Preview

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Preview (PS3)

People need to stop leaving money in crates. I always find minor game choices like that an oddity - where did it start, I wonder? It's probably a subtle psychological trick, as now whenever I see a crate, or a box, or anything that can break, I have to break it because there's an off chance that something will be there for me to collect. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is no different. In fact it's more generous than most, as you could make a respectable living crate-hunting alone.
 

When in doubt, go straight for the knads
I'll admit, I was a little cautious going into the extended hands-on session for Reckoning, but I don't mind saying right off the bat that I left pleasantly surprised and optimistic. There's a far better game here than EA have perhaps been letting on. Just imagine Fable without Molyneux's eccentricities holding it back, and add in a dash of Oblivion's "let's get lost wondering for a couple of hours" approach to world building, and you have a rough idea of what you can expect.

The world of Amalur is very lore rich - which isn't surprising considering it spawned from the mind of noted fantasy author R. A. Salvatore, and Reckoning throws you right into the thick of it with it's opening moments. There's your typical fantasy fair of races, from elves (or Fae, as they are known in this game), to humans, to gnomes and dwarves... interestingly enough mind you only get to choose between two differing branches of humans and elves as a playable character. Each choice has racial bonuses, and you also get to choose a religious bonus.

38 Studios and Big Huge Games have taken a very open and free form approach to characters. You don't choose a class straight away - in fact the whole beginning portion of the game is simply a way of introducing you to the three basic play styles. There are the three skill trees, and you spend points in the areas that suite your play-style. Then, you can choose a 'role' that closest matches your point distribution. It's good, because your character development is solely in your hands. You can see what abilities and benefits you get by levelling up skills, and the roles themselves are clearly laid as well, you still have something you can work towards.
 
Stylish AND deadly, nice
We mentioned Fable earlier, and that's mainly because of the combat system. It's not as simplistic as Fable III became, but it's not far off. Tapping buttons and timings determine what attacks you do (provided you've unlocked the skill). Like all progressive games, everything starts of very basic, but the more skills you learn, the more you can do during combat. Because of this though, we actually preferred playing this game on the console over the PC. Personally, we felt the PC controls were a tad fiddly and needed some getting used to, but then again you could always just hook a game pad up.

Reckoning's whole 'thing' is the fact that you're some kind of freak of nature that can change destiny. Apart from important plot stuff, what this basically means is a power bar with a super-special awesome attack. Once you fill it up, you go into Reckoning mode where everything goes into slow motion and you get to just slap some bitches up. You can also do a special 'Fate shift' attack, which are mini QTE's that seem to involve a lot of punching to the face and ripping people apart with threads of energy. They are surprisingly brutal for a game that's no more offensive than a Lord of the Rings film.

It's also very easy to wonder off in Reckoning. Again, standard quest set-up s present, with vendors and sorted into main, secondary, faction quests etc... but the environment design also compels you to explore, to look around and see what you can find, and you're almost always rewarded in some way for your efforts. The definition of reward varies - for example you may be rewarded by a massive bear that wants to eat your face - but there's usually something to find at any rate. We spent the majority of our time in the starting area because there was so much to do, so at the very least there'll be plenty to content here to get your hands on.
 
Even Amalur has problems with travellers, it seems...

As we mentioned earlier - this game surprised us. It's hard to do well in the fantasy market right now, as there's so many staples that everyone feels like they have to use that they all end up being the same as each other. Reckoning is still guilty of that to some degree, but it's Fable/God of War approach means that there is still a satisfying game to play here, all EA need to do is make sure it's marketed properly and it should do well. This is one we're looking forward to at any rate. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is due out on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on February 7th in North America, and February 10th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: Exploring the world of Amalur actually has some draw to it, so we'll enjoy walking around.

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