We’ve seen Reckoning multiple times throughout its different stages of development – from early concept stage to giving unrestricted access to the opening few hours of play – and after each session we’ve always felt confident that Big Huge Games are on the right track to delivering a RPG-centric experience supported by grade-A third-person combat, and we’re very pleased to be able to report that our latest hands-on session didn’t alter out opinion. Rather than starting from the beginning we were plonked two-thirds into the main campaign with a pre-made character in the northern-most regions of Amalur. Here we got to sample a major story quest which involved retaking a castle from the game’s main antagonistic force the Tuatha Deohn, a seemingly immortal force which instantly replenishes those who’ve fallen. We also got the chance to wander around the local area of Klurikon too.
Being dropped unceremoniously into this dense fantasy fiction with little introduction was a bit jarring, but it did allow Reckoning to showcase one of its major strengths – combat. Skill progression is determined by three different skill trees: Might, Sorcery and Finesse. There aren’t any classes per se, but where you spend your progression points will determine whether your character has Mage,Warrior or Archer attributes. The kicker though, is that these stats can be altered by switchable destiny cards, which can buff up melee, block, magic and other skills. It’s a great system, as it allows players to effectively switch their archetype on the fly, so that if you get bored of one type of combat you can choose another.
Previously we’ve declared our love for the combative stylings of the chakram-enhanced Mage, with its exploding balls of death and dramatic lightning spells, so this time we decided to roll out as a giant hammer-wielding Warrior and surprisingly it felt just as good and versatile. Making our way through this castle felt like a typical third-person fantasy experience, with a deluge of nameless soldiers to slaughter before moving onto the next room, but due to the array of combo moves and the sheer tangible weight of the hammer, it was surprisingly enjoyable just cracking skulls and performing combos. Usually this sort of gameplay is only conducive to the gamepad, but when using a mouse and keyboard it felt fine. This linear section was bookended by a grandiose boss battle with a 20-storey tall green slug thing, which subsequently had to be taken out by avoiding her massive claw swipes and slashing at them as they got stuck in the ground. That part we weren’t fond of so much, mainly due to its ‘gamey’ connotations, but in the context it didn’t seem too out of place.
After this main quest was complete, we were dumped back into the world with free reign to go wherever and do whatever we wanted to. We didn’t have too much time left, so we headed to the local island city of Rathir and discussed the politics of the day with meandering town folk. It was here that we discovered a downtrodden underclass which had retreated to the sewers to escape the persecution of a self-righteous security chief.
Admittedly the city did seem surprisingly compact, with all vendors focused in one small central area, but when it came to the supporting fiction we definitely got a sense that there’s a lot going on underneath the Rathir’s pleasant facade, with a deluge of dialogue options available and lore objects scattered around to read. In addition there were quest givers with floating exclamation marks over their head denoting activities and a playable parlour game in the local pub, which we couldn’t quite get our head around.
Reckoning seems to be a title that offers two gameplay experiences which have rarely, if ever, been successfully combined before, but it all comes together. Being thrown into a world which is so driven by character development, story and persistence was awkward at first, due to not creating our character, but Reckoning’s appeal shone through regardless.
We can’t wait to forge our own stories with our own avatar, and seeing as the release is only a matter of weeks away we won’t have long to wait.
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