For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: 38 Studios, Big Huge Games
Publisher: EA
When? Q1 2012

What’s it all about? On the face of it Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an RPG from the most sanguine of stock, with Ken Rolston (Paranoia, Morrowind, Oblivion) at the helm, R A Salvatore (Dark Elf Trilogy, Neverwinter) on hand to pen the plot, and even legendary graphic illustrator, Todd McFarlane, casting an eye of the visual side of proceedings, there’s every reason to be optimistic.

Curious then that our first encounter left us trying to discern exactly where all that talent has been spent. Sure, visuals are certainly on the nicely rendered side, with animation and sheen worked well, but this isn’t anything unseen before. Similarly, take Amalur itself, a clichéd realm of races and environments that we’ve seen so many times in games from Zelda through to Fable III. Then there are the classes: rogue, warrior and mage; nothing to stand-out there we’d suggest.

With that said however, Reckoning’s Creative Director, Mark Nelson, was on hand to enthusiastically point out everything which he feels is revolutionary – quite a lot as it turns out – and, on some points, we couldn’t help but agree.

Take the “non-stupid creatures” for example, who impressively work in tandem to attack the player, even casting spells together to bolster the effect; though not immune to some good old-fashioned sword play it has to be said. In fact the combo system on show has something of the God of War about it, as magic and might combine to juggle foes before they’re despatched in a flurry of gleaming sword arcs.

The story too begins in promising circumstances, a “personal story which balloons out into the global” as Nelson puts it, designed to make the player become invested in the world he’ll eventually be saving. Beginning life – or more accurately death – on a pile of dumped corpses, the failed experiments of an endeavour to reanimate the dead through use of the alchemy-crafted ‘Well of Souls’, the player’s journey is certainly a different one.

That Amalur’s people all have a predefined fate, a fate that you are now immune from after dying and being revived, obviously pitches you straight into an almost god-like relevance with a freedom of choice and influence unheard of in the realm. How you act with the freedom is entirely your call and again, we couldn’t help but draw comparison with the likes of Fable and Fallout for example.

Worth the wait? There’s certainly a kernel of potential about Reckoning, from the reputation of the people involved, through to the lustre in its presentation, visuals and audio. Our major concern is that the whole experience is a little too processed, lacking the required je ne sais quoi. Yes, presentation can take a game far, but without that certain something, a spark of originality, you’re ultimately looking at an average title. Here’s hoping the design team are given carte blanche to take these solid foundations and run with them by the game’s release.