Combat is the most obvious. Rather than taking its cues from Oblivion, The Witcher or Dragon Age, The Reckoning has adopted the kind of fighting you might find in a God of War or Devil May Cry-style brawler. One button attacks with your primary weapon while another does so with your secondary. A third button blocks while another dodges, and with a press of the trigger you can cast offensive and defensive magic. Holding down a button charges up a special attack, and there are honest-to-goodness combos you can pull out with careful timing. Finally, fill a gauge and hold both triggers, and you enter ‘the reckoning’ itself, a monochrome, slow-motion mode in which you can string together multiple kills before finishing off one foe with an experience-boosting fatality.
It’s a brilliant system, and so much more immediate and visceral than the combat in most rival RPGs. The weapons, spells and armour available allow you to try a range of different fighting styles, and as your character levels up or gains new weapons, so your attacks and abilities just get better. Large mobs of enemies or enemies with different attack patterns provide a constantly changing challenge, and in many respects The Reckoning hits the same buttons as a good blood-and-thunder action title. It’s an RPG that anyone except the most po-faced, traditionalist RPG fan can get into.
Meanwhile the character development puts the emphasis on flexibility and freedom. As you level you’re free to assign skill points to whichever skills you wish, enabling you to choose the damage bonuses or perks you want to, and while there is a sort-of class system operating, it’s not one that ties you down. In fact, you can simply ditch your previous decisions and reconfigure your hero with relative ease. It also helps that the game is extremely generous. You level up and develop impressive combat skills at a decent pace, and the monsters and treasure chests throw out tasty loot like there’s no tomorrow. While other games keep you waiting for that burning sword of holy flame, The Reckoning has you spending time trying to work out which ensorceled blade or bludgeon will fit your play style best. It seems like every ten minutes there’s a new item that might just be worth adding to your load-out.
But what makes all this work is that the game comes so packed with content. The landscapes and dungeons are too carved up with pathways and - frankly - silly obstacles for The Reckoning to give you the freedom of a Skyrim or Fallout, but there are so many quests and side-quests to go on, factions to join and minor challenges to complete at any one time that you’re faced with an almost bewildering choice. It’s the RPG equivalent of a Vegas-style all-you-can-eat banquet. The quests are clichéd, but they’re presented well and with a nice line in light humour, and old RPG staples like crafting and trading are there if you want to partake in them. And if the main story doesn’t pack in the surprises or drama of a Bioware classic, it’s good enough to pull you steadily through the game. It’s the sort of game where you start off looking for faults and finding them, but end up hooked. When it all comes down to it, Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning is just great fun to play.
Kingdoms of Amalur doesn’t have what it takes to be the next Skyrim, but it’s a warmly welcoming and lovable adventure with excellent combat, superb character development and the focus on what most players like best about fantasy RPGs. It’s not the kind of game that redefines a genre, but it’s a very easy game to play, enjoy and love.