Are you ready for this? Curt Schilling's video game is good. Really good. Because he's never been known for his modesty, you'd be forgiven for thinking that his foray into interactive entertainment was a vainglorious attempt to stay relevant after his playing career ended. Nothing could be further from the truth. We should have known Big Schill was legit when we found out that he named his Everquest character "Scythehands Voxslayer" and was willing to say so out loud.
TACTILE Battles are a series of earth-shattering attacks, melding visual spectacle, aural assault, and force feedback in a symphony of chaos.
The first effort from Schilling's 38 Studios is the action-RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which doesn't re-write the rulebook, but executes genre tropes at a high level. To start with, the world is large— almost impossibly so. When I read that the developers estimated that it would take more than 200 hours to complete all of the content in the game, it sounded like typical marketing bluster. After sinking dozens of hours into the game for review, I'm no longer so sure.
Reckoning follows quest structures that should be familiar to fans of western RPGs such as the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, which comes as no surprise when you learn that this game's creative director is Elder Scrolls vet Ken Rolston. And so the world is jam-packed with folks who need your assistance, from the highest noble to the lowest serf, each indicated by a yellow exclamation point hovering overhead. In all cases, the tales themselves are not terribly interesting, yet it is irresistible all the same to respond to each new cry for help — even when all you're doing is fetching an item or killing some dude you've never met. This is not one of those games that is interested in presenting you with complex moral quandaries.
What Reckoning does give you, however, is a rewarding set of tools with which to accomplish your tasks. If the major shortcoming of the genre is a less-than-tactile sense of combat, then Reckoning almost single-handedly corrects the record. Battles are a series of earth-shattering attacks, melding visual spectacle, aural assault, and force feedback in a symphony of chaos. Unlike its slower-paced, more strategic brethren, Reckoning gives you a visceral sense of the moment.
What's more, Reckoning offers a smart system of character progression that rewards all types of players equally, often in ways you wouldn't expect. While the game grants free rein to develop your skills along any of three tracks (essentially: strength, magic, or stealth), it also encourages you to mix and match to develop your own style. As a result, without feeling led by the nose, I built a mage who played conservatively, dealt damage from a distance, and occasionally called down a meteor from the heavens to smite my enemies.
Even if you do regret your choices, Reckoning offers an easy out. For a nominal fee, you can completely rebuild your skill tree. There's nothing punitive about it. If you're simply curious what it would be like to play as a sneaky assassin or a hulking brute, you need only cough up some gold pieces to find out. This is so user-friendly and logical that, frankly, it's insane that so many games lock you into your choices for the duration. Go figure. Schilling and company haven't just made a decent genre entry. They've shown others how it should be done.^
Your inventory fills up fast, so find stash points as quickly as possible.