Way back in 2012, a video game was released with the involvement of several big names; Fantasy Author RA Salvatore, Image Comics’ Todd McFarlane, Composer Grant Kirkhope, and Ken Rolston, the Lead Designer behind many popular RPG games, including The Elder Scrolls titles Morrowind and Oblivion.
With such weight behind it, this game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, should have made a big splash and resulted in a whole new series of its own. However, for various reasons – that we don’t need to go into here – the game did not meet financial expectations and led to the dissolution of developer 38 Studios… after the release of its one and only title.
However, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was well-loved by those that did pick it up, and it received quite favourable reviews overall. As a result, now 8 years later, THQ Nordic has released a remastered version of the game so that more people can experience a game that had so much promise once upon a time.
Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning Review
Having never played the game, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was a game originally released on Xbox 360 and PS3 – but I didn’t want to hold that against it. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was released around the same time, and that game has received multiple re-releases over time, and for the most part still looks great.
But I must admit – Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, as it is called, still looks very much like an Xbox 360 game, for better or worse. This is not a remake, but a remaster, so the original graphics have been maintained and upscaled. And while artistically the style calls back to chunkier, curvier art of the time, and the GUI does seem outdated when compared to modern styles, it still looks great.
I must admit, though, it did chug on my PC, and I’m not sure why. What was sent to me was a beta version, so I’m sure it is to receive a bunch of optimisations prior to release, but I felt I had to mention it – this is an 8-year-old game, and it felt like it was running at less than 30fps at times. Being pre-release, I won’t let this affect my opinion of the game, but if this doesn’t change after release, I will be very surprised.
So what does the remaster bring? Well, for one, the three pieces of DLC that were released for the game – The Legend of Dead Kel, Teeth of Naros, and the Weapons and Armor Bundle – have all been integrated into the full game, so players receive a whole lot more for the price of a single game. Keep in mind that it was suggested at its initial release that a standard playthrough of the core game would see around 100 hours of playtime. So there’s a lot to dig your teeth into.
Apart from that… the game is mostly presented much as it was back in 2012. The resolution has been upscaled, the draw distances are improved, but for the most part, this is the same game. Enemy scaling has improved, apparently, rescaling every time a player enters an area where in the past it was set to a certain level. In addition, loot is scaled to the players current level, which means that players will receive more meaningful drops. Both of these are welcome changes, but not having played the original, I can’t comment as to how much this affects a playthrough.
What I can say, though, is that Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a damned fine title. The pedigree of the writing shows through in every aspect – from the deep lore behind everything to the snippets of poetry found throughout the land. The music, the game design, the artwork – everything is top-notch and on par with any great RPG that one might be able to recall over the last 8 or so years. It is a shame that it wasn’t considered a success financially, otherwise, I might be reviewing the third title in the series right now, rather than the remake.
But what makes the game so good is not so much the writing, the music, or the art design, as fine as all of that is. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is simply fun to play. The RPG elements, while slightly confusing at first, allows players to create any kind of character they want – from straight mage to warrior mage, to stealthy rogue or… whatever the hell you want. You can hold any two weapons – a Great Sword and a Staff, or a Bow and a Staff, or daggers and a bow, or… any combination of anything – and on top of all that, you have access to spells.
In some ways, the battle mechanics feel like a slightly stilted version of that found in Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, or God of War. There’s not as much fluidity, but it’s fun to roll out of the way, drop a spell, and follow it up with a few swings of your sword. In addition, the variety of enemies is extremely satisfying, from small sprites to large trolls and more beyond, everything has its own method of attack, and some need a little strategy to take them out.
On top of all of this? There’s a rage system that Re-Reckoning refers to as Reckoning Mode, which allows players to string along a bunch of more powerful attacks in a kind of wispy slow motion, ending with a powerful finisher technique that results in the acquisition of more XP. Fun.
Then there’s Blacksmithing, Gemcrafting, Potion making, and other things besides, so players that like to dig deep into other systems apart from battle will have much to enjoy here. The best part of these systems – they’re really easy to use, and it won’t be long before players find themselves crafting powerful items.
The biggest problem I experienced, though, was in the menus and inventory management. I would have preferred the developers took a little time to redesign the outdated inventory screen. Everything is strung out in a single long list that gets more and more difficult to manage over time. You can choose to move items to junk in order to clear out your list and sell off items at merchants more quickly, but it also feels as if it has the same energy as simply sweeping your dirt under the rug – just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean its not there. And suddenly you won’t be able to pick anything up, and you’ll find yourself needing to reorganise your inventory during battles more often than not.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a solid remaster of a game that deserved way more praise than it received on initial release. If you can get past the slightly outdated artistic style and menu design, you’ll find a highly enjoyable experience here, and if you have any interest in RPGs or fantasy, this is not one you should miss a second time.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning was played on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher