In my last Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning preview, I wished that I could get more hands-on time with the game. Yesterday, I got my wish during a hands-on session that gave me a couple of solid hours with the game.
In many ways, the timing was perfect. Having played dozens of hours of Skyrim in more recent weeks (on Xbox 360), I always felt that Reckoning was going to be compared to that experience, given the gravity and scope of the latest Elder Scrolls release. So a lot of my collated pros and cons list was in relation to Skyrim.
I got to play from the start of the game, thankfully, on a PC version of the game that had keyboard & mouse as well as an Xbox 360 gamepad as control options. Big Huge Games deserves kudos on the controller front as switching between gamepad and keyboard & mouse is as simple as moving your hands from one controller to the other. Reckoning detects what input you’re using, and the game continues on.
The opening cinematic was sufficiently epic in a Lord of the Rings kinda way, while the character creation screen was more streamlined in that there weren’t the standard daunting range of nit-picky options on offer, but still enough to make my character feel personalised enough.
The highly stylised cartoony graphics were visually engaging and demanded my attention from the outset. When you combine the visual aesthetic with the animations and character poses, it all starts to feel like pages ripped from a dynamic comic book. This was most apparent during combat, but when I swung the camera around 180-degrees on my character during the quieter moments, his default stance made him look as though he was ready to take on Superman. Todd McFarlane’s influence has well and truly made a very positive mark on Reckoning.
Given my comparatively limited time with my first hands-on with Reckoning, I was keen to road test the hell out of the combat, which visiting Big Huge Games developer Ian Frazier believed to be best in class for RPGs.
The first section, understandably, worked as a tutorial for Reckoning’s combat system. I could block, evade and make use of two weapons as well as magic. The more I levelled up, the more combat options I unlocked such as magic or extra attack options for my melee weapons. But this is where things got a bit controversial.
You’ll essentially want to have a gamepad connected to your PC to get the most out of the multi-weapon combat. When using a keyboard & mouse, players can use a primary attack (left mouse button by default) and magic (right mouse button by default), but are forced to use the mouse wheel to scroll to the secondary weapon (be it a bow, magic-infused staff or daggers). Conversely, if you use an Xbox 360 controller, for example, you’ll be able to use primary attack (X) secondary attack (Y) and magic (holding a trigger + A, B, X or Y) in a free-flowing manner. This allows greater control over your primary and secondary attacks, which are incredibly useful during combat. Granted, the keyboard grants direct access to submenus via single hotkeys and spells can be bound to numbers 1-9—functionality that the limited buttons of a controller cannot offer—but this still seems like an oversight given the emphasis on fast-paced combat.