’ which fills up as you do battle. This ultimately allows you to ‘rip fate’ from your enemy when the meter is full, and then finish combat more quickly and more dramatically, as well as earn experience points and thus level up more quickly. 
     
To the point

Add in an abundance of treasure and gear begging to be found, vast lands and numerous interesting quests to pursue, and an easy way to access everything one needs in the midst of combat from a radial menu, and KAR quite simply does everything we hoped it would, namely give us another fantastic world to get wonderfully lost in besides from Skyrim’s.  

Pros

Engrossing story and sidequests
Satisfying combat
Detailed and varied environments

Cons

Some comparisons to massive multiplayer games in style may deter some players 
The disappointing lack of any dragons that fly backward
PROS
Engrossing story and sidequests, Satisfying combat, Detailed and varied environments
CONS
Some comparisons to massive multiplayer games in style may deter some players, The disappointing lack of any dragons that fly backward
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