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With the rising popularity of endless open-world RPG's, it is becoming more and more difficult to give a review that is both fair and timely.   Rating and recommending an RPG fairly really requires a full play-through of the game, which can be very time consuming.  In the past, 40 hours or so was a standard amount of time to expect to put in.  During the Xbox/PS2 generation, the playable hours of many games began to shrink, probably due to the rising costs associated with creating all the art, sound, and features that go along with a major modern game.  Shooters are particularly guilty of this lately, with favorites like Call of Duty offering single player campaigns that only last perhaps 10 hours at best.

Enter Elder Scrolls.  Morrowing and Oblivion quite literally obliterated the competition, harkening back to the days of RPG old when you had massive open worlds to wander through freely.  And of course, with the release of Skyrim, countless girlfriends of gamers everywhere lost there significant other for months or more.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is EA's big foray into the "really big huge gigantic endless goodbye-social-life RPG" universe.  And of course, being EA, they have to make a big splash, adding the beloved author of the Forgotten Realms "Drizzt" novels, R.A. Salvatore.

Reckoning is a solid game.  Obviously no surprise, given the amount of time, money, manpower, and big names behind it.  But can I be honest?  I've played this game before.  It was called Fable.  Seriously, the control scheme and graphics are almost identical to the Fable series.  Now, that isn't necessarily a terrible thing.  The controls are smooth and responsive.  It's fun to bring the action-RPG elements into a massive open world with focus on level advancement and character creation.  But the skill trees are silly.  Most of the skills just increase your damage with weapon X by Y percent.  Why does it matter if I'm shooting a lightning bolt from my hands, fire from my staff, or an arrow from my bow?  At that point, it's almost a purely esthetic choice.  Don't get me wrong, it's extremely satisfying to go up against some of the more challenging foes, like Ettin War Priests, and deftly roll away from their massive hammer strikes, while delivering sword blows and electric blasts.  But it gets old quick, and there are tens upon tens of hours yet to be played.

Fable 1 was a blast. It melded action and RPG like no one had since Diablo.  By Fable 2, I was weary, and not impressed by the "buy all the pie shops" feature.  But Fable 3 made me believe again, with a short but amazing story, complete with plenty of important decisions and a "what the!" twist ending.  But Amalur really brings nothing else to the table, except sheer size.  Endless items that are just marginal improvements over the previous one, insuring you never really care or become attached to them.  The ability to completely redistribute your skill points and rebuild your character, ensuring that you never really care much about your build, and consistently try to min/max yourself rather than build a character you want.

I didn't much care for Skyrim.  I know that puts me in a minority of the gaming crowd.  I loved the first Dragon Age, a game which made me believe again in the magic of games, RPGs in particular- games that really transport you to a new realm and make you forget the drab and mundane of your life, and truly take on a new persona.  I'm not sure that I like the trend of massive open-world single player RPGs.  If I am going to spend so much time in an alternate world, I'd prefer to share it with others.  At least as of now, only actual human beings have the depth of character, variety, humor, and worth to make me want to invest a large chunk of time into them.


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