Searching for Reckoning in the Kingdoms of Amalur

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Searching for Reckoning in the Kingdoms of Amalur
EA and 38 Studios have been showing Reckoning (Kingdoms of Amalur) for more than nine months now, and I still don't think they've figured out how to explain what it is.

We've heard comparisons to God of War and character action games because of its combat system. We've heard comparisons to the Fable series by virtue of its character customization and imagery, and I've even heard Skyrim and Oblivion comparisons thrown in there for good measure because of the size of the world, and because of Ken Rolston's involvement.

But Reckoning (Kingdoms of Amalur – hey, EA, 38, can we talk about that naming convention some time?) isn't any of those things at all. There are comparisons to be made, though, namely to Secret of Mana and Diablo II.%Gallery-141585%More broadly, Reckoning is coming together as a huge, accessible action-adventure game with the loot, leveling and skills of an action RPG. Sure, the combat is fun, but comparing it to games like God of War is a disservice to it, because, well, it isn't that. It's not even close. It's not fluid enough, it's not fast enough, and combat in Reckoning isn't as quickly adaptable as it is in the games it's been compared to.

But there are a lot of options. There's a plethora of weapons available to your character, each useful in its own way, and the ability to pay to respec your character at any time, resetting their skills and giving you all the points to redistribute as you wish, makes Reckoning's system accommodating to experimentation. Every weapon feels useful in a different way, suited to a different playstyle and MO. They're fun to use, and they provide some pretty great looking results when inflicted on the creatures and enemies of Amalur.

That, combined with the size of Reckoning's world and the emphasis on exploration and wonder that I caught in my few hours with the game, remind me a great deal of Square's take on the Zelda formula back in the 90s with Secret of Mana. There's a similar RPG lite aspect to Reckoning's general play, where experience levels and points play a part, but don't seem as much of a priority as it would be in a more conventional RPG.

This might as well be known from here on out as "The Darksiders Problem."

I found myself enjoying Reckoning, but on terms different and distinct from the ones that EA and 38 are using to sell the game. And then I started finding loot, and realized that Reckoning could become a problem -- as in drugs.

Reckoning's loot system hearkens back to Diablo II, and that's a very good thing. There are so many different types, including uncommons, rares, uniques, and sets, and there's a well-developed socketing system in place. There are rings and amulets and ... I'm getting all wistful just thinking about it. These choices in equipment are reflected in your character's appearance, which is great, but more importantly there's a feel and utility to the gear in Reckoning that just scratch that itch, if you know what I mean.

I spent time comparing items and doing the hard math as to what would better suit my playstyle, or what weapon would be useful against the elemental attributes of the enemies I was facing. Because you have access to a primary and off-handed weapon separately, rather than a fast and strong attack, you can prepare yourself for more eventualities -- but you've also got twice as many decisions to make about the weapons you're using. And every character class in Reckoning has a variety of weapon types they're particularly adept with.

I found myself picking up equipment I wasn't going to use just to look at it. I found myself picking up gear wondering what it would be like to respec my character to use that gear. I found myself tripping down thought processes that would keep me engaged with Reckoning well beyond the story and the legion of side and faction quests. Exploring the world of Amalur, ransacking it of its secrets and its treasure ... that's an adventure that looks like it will be worth taking.

I wonder if 38 Studios sees that, though -- if they understand just what they have with Reckoning. There's a 70-item inventory limit (though this blessedly excludes crafting components), but no stash system that I could see or find, which undermines the crafting/loot collection aspect that seems so well developed, and it jeopardizes how expansive and exploratory the respec aspect could be. Maybe there's still time before Reckoning's February 7th release date for them to notice. I'll be dreaming of socketed chakrams 'til then.
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