Given the high-profile names behind Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the new fantasy RPG from EA, Big Huge Games and 38 Studios created sky-high expectations.
After wandering the massive world of Amalur for many hours, I can report that those expectations were well-founded.
Not only is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning thoroughly entertaining and engrossing, it is one of the most accessible RPGs around.
Does it set the RPG world on a new path? Probably not.
But the game that comes from such luminaries as author R.A. Salvatore, Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and designer Ken Rolston offers an immersive story brought to life in a gorgeous, mysterious world just waiting to be explored.
There is one other big name associated with Kingdoms. The game comes from a studio launched by baseball great Curt Schilling.
Kingdoms starts as the player finds himself to be the one and only person resurrected by a device called the Well of Souls. Soon you, the "Fateless One," learn that the area has been invaded by ruthless Tuatha Deohn as the Crystal War rages.
Players learn that everyone is bound by what their fate dictates. Everyone, that is, except for you. Your fate is not written; you can change your destiny, and that of others.
And so, players set out on an epic quest (with numerous side quests available) with the ultimate goal being to learn how you came to be killed and ended up in the Well of Souls.
Along the way there are countless characters to meet and converse with. Many of these characters will provide you with a mission that you can elect to take on or ignore.
Your missions will bring you to bandit camps, lush forests, flowing rivers, and, of course, dark and dangerous caverns.
Among the things to be found are an incredible array of weapons, armor, useful items, shrines and chests.
All of the elements of an RPG are in Kingdoms of Amalur.
Gain experience and you will level up. Players can then spend one point on skills including stealth, lockpicking, mercantile, alchemy, blacksmithing and sagecraft.
You get another three points to spend on the three ability trees: Might, Finesse and Sorcery. It is these three trees that allow you to craft your combat style.
It is through how a player spends his points on abilities that a player can really define his character. You can go all out in one direction, or make your character multifaceted. The choice is yours.
Players also get to choose the destiny they want to pursue. These choices also will affect your combat style.
Players also can craft weapons and armor, create gems that can imbue weapons and armor with additional powers, and concoct a variety of potions, from healing elixirs to those that protect from specific kinds of damage.
This welcome factor shows up in many areas of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
When you acquire new weapons, armors or items, they will be highlighted in your inventory to show that they are new and that they may be more powerful than what you are currently equipped with.
The menus in blacksmithing, alchemy and sagecraft clearly detail what items you have. In blacksmithing, players are shown what things they possess in order to create a new item. Sagecraft works in a similar fashion..
Alchemy proves to be somewhat more complex. Once you acquire a recipe, you simply click on it to create it (providing you have the required ingredients). Players also can experiment.
The system works seamlessly to facilitate gameplay.
Of course, the way to get ingredients, equipment, gem shards and plants is to scavenge for them, loot corpses, defeat enemies and unlock chests.
These are the two ways to get into locked chests. Both serve as minigames.
In lockpicking, the player moves a lockpick in a semicircle to open the lock. If the pick is in the wrong spot it will begin to vibrate. Leave it there too long and the pick breaks. Time to try again.
In dispelling, players click on a glyph when a circle passes over it. Players need to complete the puzzle within the time limit in order to crack open the chest.
Gold, armor, weapons and more can be found in these chests.
As said earlier, the three ability trees (Might, Finesse and Sorcery) tend to dictate your combat style. The three abilities can be thought of as warrior, rouge and wizard.
However, players can mix elements of all three abilities in order to personalize their combat style.
I like being a warrior, but don't mind casting a spell now and then.
Weapons include greatswords, swords, hammers, daggers, Faeblades, bows, scepters, staffs and chakrams.
As your character progresses, he becomes capable of performing new attacks. How to conduct a new attack is clearly detailed and demonstrated through the game's menu.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning conjures up a captivating story set in a breathtaking and diverse world.
The game designers' efforts to make Kingdoms a more accessible RPG makes it an attractive choice to both veteran and new players of RPGs. While Kingdoms is accessible, that accessibility does nothing to take away for the deep gameplay.
The game is available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. PC requirements are: Windows XP, Vista or 7; 2.2 GHz Intel duo-core or 2.6 GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+; 1 GB of RAM for XP, 2 GB for Vista and 7; 512 MB video card or better. Note: This review was based on PC version of game.