You can tell apart memorable RPGs from the others mostly through their story. That’s why we will always remember Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment or in more modern times, the Elder Scrolls or The Witcher. All the sins of these games were (mostly) forgiven because they had something to say and, beyond this, it mattered how they said it. Well, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning won’t go down in RPG history for its narrative, but for another element, at least as important: the gameplay.
First off though, if you’re a fan of the Elder Scrolls series, where the game world is enriched by listening to dialogues and reading books, Reckoning will be a disappointment. Yes, it has long dialogues and books, even a secondary mission that asks you to recover a whole collection of them. But for a story created by R.A. Salvatore, a best-selling writer (at least in the States), it’s very mundane, which brings us back to the idea of the first paragraph: it’s not just what you say, it’s also important how you say it.
And the background in Reckoning is interesting: you are dead. Or at least you were until something called the Well of Souls brought you back in Amalur, a world tied by Fate. Since your hero is reborn, his destiny is tabula rasa, which means that only your decisions influence him and now you can change not only your destiny, but also that of the whole universe.
Unfortunately, only the premise is interesting. Because resurrection also comes with the well-known amnesia, but what you learn about yourself never steps on your nerves (though it might and should) and isn’t very clear either (for the sake of a sequel, of course); neither the characters, nor the details are interesting to follow, the text is very fantasy-generic and you’re lucky to skip the chit chat to get to what matters: the action.
The quests are also generic, following the known pattern of – kill, find, recover and maybe steal. Few quests get out of line (excluding the women from the clergy or meeting the wolf man), so a lot of the time you’ll just head to the mission marker without caring about the actual assignment. It’s mostly about the journey and especially the fights to get there.
Options, choices, decisions
One of the interesting elements in Reckoning is the character system. You don’t directly invest points in life or magic, but in two sets of characteristics: some general (Alchemy, Lockpicking, Sagecrafting, Detect Hidden, Blacksmithing etc.) and some specific to the way you want to evolve your hero. The latter are based on the main classes (Warrior, Mage, Rogue), but can be mixed any way you want; thus, you can get a mage wielding a hammer, an invisible thief that won’t shy away from throwing a lightning bolt or a huge warrior with a bow on his back. There’s no class limit when choosing an ability, just like there’s none for items; you just need to have the points invested.
This creative freedom and class mix also offers many choices when it comes to fights, especially towards the end when the enemies swell in numbers. You can go for a pure warrior with broadswords and hammers, but at the same time, one point or two invested in magic or Finesse (the Rogue part) offers the access to some „delicious” weapons. Just the same, a little discretion can’t hurt when you don’t feel like fighting or you are in an area where for the moment the opponents are too strong for you (marked in red), but you still want to solve the quest since you got so far already.
In all there are 60 passive and active abilities and if you don’t like you choices, you can always restart: a Fateweaver (some sort of card reader that should reveal your destiny) erases everything and you get all your points to try a different combination. And knowing that there are many areas to explore, “reinventing” the hero from time to time is a good way to continue playing without restarting the story.
On the other hand, no matter the recipe, the adventure is a bit too easy. Not much of a challenge on Normal, so seasoned gamers better go for a higher setting; besides the end, most of the boss fights are trivial, usually being enough to corner them after getting rid of the occasional additional minions.