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Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning review

2012’s Kingdoms of Amalur told the tale of a hero brought back from death. Now the same has been done for the game itself. While Re-Reckoning is still full of life, the resurrection wasn’t quite spotless.

Kingdoms of Amalur
Platform: PC, also on Xbox One, and PlayStation 4
Developer: KAIKO, Big Huge Games, 38 Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release date: September 8th, 2020
Price: $39.99 via digital download, 10% discount until September 22nd
Availability: Steam, Microsoft Store, PlayStation Store

Arriving less than three months after the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning never quite attainted the attention it deserved. As a collaboration between game designer Ken Rolston, author R. A. Salvatore, and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, Amalur arrived with quite a pedigree.

But woefully, the dream team partnership was met with a mixed critical response and restrained commercial interest. While the game would eventually garner a decently sized audience, purchases arrived too late. Three months after release, 38 Studios missed loan repayments and was unable to make payroll, plunging the developer into bankruptcy and jettisoning any future hopes for property.

2012’s Originality Can Be 2020’s Banality

But the industry habitually provides second (and occasionally, third) chances via reissues, remakes, and remasters. With the (re)appearance of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, players are provided with an opportunity to revisit the vibrant topographies that comprise Amalur. Accept the invitation and you’ll encounter design decisions that felt fresh in 2012.

But many of these mechanics have lost their potency, after nearly a decade of inclusion in other games. Also recognize that this is a remaster. Although they’re have been some tweaks and improvements, a multitude of visual elements have only been given a rather bare-bones renovation.  There’s still fun to be had in Amalur, but the existence of new bugs certainty sullies the experience.

And one caveat: leading up to Re-Reckoning’s release, publisher THQ Nordic was less than forthcoming about showing actual gameplay, preferring to showcase cinematics save for right before release. They’re similarly coy about Fatesworn, Amalur’s “5+ hour”, fifteen-dollar DLC, allowing uncertainty to linger. Certainly, expecting contributions from Amalur’s key developers is dicey, so there’s little idea what next year’s expansion will play or look like. Reckoning fans thirsting for new intel, I’d advise you to wait a bit longer before committing.

The Fateless One Lives Again, as Does His Game

Undoubtedly, Salvatore’s detailed lore was one of the best qualities about Amalur. Here, the lead character awakens to find he’s been the first person to have been successfully resurrected. Named the Fateless One, players are tossed into a factional war between mortals and immortals. It’s a realm where Fateweavers can see into a person’s future. While most are preordained for tragedy, the Fateless One can’t be read, signaling a soul being whose destiny doesn’t seem predetermined.

Of course, it’s an intriguing set-up, and one that Amalur consistently mines for intrigue. But before getting absorbed in the plotline, you’ll have to sit through quite a bit of lore dumping at the beginning of the game. Teaming with stereotypical fantasy names, it can be difficulty to keep track of everything, leading to some early-game frustrations. While things eventually become manageable, it’s quite easy to get lost in NPC exposition, especially given the game’s fondness of side-quests.

Combat Remains Convincing

There have been a number of titles that dexterously hid the statistics crunching associated with abilities, magic resistance, and effectiveness of weapons. But Amalur’s remains adept in concealing these calculations. Instead, gamers are encouraged to become absorbed in the visceral, dynamic combat which has the responsiveness and tempo of a refined action title.

Whether players lean toward ranged, melee or magic weapons, Re-Reckoning sidesteps the immersion-breaking clumsiness often associated with persistent load-out changes and fiddly aiming, instead focusing on the nearest threat. Sure, the camera still occasionally gets hung-on on the wrong direction, and the nature of loot will mean hours spent on inventory screens. But the approach here remains superior to many peers. Like Skyrim, the title also abandons the rigid character classes of fantasy lore, allowing players to cultivate satisfying hybrid equally adept at sword as well as spell. What’s particularly please is the ability to respect your character at almost any time.

Fateless is Near Faultless When Fighting

Re-Reckoning’s scarce changes means that the developers didn’t want to temper with the components that were handled adeptly. But the loot equation wasn’t quite as balanced as other titles, leading to a lot of late-game junk to shift through. Smartly, that been remedied and you’ll find more equipment suited for your character build. Another key improvement is the level range that was assigned to foes in a specific region. Now, difficulty factors in the equation a bit more fluidly. But even on the game’s elevated levels, The Fateless One still feels like a badass, able to outmaneuver and surmount with his formidable strength and weapon competency.

Visually, you’ll likely wish there were more improvement. Sure, the textures look slightly better, bringing the game to at least 2017 standards. And credit should be given to developer KAIKO for improving Amular’s framerate as well. But draw distances can still be noticeably close and occasionally the mid-count poly model will be a reminder of the game’s age. Largely the game’s vibrant world eschews the visual fatigue that often accompanies dark fantasy, providing a luminous MMO-like landscape to explore. One aspect that’s not forgivable are the next visual faults (missing textures) and the intermittent crash. While the original release contained several frustrating bugs, Re-Reckoning seems to add to, rather than reduce that number.

Conclusion

Eight years on, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning still achieves, even if a number of games have cribbed some of the game innovations. A shift from rigid class systems and an underlying stat system might be more commonplace, but their prevalence might owe a debt to Amalur. As such, Re-Reckoning remains a gratifying jaunt, but one you’ll wish got a little bit more attention and polish.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning was played on
PC with review code provided by the publisher. 

2012’s Kingdoms of Amalur told the tale of a hero brought back from death. Now the same has been done for the game itself. While Re-Reckoning is still full of life, the resurrection wasn’t quite spotless. Arriving less than three months after the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 80%
Controls - 80%
Aesthetics - 70%
Content - 85%
Accessibility - 75%
Performance - 60%

75%

GOOD

Summary : As remasters go, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning checks off the essential boxes. Textures and framerates have been improved, and there are tweaks to the loot system. But revisit the game with tempered expectations, as advanced improvements are rare.

User Rating: 4.1 ( 1 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

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