In our first hands-on preview we talked about the rich storyline and quests that are key to delivering this fantastic RPG experience. We are happy to say that not only does it never lose it's luster the more you progress, it actually gets even better. We can't give too much away, for fear of ruining the experience, but take it from us - it plays like a ripping fantasy novel.
First of all though, a bit on the skills available in the game. As you level up, you have to make three key choices. The first is which core skills you want to level up. These include lock picking, alchemy, stealth, persuasion, and many more. All are important, and with only a point to spend each level, you have to make some hard choices. The game caps out at 40 levels, so there's no way you can top-out all of the available options. Decisions, decisions...
A good example of this is lock picking. There are a huge number of locked chests throughout the game (and in a wonderful array of different designs and formats), hiding who knows what inside. Locks can be picked based on your skill level - and a bit of dexterous controller twisting - so points spent here can reap serious rewards.
The next choice you need to make each time you level up is where you're going to spend each of the three other points you get given, which you can distribute in either the might, finesse, or sorcery skill trees. Each tree is a decent size, with some of the skills requiring up to six points in order to max them out. Some skills unlock different combat moves, while others can increase damage, duration, etc. There is enough in the trees to suit all play styles.
Lastly you need to choose a fate card. Depending on how you have allocated skill points, differing fates or character types are unlocked that will grant general benefits (like increased range damage, resistance etc). It is a bit confusing at first however it is relatively easy to reset the whole lot with the parting of a bit of gold. Tired of being a ranger type? Well, tonight Matthew, I'm going to be an avenging warrior.
All of this also plays a big part in the weapons you choose. There are daggers, long swords, great swords, hammers, staves, and faeblades. There are differing attributes for each of them, of course, including physical damage, piercing damage, bleed, frost, fire, and lightning - etc. Many items have multiple effects and with the ability to add gems to items, you can have some quite devastating weapon effects.
Combat is a combination of skills and weapon abilities. Start with a simple dagger thrust, but hold down the combat key, then punch it again and you force-punch a wicked dagger strike, with a follow-through and so on. The bleed and fire effects get the blood pumping, as well as the always cheery glow of burning flesh.
Combat is fast and furious. Often you will start with a ranged attack - spell or bow - and then, if you are not particularly well armored, you may want to switch to a medium-range weapon like the spinning chakra disks. Or, if finesse and magic, is not your style, you may want to start the proceedings with a wake up call delivered by way of a huge hammer. Luckily, when you hit the inventory key, the game pauses so you can change weapons mid-combat if you feel the need to do so.
Then there is the finishing or reckoning mode. This is where, through combat, you have built up enough power to unleash a devastating finishing move that wracks up damage and experience points. Did someone say “impale”?
Its not all action in an adventurers life though. Crafting also plays a part in the game. Alchemy is a real boon for health pots and boost potions. Blacksmithing allows you to break down items and make new ones more to your liking (including their special abilities). Sage crafting is about combining gems and socketing them into weapons and armor.
All of these are core skills, so you can't be master of them all without missing out in other important skills. In our first play through, we chose Alchemy and were never short of pots. There are heaps of herbs to pick, and a huge array of different pots you can make (including ones that boost other core skills).
There is a surprising amount of depth in both the skills and crafting aspects of the game. In fact there is enough in this aspect of the game alone to make you want to play through multiple times just to try out the differing combinations. We can't wait for the game to release and our chance to reveal more in our final review.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning releases on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on the 10th of February.
The Good: An amazing RPG Game
The Bad: Where has all the time gone?
The Ugly: When did I last shave and wash?