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Wow, this plays a lot like Skyrim. No, don’t fret about framerates – I’m talking flower-picking, wildlife-ogling, sandbox role-playing with a level of depth that simply wasn’t expected from a new franchise. But that Elder Scrolls parity shouldn’t be a surprise. Morrowind and Oblivion’s lead designer Ken Rolston is at Reckoning’s creative helm, bringing with him all the staple mechanics of those games. Enchanting, alchemy, intriguing locations: if you spent any time at all in Cyrodiil, you know what to expect here.
The world of Amalur’s lore is impressively deep – everyone you speak to has something at least vaguely interesting to say about their town, their family, ancient folklore, or tensions between the immortal fae (let’s face it, elves) and the mortal folk.
It’s not a lore you feel immediately engaged with, though – Reckoning’s story is largely shaped by your decisions (being a resurrected pseudo-god with fate-controlling powers and all) which means it doesn’t have much to grip you with through the opening few hours.
That problem with immersion isn’t helped by an overly friendly art style that’s at odds with the dark, serious tone the game wants to convey. Instead, combat bears the brunt of the ‘keep playing!’ duties, delivering some of the slickest, most satisfying and varied combat in the genre. Yep, including Skyrim.
At any point you’re given the option of primary and secondary weapon attacks – along with four special abilities, which the slick controls let you switch between in a pixie’s heartbeat. Throw in a beat-’em-up’s worth of combos, smart group AI behaviour and a super-satisfying ‘fate’ attack that drains enemies’ souls, and you’re hooked.
When you look up from the carnage, that tentative opening has turned into a more engaging yarn full of giant boss fights, bustling cities and fauna-filled woodland. What’s more, it’s all highly malleable – you have a big say in shaping Reckoning’s tale. Niggles with the art style and slightly sub-par storytelling mean this isn’t a classic, but with a few minor tweaks there’s no doubt it could have been. Roll on the sequel.