Let me begin this review with a disclaimer: I have put in over 60 hours into Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and I'm nowhere close to finishing the game. You can take away two things from that revelation- one, I'm a very OCD-type gamer when it comes to open-world RPGs (as in I want to discover everything, talk to everyone and loot everything) and two, KoA: Reckoning is a freaking huge game with a lot of quests, a massive game world and the kind of freedom that brings along with it sheer paralysis. See also: Group test: what's the best PC game?
Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning: What's It About
So now that's done, let me talk more about the game itself. KoA: Reckoning is an open-world RPG that focuses on real-time fast paced action unlike other RPGs that tend to express their love for tactical or strategic combat. In many ways though, Reckoning is very much an everyday fantasy RPG with standards like multiple fantasy races that are picked out from Tolkien's handbook with its version of humans, elves, dwarves, sorcerers and trolls. Unlike the Dragon Age series, Reckoning doesn't try to do anything different in terms of plot or characters and that's probably the most disappointing thing about the game. Everything about its lore is straight up Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons.
While mundane, Reckoning's story is not bad. It sets up quests nicely and the narrative device that's used of you trying to find out who you are and why you have special powers while a massive battle is racking the world, works well. The game also throws some interesting quests such as one where a wolf cursed to become a man wants you to find a cure (as opposed to the regular- cure for a werewolf plotline used by 99% of fantasy games). However, most quests still devolve to finding something for someone or killing something/someone for someone/something. See also: Group test: what's the best PlayStation game?
Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning: Gameplay
Gameplay, and specifically combat, is where Reckoning stands out. Unlike Skyrim where combat feels awkward (especially when you're going with the sword and shield build), Reckoning's melee combat is fluid and exciting. Don't go expecting realistic combat but rather something that takes a page out of third-person action games like God of War and Darksiders. You can jump (figuratively speaking since you can't actually jump in the game) into the fray and get into a clicking frenzy. This doesn't mean though that the combat feels light and uninteresting since almost every weapon you use has weight and heft and you need to take care of the momentum to time the hits (especially if you're wielding greatswords or warhammers).
This becomes even more fun when you start playing as a rogue with dual daggers and clearing out a mob involves a lot of dodging, weaving, rolling and hacking. Using spells in combat is also fun although (as with an archer build), targeting was less than optimal. If you're looking for deeply tactical combat in the style of Dragon Age: Origins or even the The Witcher 2, then Reckoning will disappoint you. However, if you're a fan of timing based combat that also allows you to go mouse-click crazy then you'll really like Reckoning. See also: Group test: what's the best Xbox game?
The rest of Reckoning's gameplay is standard RPG fare and I mean that in a good way. There is hours upon hours of dialogue to listen to and tons of equipment to wear. Add to that, Reckoning also offers an exhaustive equipment and potion crafting module which adds to the hours you can spend in the game.
Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning: How It Looks & Sounds
There are two sides to how Reckoning looks. The environments look fantastic and you will have to try really hard not to be impressed the first time you catch sight of Helmguard Keep, a huge castle carved out of the side of a mountain or Nyralim, a massive speaking tree. Reckoning is also liberal with its use of colors and doesn't limit itself to the gray-brown color gradient that most modern games rely on.
The downside is that Reckoning looks like it could have been released 2-3 years ago. There is very little in terms of the "wow" factor in the graphics department (apart from some of the environments) and the cartoonish visuals may not be for everybody. A massive issue is textures and in close-up blades of grass look like blobs and even a bearded old NPC looks like he/she uses a miraculous anti-aging cream. The upside of this is that the game is playable even on mid-range laptops.
Reckoning employs the sound design that comes with being a AAA title. The score is suitably rousing and employs a lot of instruments that belong in an orchestra. Voice acting is also full of standard Irish, Scottish and UK English accents but is well done for the most part.