I never really paid much attention to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning during development; I only knew it as that one game by that old baseball player with the bloody sock, but never anything more than that. But then I played the demo, and that immediately made me interested in Reckoning. The game looked beautiful, full of color and with a style that made me think, "So this is what Fable was always trying to look like." And above all else, the combat was incredibly fun and I didn't want to stop playing when the time limit ended. Reckoning went from a game I barely knew existed to one of the games I was looking forward to most in 2012.
The full game did not disappoint, for the most part, and I lost dozens and dozens and dozens of hours in the world of Reckoning. The world created was beautiful--teeming with varied wildlife, bad guys in need of killing and a plethora of side quests--and every area felt different, unlike Dragon Age II--which had the player going back and forth between a small collection of places over and over again. I loved exploring the world of Amalur--finding treasures and all that jazz--and the only thing disappointing about the world was that eventually ended.
As beautiful and interesting as the world was, I wouldn't have stayed if the game wasn't fun to play. Gameplay is where Reckoning shined brightest and I don't want to make any definitive statement, but it may be the best playing third-person action game I've played in years. It was just fun. "Fun" may seem like a cheap and easy word to use, slightly vague too, but there is no better word to describe the combat of Reckoning. I was still enjoying myself during the last hours and would have enjoyed playing for hours more if there was anything left to do afterwards--I ate up side quests like crazy before finishing the main quest. It's a combat system that rewards experimentation and let players respec their characters without a high cost. If other studios steal one thing from Reckoning, it should be the combat.
So why is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning almost game of the year and not the one game to rule them all? It's because the story was shit. The overall story was kind of interesting and there were some great side quests, but as a whole, the story was so flat, throwing in characters for just a short moment, never exploring any aspect as much as it could have been. Not helping was a main character who didn't talk and didn't even emote any emotion whatsoever. Watching as my character stood stone-faced to every situation took me out of the story and I found myself skipping dialogue within the first few hours. The writing may have been great, but the way it was delivered didn't entice me to pay attention. I said it numerous time before and I'm going to say it again, take everything from Reckoning and mix in the story elements and structure of Dragon Age and Reckoning would have easily been my game of the year. Sadly, the story left me wanting and because of that, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoing is only just almost game of the year.
And yes, there was controversy post-release regarding the studio, but that had nothing to do with the game itself and I think we're all sick of hearing about it by now. All I can say is, if you still haven't played Reckoning, you can get it cheap now and you should do just that.