Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (PC) REVIEW – More A Reminder Than A Remaster
PC, PS4, Xbox One
It’s arguable that the story surrounding Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning’s troubled life is more interesting than the game itself. Despite releasing to strong reviews, the would-be Skyrim killer ended up being overshadowed by absolutely wild tales of how it nearly bankrupted the state of New Jersey and the subsequent fallout.
Time and rose-tinted spectacles have been kind to Reckoning, though. While it never quite managed to hit the sales numbers necessary to wipe out a $75 million debt, it’s nurtured a cult following not unlike Dragon’s Dogma, which also saw the remaster treatment in 2017 for current-gen devices. But is Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (another naming masterstroke from the nostalgia kings at THQ Nordic) a remaster that will bring the masses flooding back like the Tuatha across the Faelands?
Maybe. The most important thing to note about Re-Reckoning is that it’s not a grand overhaul of the original, it featuring QoL improvements (HUD scaling, loot tweaks) rather than outright fixing its quirkiest of flaws. Even the old button layout is present while playing on a controller, the prompts being in the Xbox 360’s style rather than something more up to date. It also doesn’t particularly impress visually while playing on a 1060 and i7 setup on mostly high settings, though this might come down to the art style more than anything else, which is showing its age while still having plenty of Fable-esque charm. I managed to hit a constant 60fps with very few dips at all, so it’s clearly been optimised and polished where performance is concerned.
If you’re considering Re-Reckoning as your first venture into Amalur, you should probably know that it’s one of the most impressively dense fantasy worlds out there in terms of lore — it’s quite easy to get lost within the stories of Ljosalfar, Dokkalfar, Fateweavers, and the dastardly Tuatha Deohn. Kingdoms of Amalur tries its absolute best to create a world that feels completely new and, despite it being a little overwhelming to begin with, I found myself snaffling up all the extra info I could as I role-played my buff Nigel Thornberry assassin.
You play as the “Fateless One”, a soldier who dies in a battle against the Tuatha and is then resurrected in the Well of Souls, leading to the fabric of fate unfurling. The Tuatha are immortal Winter Fae who have declared war on mortals with Fateweavers across the land declaring their victory as all but guaranteed — until you came along. Armed with magic and increasingly gnarly weapons, it’s up to you to put a stop to them, one of many hundreds of quests at a time.
It’s hard not to be bowled over by the scope of Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, the Faelands being some of the biggest and most densely packed environments in any action RPG out there. From elvish halls to the customary starting village and many, many dungeons, it’s very much a kitchen sink experience. You can’t go more than a few meters without running into some sidequest, though these disappointingly consist of very little variety and just a whole load of slashing and fetching. It was actually kind of off-putting for me personally to see so many exclamation marks, though if you’re someone who wants to squeeze every piece of G out of your RPG, these will easily help your playtime see three digits.
Coming back to that slashing, Re-Reckoning’s combat is supremely great fun, if somewhat mindless and not all too challenging — you may want to bump the difficulty right up if you’re a Death March veteran. Players are allowed two weapons at a time which can be used with X and Y, so I often switched between swords and daggers for the primary and then stuck with the bow for secondary. I always found myself experimenting with how I approached encounters and role-played as a silent rogue for the majority of my playthrough, even if the game’s clunky stealth system meant I ended up just impaling some suckers instead.
The combat really plays out how you want it to, though timing is key when it comes to blocking and nailing windows for critical attacks. If you’re adept in Finesse, you’ll likely be dancing around the battlefield, chipping away at health bars and proving hard to hit. Sorcery will allow you to use mana to chuck balls of lightning and imbue yourself with things like poison, while Might will make it easier for you to carve your way through big swathes of enemies. There’s lots of different ways of playing, and while they aren’t massively different overall, it does help to make your character in Amalur feel like your own.
Also bolstering this are the various skill trees, which are certainly robust and worth pouring the hours into. There’s a genuine sense of empowerment the deeper into a skill tree you go, you being able to swat aside previously tricky enemies as you conjure jagged rocks from the ground and tank enemy attacks far more comfortably. That’s without mentioning the ability to join Factions to buff stats, as well as to align with a specific “Destiny” to give you unique buffs also.
That attention to detail also extends to the general gameplay itself with almost every character I encountered having more than a few things to say. There’s a robust speech system in Re-Reckoning that does well to fill in a lot of the blanks surrounding its deep well of lore, though it must be said that your decisions are overwhelmingly binary and you don’t have a great deal of agency in how things play out. Still, the detail in conversations is certainly impressive so fantasy fans will likely be in their element here.
For as well as Re-Reckoning’s combat, plot, and scope stand the test of time, there are just as many very 2012 mechanics and design choices that feel antiquated and downright frustrating nowadays. The most egregious quirk for me may not be something that immediately stands out as being a big deal, but goodness gracious, it really is. Running around in Amalur is an absolute nightmare with you having to hold down A to get anywhere (relatively) quickly. Trouble is, A also starts a conversation, so if you’re with a companion and want to sprint away from them, you will often find yourself in a conversation that requires two different inputs to get out of.
This could have been fine if you were able to remap your default controls, which also have a touch of 2012 about them, but you unfortunately can’t — unless I am missing something stunningly obvious. Having a steed to ride around on could have helped and also let you get around Amalur’s world far quicker without having to dip into the clunky map for fast travel so often, but there sadly aren’t any.
Re-Reckoning continues to be undone by other seemingly small flaws that become more glaring as time goes on. Menu navigation is beyond clunky and takes an age to do anything, evidenced by you having to press four different inputs to remove something from your inventory. You will reach max storage in no time as the game is overstuffed with loot to find, so you have to either sell unwanted gear (a faff) or select an item as junk, then go into your junk and then select to destroy each individual item you don’t want (a bigger faff). There are so many relics of a bygone generation in Re-Reckoning that remind you of how developers have streamlined so many clunky processes in recent years.
Speaking of relics, Re-Reckoning’s audio design feels like it predates even the early 2010s with your character clip-clopping across hard surfaces like a horse and seemingly opening a bunch of crisp packets when travelling on grass or something similar. The voicework, while still great itself, also doesn’t seem to have been mixed too well, NPC conversations sounding muffled and at almost a too low volume.
While Re-Reckoning pushed my buttons quite a lot (funnily enough due to its buttons), there’s an irresistible charm to it that ultimately made me have a good enough time. The many different systems, whether that’s the ability to create your own weapons or concoct potions, show the game’s wild ambition at its best, and the God of War-esque combat provides simple frills as you hammer QTE inputs to bash some poor thing’s face in. As previously mentioned, it’s a kitchen sink action RPG that you may become truly immersed in, despite the many, many quirks.
But who is Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning really for? The changes might not be broad and noticeable enough to tempt veterans back into Amalur once more and for them to have much of a different experience. Instead, Re-Reckoning seems like an attempt to re-market a wildly ambitious RPG that promised much and didn’t quite deliver on all fronts to a less demanding, expectant audience, which will hopefully result in a brand new adventure into Amalur sometime down the line. I’d definitely play a sequel, but please give me a horse.
A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is less of a wholesale remaster and more of a reminder of the original's quality outside the hype bubble and separated from its controversies. With this second chance, Amalur stands on its own as a weird and often wonderful action RPG.
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