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Reckoning features 5 environmental zones each with their own unique looks, 125 dungeons, 4 giant towns, and plenty of villages in between. Our controlled demo started in a village with the player walking up to a guard and trying to pickpocket him. We got caught, and were accosted by a guard to either pay a fine, go to jail, or fight. Very Oblivion.
Pickpocketing is just one of many interesting skills improved by skill paths in Reckoning. For example, there's persuasion for dialog choices, stealth, detect hidden, and also varied crafting choices. Improving stealth will unlock more powerful stealth kills and help you sneak around to pickpocket innocents (or not-so-innocents). Dispel helps you get better at a mini-game to get into warded chests. Alchemy allows you to collect herbs to make potions. Blacksmithing lets you forge weapons with components found in the field, sometimes salvaged from traps disarmed with the detect traps skill. Sagecrafting gives you the power to turn shards into gems to be slotted into armor. The skills system looks very deep.
Reckoning also has no predefined character classes. Players put points into the skill trees of finesse, might, and sorcery, and unlock destiny cards as they do so. Destiny cards improve specific types of abilities using skills that players have put points into so that they'll be stronger no matter what they choose. These destinies vary from avenger to shadowcaster to wayfarer. There are tons.
After showing off the customization options we were presented with the combat system. The developers reminded us that the game may play in real time and look like an action game on the surface, but it is anything but. All attacks can be performed with two attack buttons and there are no special button combinations to perform elaborate attacks, instead the game will focus on the players ability to create a well-rounded character and adapt themselves to any situation.
One thing that was a bit discouraging however was the fact that certain enemies can be finished off with a quick time events. This is something that we have seen often in the God of War series of games and considering the fact that 38 Studios and Big Head Games want to step away from the action game stigma, taking players out of the experience in an RPG and having them watch a kill is something that should be fixed up.
The player also has the ability to bend fate to his will. Because he has no destiny of his own he is able to bend the world around him and can slow down time after filling a certain meter by killing enemies. This time slow down also affects the character, but not as much as the monsters, allowing the player to deal heavy damage in a short period of time with little risk to themselves.
We were shown a demonstration of pre-alpha code, but unlike other EA games, there was no chance to play it. From what I saw, it looks like Reckoning is only going to appeal to hardcore RPG fans. The presenter reassured us that while combat was very much like an action game, it had a (hardcore RPG backbone).
There was an interesting moment when a conversation between characters was being demonstrated. (We're not sure why, but some people don't like to read the dialogue. For those people, we've included an option to get back to killing things). Perhaps, I wonder, it's because in many games like this, the story isn't compelling enough for people to care.
As you kill the enemy you can select them and then loot them, but what is different here is that you do not need to go into a menu to equip something. This allows you to find a piece, check it out and equip it without having to manage your inventory. This isn't a requirement, but was a cool little feature that keeps the flow moving.
Keeping the combat flowing was a big part of the demo as well. Using the Slayer class (a hybrid between warrior and rogue) you were able to use magic attacks, speed and melee weapons to obliterate the enemies with ease. Even the bigger boss battles were easily finished with the (Reckoning Mode.) This state allows the character to become very powerful and much faster while the world around them is slowed. To turn this on, you have to collect (Fate points) which are accumulated throughout many aspects of the game. I would equate this combat system to a more broad version of God of War, which is definitely high praise.
Finally, there's plenty of footage to watch with both IGN and G4TV offering demos of the game, and GameTrailers also offering a recording of a 40 minutes stream from EA and an interview with Ken Rolston.