As much as I love the exploration and discovery in massive open-world RPGs, their unintuitive combat systems have always tempered my enthusiasm. Intense, fluid combat and large scale RPGs always seemed mutually exclusive, but "Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning" successfully bridges this gap. While sticking closely to typical RPG conventions, Reckoning's dynamic action sets it apart from other role-playing games.

            The journey begins as you emerge from the Well of Souls, a machine created to restore life to the fallen citizens of Amalur. As the first being to survive the experience, your fate is completely unwritten. Fate is yours to control, meaning you can alter the destiny of the world and every inhabitant living there. Although the main story comes to a satisfying conclusion and offers some impressive boss battles, the overall narrative wasn't overly compelling and results in a fairly standard fantasy tale.

            While the main campaign only clocks in at about 30-35 hours, the sheer amount of extra content will keep gamers satiated for countless more. It was nearly impossible to enter a shop or unexplored area without seeing new quests pop up on the mini-map creating a continual logjam of side quests in my menu. Even though I still had 30 built up by the end of the main story, there are still a wealth of areas I want to explore much more thoroughly.

            The side quests themselves aren't very inspired, most involve rescuing someone from a cave or collecting various items so a villager won't complain anymore. However, the several factions throughout the game offer engrossing missions that range from acting out the ballads of elves to taking down a local deity.

            Combat takes center stage in "Reckoning" and is easily the most rewarding aspect of the entire game. The action is more akin to "Fable" than "God of War", but it makes combat something I continually look forward to instead of dreading as I have in other RPG's. Complete with combos for different weapon classes, stealth mechanics and brutal finishing moves, this is the most satisfying combat system I've played in an RPG.

            A massive skill tree accompanies the player and allows them to divide their points into might, finesse or sorcery with each category offering unique abilities or better proficiency with the myriad of weapons. Each player also has the ability to choose a destiny that unlocks based on the amount of points you've dumped into the specific branches of the skill tree. Each destiny boosts stats and can easily be swapped for a different one if the player wishes to alter the effects. 

            Amalur itself is massive; filled with several varied zones that utilize a vibrant color palette, the world has a very distinct look. The cartoonish graphics, while somewhat primitive, blend in naturally with the colorful terrain. Amalur looks magnificent, but ultimately the world isn't as awe-inspiring as a title like "The Elder Scrolls". Many of the paths you can explore are fairly linear; it doesn't create the sense of wonder and freedom "Elder Scrolls" games provide where a boundless world sprawls before you ready for endless exploration. For players interested in the lore and back story of the world around them, the amount they've included is staggering. Seemingly every dialogue box had plentiful options that expanded on nearly every part of the story, characters and environment around you.

            Despite my minor gripes with the title, "Reckoning" is an impressive take on the open-world RPG that makes going back to previous combat systems seem bland and mediocre by comparison. With a strong framework already in place, future titles in the series with more polish and better variety of missions could easily place this among the elite RPGs in gaming. For now though, "Reckoning" is a superb title that successfully fuses stylized action with an open world setting and demonstrates the next step in the evolution of action RPGs.  

As published by The Daily Cardinal