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An encyclopedia for a game that needs one
on February 24, 2012
The guide for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is as good as could be hoped for. My most recent game guide purchase was of the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Collector's Edition and I frankly didn't expect this guide to be anywhere near that one in quality. I am happy to report I was wrong. While the actual game is of an entirely different calibur than Skyrim (and hard put to compare to it) its game guide can proudly give that guide a run for its money.
The guide for Reckoning refers to itself as "an encyclopedia" in the introduction and that is what you feel like you're holding. It is very weighty with exactly 600 full-color, glossy pages and contains almost everything you could want in its solid hard cover. The cover art is decent as far as artwork goes, but the image is not wrap-around, the side biding is all but blank and the back cover is a solid, featureless black. I may have been spoiled by other guides having full cover artwork, ribbon bookmarks, and light-weight paper and therefore be less impressed with this book's appearance and feel but it is still head-and-shoulders above the average game guide and can proudly sit on the shelf with other "elite" guides.
The content of the guide is very impressive and covers just about every base. A full 100 pages are devoted to getting an understanding of the classes and an equal amount of time is devoted to illustrated explanations of both the gear and the enemies. The things you're going to automatically want are here - detailed maps with key items (lorestones) you need to find, in-depth quest and dungeon walkthroughs (including combat strategies for every class for each important fight), and charts for crafting or shop inventories. I am very obsessive in my gaming tendencies and these sections all satisfy me fully.
I have to highlight my two favorite aspects of this guide: the extensive lore section and the fantastic tips given for achievement hunters. The end of the book truly takes on the feel of an encylcopedia as it goes into minute detail for a good 25 pages on the history and general lore of the races, lands, and events that make up Amalur. This section is very interesting and takes itself so seriously with timelines, geographies and racial histories that it is obvious the creators of this book believe this will be an IP that will grow and be around for some time. That section is also filled with a lot of beautiful artwork and concept art sketches. The book also contains the most helpful and extensive "trophies/achievements" section I've ever seen in a guide. It sets a new standard (for me) for the amount of attention this category deserves. I think that the type of player that would invest in an actual guide as opposed to just using the internet is usually interested in all completionist aspects - including getting every achievement. This guide devotes nearly ten entire pages to the achievements and how/when to best obtain them. It also gives frequent and helpful advice in the walkthrough and map sections whenever a chance to gain an achievement occurs.
Although it has many pros, no book is ever perfect. Aside from the compulsory typos contained in every game guide, the biggest shortcoming (which the authors briefly address in the opening pages) is the absence of unique loot locations or drop tables. The authors cite this as an inherent flaw in a system which is "far too complex" and a game that is "too big" but I find it disappointing that no attempt at anything, however rough, was included at all. Even in a huge game like Skyrim you at least get sample loot tables in the bestiary and an effort to chart the game's unique items but apparently in this game (despite trends I've already noticed) you can never know what to expect from the lowliest mob to the final boss. Whether or not you'll complete that unique armor set you've been collecting is entirely up to chance.
Despite flaws, it's a great guide and if you're interested in following the up-and-coming Kingdom of Amalur universe this is a must have.