Quest Choices in an Open World RPGAlthough the quest choices in Reckoning thus far don't seem quite as numerous or weighty as those in current BioWare RPGs, the game's developers note that most quests allow the player to make decisions. Those decisions will affect how various characters and factions see the player, and can cause new quests to appear or others to become unavailable. Fans of choice and consequence-style Western RPGs should appreciate these choices. If they're done well, it could be a nice step forward and could add greatly to the game's replayability.
Art Style and Attention to Detail
Reckoning's stylized graphic design is somewhat reminiscent of the Fable series, especially in the early areas of the game, which resemble a magical fairytale forest. Other areas, such as the desert and plains areas, are less whimsical yet still infused with vivid colors. It's a nice change from many of the undersaturated fantasy worlds we've been exploring lately. Even nicer are the character-filled monster designs, which show the stamp of veteran fantasy artist Todd McFarlane, who consulted on the project.
Perhaps the best thing about the game's visual style is the attention to detail that graces every inch of the world. Wildlife frolics through the woods, bandits do calisthenics in their camps, and forest sprites dance in magic circles. Peasants kneel as they work their gardens, and a wolf who has been transformed into a man limps oddly while trying to walk on two legs. Character animations are a bit stiff during conversations, but combat animations are fabulous. Every creature fights differently in a manner appropriate to its species, and it's a joy to watch dagger-wielders crouch into a fighting stance or wolves do flying leaps at the player.
Diablo-Style Loot System
Loot lovers should be delighted with Reckoning's world, which is stuffed full of randomized yet attractive treasure. Even the first few kinds of armor that the player can loot are nicely-designed, so our characters should never look dumpy or like they stepped out of the rag factory. Weapons are generally quite flashy, showing off magical effects from the early stages of the game.
Not all loot is randomized. Special, hand-designed pieces have been placed carefully throughout the game, giving players particularly epic weapons and armor to look forward to. It's a great balance between the addictive nature of Diablo's loot system and the enjoyment of finding a game's most epic, specially-created treasure.
A New Classless Character Growth System
Reckoning's classless character customization system is an elegant solution to allowing players to shape their own character. When leveling up, players are able to put points into any of the game's three ability trees: might, finesse, and sorcery. Depending on the combination of points, the player is able to choose from various Destinies, which are basically class labels that give the player certain bonuses that support the chosen playstyle. The player can change Destinies at any point, and reassigning ability points is easy to do. Want to play a thieving warrior? A bow-shooting mage? A jack of all trades? Reckoning allows players to do all of that.
A Fun, Responsive Action Combat System
Judging from the demo, Reckoning's combat system is aiming to be one of the best ever seen in an action RPG. While it appears to be a simple button-mashing system at first, it's actually far deeper than that. Using different button presses and kinds of timing, characters can perform different combination attacks. For instance, a longsword user could simply mash the attack button three times for a regular combo, but pressing the button with the right timing allows the player to juggle enemies in the air instead. Not only that, spending ability points gives the player access to special abilities, each of which have their own different combinations as well. Even further, players can choose any set of primary and secondary weapons, stringing together attacks and combinations with both.
Combat in Reckoning is quick and responsive. Blocking is particularly easy to pull off, as pressing the shield button puts a shield up far faster than is usually seen in action RPGs. Dodging is also quite effective for covering ground. All these techniques will be needed, as the game's monster A.I. seems pretty decent. Wolf packs attempt to surround the player, ranged monsters zip around in order to stay at range, and tougher monsters have tools to attack players both in melee and at range.
Having played through the Reckoning demo using three different kinds of characters, I can report that different weapon combinations feel satisfyingly different from each other. A warrior with a giant hammer needs to use a very different combat strategy than a rogue with daggers and a longbow. All of these things make Reckoning's combat system shine, especially in the RPG world. It's a blast, and I'm very much looking forward to facing the toughest monsters that Amalur has to offer.
Reckoning is by no means a perfect game, and some aspects seen in the demo, such as an uneven conversation interface and some odd camera behavior (which may be fixed by release), show that this is 38 Studios/Big Huge Games' first major release. Still, Reckoning shows a great deal of promise, and I encourage everyone to at least check out the demo and see if the game seems to be their cup of tea. For all ten reasons I've listed here, Reckoning is a game worth paying attention to.
Date: January 23, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*