For our last hands-on preview of Kingdoms
of Amalur: Reckoning
prior to
its February 7th release date, our character began approximately
two-thirds of the way through the main story at a crucial turning
point. Evil Gadflow and his Tuatha forces have besieged the Elven
stronghold of Mel Senshir, and the defending forces have devised a plan
to break through the pickets and strike at the heart of the enemy, the
towering (and I do mean towering) Niskaru Lord Balor. Needless to say,
you’re the lynchpin.

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alt="Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning High Level Preview">

Characters from one of four destinies were prepped and waiting for us.
I was still foggy on what destinies are, so Andrew straightened me out.
“We don’t like to say that destinies are our
version of classes- they’re our answer to classes,”
he quipped, and went on to say that destinies are unlockable and
hot-swappable packages of spells and abilities that compliment your

Depending on how you spend points in the balance between might,
finesse, and sorcery, different destinies are available to you that
help describe the kind of player you are. For example, the all-might
character I spent most of my time with was a Warrior. Other options for
this hands-on session included the all-sorcery Mage, the all-finesse
Ranger, and the finesse-sorcery hybrid Warlock.

Putting my warrior through its paces, I had my first answer to what
I’ll hereafter refer to Skyrim
question; is there room in the
market or a reason to play Kingdoms
of Amalur: Reckoning
in the
wake of
Bethesda’s game of the year contender? Combat, in both
mechanics and visuals, is an absolute treat.

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alt="Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning High Level Preview">

With over half the game presumed under my belt, the Warrior had only 4
abilities – easily swapped into the right mouse button via
the number keys – and a half-dozen or so intuitive,
keyboard-friendly go-to combos.  Remembering to shield block,
using the spacebar to roll out of danger, and triggering the
time-slowing Reckoning
mechanic was key, but combat never grew stale,
helped in no small part by smooth, believable animations and a visceral
variety of finishing moves.

Most of the action took place within the Elven fortress of Mel Senshir.
Ranks of Tuatha archers drew close, backed by trolls and something far
worse, with none of the faux puppet patterning we usually see with
massed troops in character-driven RPGs. Ladders slammed into place on
battlements, locked in place by spiked supports that, if one is paying
attention to the ongoing dialogue, you have to destroy to collapse the
ladders and move to the next area. Fail to do so and you’d be
fighting an interminable wave battle.  An early boss encounter
with Balor, a lobster clawed, ray-eyed, cycloptic beast that could
swallow my character whole and pass as a final boss in most games, led
to the untimely death of a familiar NPC.

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alt="Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning High Level Preview">

The upshot of that first Balor encounter was the Balor escaped his
Tuatha handlers and your humble protagonist had to face the unbound
fury of the creature not twice, but three times.  The second
encounter evoked memories of the Scarecrow encounters in Arkham

as I had to race and hide to escape Balor’s evil eye.

Fighting past more of the Tuatha forces , I scraped by several trolls
and a Niskaru captain by dodging hamfisted attacks and leaning heavily
on potions – thankfully there’s no cooldown, though
supplies are limited if you aren’t one for alchemy. 
Speaking of alchemy, after the showdown with Balor, I explored the
crafting system in light of the Skyrim
question and was pleasantly
surprised. Crafting is better organized in Reckoning,
with an
open-ended, wizard driven approach and, better yet, a weightless and
sortable components bag for each of the crafting professions you train.

The no spoilers take on the final encounter with Balor; it was a
multi-stage encounter with interactive cutscene aspects –
i.e. press the key when prompted while the baddie is in a down state or
encounter will regress a stage. Other EA published titles could learn a
thing or two from Reckoning’s
treatment of the time-honored
concept – the amount of time to hit each key was urgent but
not uncomfortable,  and the penalty for missing a keypress
isn’t overly punishing. For a little extra drama, I was down
to my last potion in the final stage but prevailed, reveling in a
finishing animation that surely must have made Todd McFarlane spawn a
grin. Mel Senshir, and the outlying swamps of Klurikon, was now open to

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alt="Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning High Level Preview">

At the very least, our final Reckoning
preview event underscored the
level of polish going into Big Huge Games’ big huge
name-dropper of a title. With 2 months prior to launch, Reckoning
story-complete and feature-complete, “it’s just not
a finished title,” explained Producer Andrew Frederiksen.
They could have fooled us. In four hours of admittedly staged play, I
didn’t experience a single bug, cosmetic or otherwise.

With game production already in its final stages, what’s the
team working on? Andrew wouldn’t say that DLCs are on the
agenda (though a splash screen tip told players where to pick up their
DLC content in the world of Amalur, confirming that downloadable
content is on the way), but did say that imbalance issues and fine
tuning are still making the holidays merry and bright at the
Baltimore-based studio.

So will Kingdoms of Amalur:
answer the Skyrim
question well?
The jury is excused until February, but what I can tell you is this: If
there’s one clear difference, having played both games on
Xbox and PC, I have to say I like Reckoning’s
PC interface
and control scheme much better.  Swapping in right-mouse
abilities with the number keys and having a separate key to block
(apart from two attacks) was refreshing. Also, Forgotten
Realms’ stark and unforgiving north and its people will
strike a little too close to home for me in snowy February, and
vivid hues and slightly caricatured character
models will be as welcome as an ergonomic shovel.

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alt="Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning High Level Preview">

Yet both Reckoning
and Skyrim
tell compelling stories, both offer
dozens of hours of content and plenty of free time-devouring side
features like crafting and housing, and both deliver the epically
sweeping über hero experience. Because both do so in such
different ways, I can safely say that if I only had the budget for one
fantasy RPG this winter, I’d buy both.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.