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By Ryan Noik 26 January 2012

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A small taste of what looks like a great game
9.0    Gameplay
9.0    Story
9.0    Presentation
9.0    Lasting appeal
4.5

After playing the recently released Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (KOAR) demo, our first impression of the game, which launches towards the middle of February, has been resoundingly positive.
 
We got to play a fair enough amount to get a good feel for the game, with regards to its customisation offers, world and combat.

Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn between Kingdoms of Amalur and that other role playing behemoth, Skyrim, and that is certainly fair. However, if the demo and the hands-on play time we had with it are anything to go by, KOAR is set to stand on its own merits as well.

The demo allowed us to play the initial prologue of the game, and after we escaped the Well of Souls, gave us 45 minutes to explore the Faelands.

Custom made
 
While customisation of one’s character was not as deep as Skyrim’s, it was still sufficiently varied to pique our interest. Players can choose between the warlike and religious Almain, the seaborn and dagger favouring Varani, the righteous Ljosalfar and the stealthy Dokkalfar.

Each have their inherent bonuses – while the Almain receive blacksmithing bonuses, which helps with crafting equipment, the Varani are more adept at lockpicking; while the Ljosalfar gain dispelling (breaking magical wards) bonuses, the Dokkalfar are particularly suited to stealth.

While there are five presets for each race, the face, jewellery and tattoos can be broadly customised. Our initial Vorani for example, looked distinctively different from our Dokkalfar character.  Additionally, you can elect to follow a god or goddess, which grants further bonuses.
 
"Well, if you had just come back from the dead, you would look a little pale too."

Death born
 
You start off the game dead, or at least appearing to be so. However, you quickly learn that you are the first success of the Well of Souls, which has reunited your soul with a body.
 
It turns out that you are essential to turning the tide in an ongoing the war with the fearsome Tuatha Deohn, the soldiers in a seemingly unstoppable army which has waged a relentless war on Amalur, under the control of a mad king.

Battle ready
 
From what we’ve seen so far, one of the highlights of what KOAR has to offer is its fluid and enjoyable combat. Battling enemies was a viscerally satisfying, whether by full out combat with sword, sneaking up to them and attacking them stealthily with daggers, or dispatching them from a distance with a bow.

Even when equipping our first sword and with no levelling up in place, the game allowed us to engage us in some gleeful swordfighting. Equipping a secondary weapon mid combat was easy, while consumables, such as health and mana potions, can be mapped to a radial menu, for quick access as well.

Adding to the complexity of combat was magic, or abilities. These are employed irrespective of which weapon you have equipped, although staffs and sceptres, liberally located throughout the world, offer additional magical bonuses and felt like formidable weapons in their own right.  
 
"I don't know quite how to tell you this, but you've gained some weight since I last saw 
you - and gotten much uglier."
Welcome to the world

As soon as you’ve left the Well of Souls, where the game begins, you emerge into the Faelands, which are considerably vast.
 
Our first encounter beyond the confines of the Well of Souls was with a lush, bright and colourful world. This was a far cry from the bleak grey and brown colour palette that many RPGs are tending to adopt as the norm. The game also encourages you to explore and let loose your inner juvenile delinquent – crates, and jars are there for your wanton destruction, and often hide treasure chests with treasure, weapons or armour, inside of them.

While you are given a definitive quest to follow, you are also free to pursue side quests to your heart’s content.
 
Our 45 minutes demo time was spent trying to save an elf who had been beaten almost to death, helping a wolf which had been cursed and pursuing the formula for a deadly plague. All of these highlighted that we can expect top notch voice acting and world design, which in our opinion are amongst the make it or break it factors in an RPG.

Bugs life
 
Thankfully, we encountered hardly any bugs in the demo, the only exception being one texture  which didn’t seem to load properly. However, unlike our first 45 minutes in Skyrim, our character did not get stuck on a patch of ice forcing us to reload our previous save, nor did we encounter a dragon that could fly backwards.
 
Of course, it’s premature to  judge this issue without playing the full title, however what we did play was very solid.
 
"If you think the worm looks bad, you should have seen the apple!"
To the point
 
In a nutshell, the PS3 version of the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo left us in great anticipation of playing the full title when it launches next month. If it continues in the same vein at which it started, we may well have a genuine treat of a role playing game ahead of us.
 
The demo is currently available on the PlayStation network and Xbox live.

Pros
 
Beautiful world
Satisfying combat
Excellent world design and voice acting
 
Cons
 
A rare texture bug
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