It is rare that a video game comes along that causes a shift in how I view a particular genre. In fact, prior to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (to be referred to from now on simply as Reckoning), I'm not sure that I can recall the last really innovative game that I have personally experienced. Perhaps L.A. Noir did this with its facial recognition system, but as I didn't play it, I can't comment on it.

Curt Schilling's 38 Studios and Big Huge Games (the established game studio that 38 Studios acquired in 2009) released Reckoning to rave reviews and much anticipation. Reckoning's back story/universe was created by renowned fantasy author R.A. Salvatore (creator of the elf Drizzt of the Forgotton Realms universe), and the game design was done by Ken Rolston, best known for his work on Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. To round out the creative leadership, Todd MacFarlane, the creator of Spawn was the artistic director and Grant Kirkhope composed the score.

To say that Reckoning is a beautiful game would be an understatement, I find it to be pretty incredible. While the game shares more artistically with the likes of World of Warcraft and the Fable series than it does Skyrim, I actually prefer it because I think it adds to the fantasy feel of the game. When entering a new zone or territory, I feel like I am entering a new adventure and it renews my desire to explore the area. The voice acting is also some of the best that I have ever heard and the music is fantastic.

Role playing games have always been excellent vehicles for telling good stories and developing and molding a character to fit your play style and even your personality. However, I have always found the combat in RPGs to be rather hit or miss, and I can't recall an RPG that had a system that I truly loved. So many games try out something new, but rarely do they really feel rewarding.

Reckoning has completely changed (and if not changed, it's definitely perfected) how combat in action based RPGs should be handled. Combat is a mixture of easy to execute fighting moves (much like you would find in Tekken or Mortal Kombat), simple to aim ranged attacks (spells and bows), and wonderful, fun combinations. Reckoning does not require the player to manually face an enemy while attacking. Rather, as long as you're facing the right way when you initiate combat, your next series of combos will hit. Think of this much like the combat in Batman: Arkham Asylum. While this may seem less challenging, it's an extremely gratifying combat system.

As you level your character, you will unlock new abilities that are executed by a combination of button presses. These combos start off fairly simple: Hold down "X" then release; Tap "Y" twice, etc. However, later on, you will be able to combine your primary and secondary weapons into more complex, and more deadly combos.

As with all RPGs, as you complete quests, kill monsters and explore the world, you gain experience points (XP)... but that's not all. As you string together kills, you also gain a resource called ‘Fate'. Once your fate bar is full, you can enter ‘Reckoning Mode'. Essentially this slows down time and once you have cleared your immediate area, you can finish off one last enemy with a Mortal Kombat style fatality (a little less graphic, but relatively violent). This kill allows you to gain up to 100% more XP (depending on how quickly you can repeatedly push a button) before your fate meter hits zero.

This leads us to the warnings. Obviously this game is violent. Blood and gore are typically reserved for the cinematic ‘cut scenes' and the finishing moves, so there isn't a gratuitous of blood flying around the screen all the time.

Magic also plays a very major role in this game. In fact, your character is brought back from the dead using magic, right at the beginning of the game, so there is simply no way around it. The ‘pursuit of immortality' is also a key component of the story line. Along with magic, Reckoning's entire story is based on the notion of fate. Controlling fate, changing fate, and reading the future are all aspects of the main story. Tarot cards are a common thread throughout the story, so if that makes you uncomfortable, you will probably want to move on to a different game.

As of this writing, I am about 20 hours in to the game and have done a good number of main story quests, faction quests, side quests and tasks. So far, I have not come across anything that requires a moral decision. It seems like it's pretty cut and dry, if you want to complete the quest, you must do the task. However, I haven't come across anything that would make me think twice about taking on a task. There are multiple conversation responses available at times, but they don't seem to have any lasting ramifications, rather they just direct the dialogue. The story itself is fairly mundane, but there's enough there to keep me coming back to follow it through.

Overall, I would give Reckoning a rating of 8/10. While it's a fun game overall, it could easily have hit a 9 if the story were a bit more compelling and actually left me feeling like I was making a difference in the outcome. Perhaps, as I finish the game my opinion there will change. I have little doubt that this game will garner plenty of praise and awards nominations, and I think it's worth checking out.

*This article first published 2/28/2012