As of now, I am a bit over 20 hours into my time with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This is/was my second most anticipated game this year and I am happy to report that it does not disappoint. And it's looking to be my Crysis 2 of 2012; the game that I absolutely enjoyed even if everyone else will forget about it sooner of later (yeah Crysis 2 totally got shoved under a bus when it came to shooter of the year awards or best engine.)

Surprisingly enough, I'm finding it very difficult to start with any one factor to say what I am enjoying about Reckoning. Because there's a lot of small and larger parts that paint a beautiful picture. So let's start with the art direction.

As most of us on this site would agree, Art Direction always trumps terms of graphical prowess. Reckoning is a beautiful lush and colorful WRPG in contrast to games even as beautiful as Skyrim. The cartoony graphics do well to support the more wacky enemy designs that constantly pop up and what not. That being said, if you've been playing the MMOs with World of Warcraft's art direction chances are you've probably seen this a lot and may be getting tired of it. But if you're a much more single-player RPG person like me, this is a great contrast to the likes of realistic looking titles like Skyrim.

Next thing I'm happy to report is that the games dungeons are also well designed. As of so far I've run across 4 different types: Forested, Mining Cave, Ruin, and Castle. And I'm constantly running into something that makes a dungeon unique like one that opens up above for a large space with broad daylight pouring down or a waterfall, etc. My only gripe is their sometimes overly linear approach to their design won't warrant the more impatient types to take a step back and look. Which is a shame considering the effort the team put into them. But the design itself works best for the combat system - which simply put is impressive - the game has rather than the more of branching paths a typical dungeon in Elder Scrolls games will consist of.

I will take the extra step to praise them for the forested dungeon design. It's like stepping into every Legend of Zelda forest dungeon. It's lush, vibrant, and most of all: refreshing. Sure it's probably been done by RPGs in the past but I haven't seen them. Least I think I haven't.

Another about the combat, this is the first time I've ever played an RPG where I played through the first time as a mage. The swordplay is excellent but the benefits of being a mage in this game - for the first time I've ever played an RPG - are just as good if not better. Weapons like Staffs and Charkrams are flashy and satisfying. Sceptre's are not so much because they tap into your mana and it drops quickly.

The game also has some light looting mechanics to it as well. Which don't put it of course on the same level as Diablo or Borderlands but are just enough to be appreciated. Weapons and armor can be quickly compared to one another and anything you don't like can be quickly sent to a junk inventory which clears up your interface and makes them easy to sell.

Speaking of selling, I will fault this game for it's economy. It's completely mishandled. Only 20 hours in the game and I have almost 150k worth of gold. Which is a LOT in this game. Remapping your skill points only costs you around 3k of gold and even buying a house and upgrading it to full potential takes only around 5k out of your wallet. Training from NPCs is pricey - as in 15k or more - but it's nothing one inventory of loot at my level 14 can't fix through simply wandering a zone. So the entirety of investing precious skill points mercantile is a useless proposition simply because it isn't needed.

The only other thing I can find fault in is some of the quests in the game feel like they were pulled right from an MMO design standpoint. There are several instances where all that was required of me was to go into a building and steal a potion, or if I had the skills needed I could make the potion myself. And many of the quests don't get a hook about them as Phill Kollar mentioned in his review. However, there are some great questlines to be found in this game. Last night I saved the town of Canneroc from a spider queen/goddess that wrapped up with a pretty awesome boss battle.

Regrettably, by the time you finish this game, Aylin Shir (above) and Agarth the Fateweaver might be the only two characters that stick in your head. And probably just because you see them early on and often. The rest - while jam packed with dialogue - are forgettable.

One of the reasons I never get around to writing reviews is that by the time I've finished the game it'd be irrelevant. Reckoning is definitely going to be a case of that. If my opinion of the game continues to stay true throughout the rest of it, I'd probably score it at an 8.75. This game has many solid ideas, some lighter than others. It does falter in some respects but it isn't worth passing up on the experience.

To simply put it, if you are a fan of RPGs, one way or another you owe it to yourself to give this game a shot. The demo itself is large enough to give you a solid idea of what the game is like, so if you haven't played it do so if you still undecided. 

But I really believe - with all sincerity - that Big Huge Games is going to really make a name for themselves here and the future. For the first step into a new IP and such a massive game they've proven to me at least that they've got the chops and aim to compete with the best. Considering the basis of Reckoning being to get the upcoming MMO of Amalur in people's heads, I wonder where Big Huge Games will go from here. If they stick to RPGs, I wouldn't be surprised if one of their future titles - be it Amalur or something else - compete for RPG of the year against a future Fallout or Elder Scrolls title from Bethesda.