Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Electronic Arts
Developer:Big Huge Games
Release Date:2012-02-07
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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The key difference between Reckoning and Fable is that where Fable has continually downplayed statistics and other RPG standards to focus more on its "life simulation" gameplay, Reckoning has a very robust RPG framework underneath. Stats, skills and abilities are plentiful, and both non-combat and combat options are covered. Though we'll save going into the full details for our full review in a few weeks, the character system allows for more options than many others, with robust character creation featuring four races, gender options and even patron deities (which was lacking in Skyrim).

The character system primarily revolves around assigning points to skills (which are non-combat, i.e. Persuasion, Blacksmithing, Lockpicking, etc.) and abilities (which are combat-oriented). The non-combat abilities are raised in a manner very similar to Alpha Protocol, with a straight linear progression of each ability, but the skills follow a more traditional tree that resembles Diablo II's. There are nine non-combat skills, and three combat skill trees (Sorcery, Might and Finesse), but the lack of distinct classes leaves some options open, so you aren't forced to be an incoherent buffoon if you choose to wield a sword, just as a mage can also be a competent blacksmith.

While leveling up, collecting loot, and building your character isn't the deepest affair ever (most notably, there are no attribute points to assign, i.e. strength or dexterity), it's a good deal more than what many other RPGs on the market offer right now, and there's enough depth to make the system interesting without being confusing or alienating for more casual fans. For an action-RPG, Reckoning hits a good balance in appealing to two different crowds. Truth be told (and I mean Lionhead no discredit), Reckoning, to me, feels like what the Fable series should have been from the start.

Putting The Action In Action-RPG

Though it does have many non-combat skills, and exploring, talking to NPCs and so on makes up a good portion of gameplay, Reckoning's combat is ultimately unavoidable. While most action-RPGs awkwardly tread the line between action games and more traditional RPGs, Reckoning is perhaps the first game of its type to bring the same level of fluidity and finesse found in action games like God of War to the RPG genre. Combat is fast, fun, responsive, and driven by a fairly extensive combo system... and frankly, it makes games like The Witcher 2 feel downright clunky in comparison.

No matter how you play your character, you'll be able to equip primary and secondary weapons of any types, and switch between them freely (using the mouse wheel on PC, or the face buttons on your gamepad of choice). Weapons range from warhammers, to longswords, to daggers, to staves, to bows, to scepters, and while there are no class restrictions, there are ability restrictions on some of the higher-level items, meaning that you'll end up using gear that suits your character build. Though combat is handled on two buttons, combining different strikes and alternating the timing results in a variety of different moves unique to each type of weapon - longswords can smack enemies up into the air, staves do area-of-effect damage, and so on. Magic can be unleashed from time to time, limited by a mana meter, and while all characters will start with a basic attack spell, you'll have to improve your Sorcery line of abilities to unlock more.

Stealth is another way to play the game, and while it's not as fleshed out as straight-up combat, I can also see it becoming a viable alternative for people who don't want to deal with fighting outright. Crouching down at any time will enter stealth mode, and similar to the Elder Scrolls games, the appearance of eye icons cues you in on how close you are to being detected. Instead of one icon, you get icons per each creature in the area, so it's much easier to figure out who can see you and who can't. Sneaking up to targets allows you to perform insta-killing melee takedowns, which are short non-interactive sequences similar to those found in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope for something a little more robust (I think a critical attack multiplier would be more interesting than a kill-button), but at least it works, which can't be said of the stealth in many other RPGs.