When faced with a new fantasy world it's easy to hide behind your hand and do a Muttley-giggle. The sprawling Plains of Erathell? The enchanted forests of Dalentarth? Hah! Give it up and go home LARP-boy! You won't catch me employed by the Warsworn to empty the Brigahall Caverns of the Niskaru taint! That's for losers! I'll probably just kill a few more dragons in Skyrim instead…
Opening gambits with high fantasy games in unfamiliar worlds are always a little strained. Even Reckoning's play area, the Faelands, sounds like a term that Richard Littlejohn would use as a put-down. No matter how daft those names might strike you as at first though, and no matter how earnest the game is, it's the fifty or so hours you plough into them that'll make them your reality. What sounds like an odd collection of syllables today will trip off the tongue as easily as Cyrodiil or Azeroth tomorrow.
Well, hopefully they will. Reckoning was first shown off at this year's GDC alongside a fanfare of the nerd royalty involved: Ken 'Morrowind' Rolston, Todd 'Spawn' McFarlane and RA 'Shelves devoted to me in Waterstones' Salvatore all have a hand in the project, while their underlings have been hired from some of the greatest Western RPG houses around. A shame, then, that the showing itself lacked its own voice – Oblivion-esque character creation met a stat-fuelled version of God of War's 'bish-bosh' combat, while a more open version of Fable's Albion nuzzled up to the gold-exclamation marked quests of World of Warcraft.
Sadly, further inspection of the quests that make up the guts of Reckoning doesn't quite rev the adrenalin glands either. What is clear, however, is that the game is as solid as it is po-faced – its roleplay systems run deep and diligently, while the action-styled and stat-fuelled combat is certainly slick. Reckoning's primary aim is to build action combat on top of eminently hardcore foundations – and this is an area where they're highly likely to succeed.
In the world of Amalur all beings are born with a fate – a pre-ordained lifespan in which their every act is clearly prophesised until people ceremoniously pop their +1 enchanted clogs. Your character, however, has been brought back to life by a gnomic mad scientist – a creature making the most of the magic that's spilling into Amalur and prompting an imminent battle between good and evil. What with being a reanimated corpse you're not only intent on finding the chap that recently did you in, but you're also fateless. This neatly ties into how you build your character: you begin classless and build your abilities and specialities through the network of personal development that lies ahead – free to pile points into your skill trees until they're a fate-free sprawl. You could almost say (ahem) that there's no fate but what you make.