Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning originally released all the way back in February 2012 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
We won’t get into the history of the development of the game and the quick demise of developers 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, because none of that matters in the present.
Reckoning was to be the introduction to the Kingdoms of Amalur, which would have been a grand MMO. What we got with Reckoning is a single player RPG, although one that in small ways feels like an MMO world.
Re-Reckoning is the re-release or “remaster” of the game. I’m not going to review it as a remaster though, and the reason for that is because I never played the original. I played 20 minutes or so of it when it was free on PS+, but by then I was already too invested in PS4 games to spend a lot of time hoping back on my PS3.
I can’t compare it to the original, so I get to treat it as a new release title because that’s what it has been for me. Only caveat being I don’t hold design issues against the game when I remember that it was pretty standard for the time the game was developed and this is a remaster and not a remake.
Is the world of Amalur worth venturing into, or returning to, in 2020 and would it be worth returning to next year with the release of the new Fatesworn expansion?
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (PS4 [Reviewed], PC, Xbox One)
Developer: Kaiko (Original developed by 38 Studios, Big Huge Games)
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Released: September 8, 2020
ESRB Rating: M – Mature
Upon escaping the dungeon that serves as the tutorial, my first thought upon venturing out in the colorful and cartoonish world of Amalur was that the game reminded a lot of Fable. And that was instantly a good thing, because while it has been a very long time since I played Fable, I do still have fond memories of it.
The art-style here is very similar to Fable, and so is the one-button (per weapon) combat style. That’s about where the similarities end though, as Amalur certainly doesn’t have the humor of that old franchise and I believe that’s a good thing. You can see other influences in the world and design choices, such as World of Warcraft and even the Elder Scrolls. Make no mistake though, Kingdoms of Amalur goes about making its own way and doing its own thing rather than being a copy of something else.
I would say the combat here is much more in-depth and nuanced than Fable, with the better you are at blocking/parrying the easier time you’ll have.
I’ve been playing on hard difficulty, and combat has been a fair challenge. Not mindlessly easy, but not all that difficult either. I’d say hard doesn’t feel hard, but luckily for those who do desire a little bit more of a challenge Kaiko did add a Very Hard difficulty mode for this re-release. I haven’t tried it yet, but sounds just right for a second playthrough.
Before we get into anything else, let’s look at what changes Kaiko made to gameplay for the people who would be replaying the game with this new version. We’re doing this because some folks seem to think that Kaiko didn’t do much and that it’s lacking as a remaster with just some polished up textures and looking slightly better.
They removed the level lock from the game. A zones level used to be determined when you first entered a zone and that level was stored in the save file. Now, in Re-Reckoning, the level for a zone is re-calculated every time you enter the zone.
To go along with this, zone level now has a new calculation system that works like this:
“The original game had all zones marked with a minimum and maximum level. Upon entering a level, the current player level was clamped into this minimum/maximum range and stored as the player’s skill level.
We now use the current difficulty level as a means to determine the skill level before clamping into the minimum/maximum range. On Casual difficulty, the skill level is reduced a bit; on Hard and Very Hard, it is increased. We also increased the maximum values for Hard and Very Hard difficulty settings. The XP gain has been reduced to cater to the increased level of enemies and we made sure that XP is not increased when playing on harder difficulties due to the effect of beating higher level enemies. The result of all of this is that you can still out-level zones – which is desirable if it doesn‘t happen too quick. It is part of the power fantasy to be able to come back to initial zones and be overpowered.”
They also completely overhauled the loot system:
“Loot containers now only store their generated loot when they are opened. In the original, loot containers stored loot when entering a zone and were generated to the current player level. Loot generation rules were also altered so players will more often get items that fit their characters skillset. Loot is mostly randomly generated but we increased the weights of loot to more closely match the players skill lineup. We also added a virtual counter that increases the chance of better loot drops when you didn‘t find anything good.”
You play as “The Fateless One,” killed in a battle and resurrected by a gnome scientist in his Well of Souls. Back from the dead, you now have the ability to change the fate of everything around you and make your own destiny.
This plot is central to the entire storyline and more importantly to the gameplay as well. By choosing your destiny, you’re able to build your character exactly how you want to play by either going all in one of three “classes” (Might, Finesse, and Sorcery), by creating a hybrid of two, or straddling all three to become a jack of all trades and master of none. You’re never locked in to your choices after, because you can also respec if you have the gold.
As you kill enemies, you earn Fate. Acquire enough Fate, and you can enter Reckoning mode. Here time slows down for your enemies, allowing you to dodge their attacks easier and take less damage while also doing more damage. Kill as many enemies as you can as the meter ticks down, and then press X near a downed enemy to trigger a button mash QTE to unravel the fate of the slain enemies and earn a big XP boost (up to 100x).
Reckoning mode is a great concept for this type of game and adds to the arcade-like nature of the combat while also being a nice homage to God of War, which was also an inspiration behind the combat in Kingdoms of Amalur.
The world of Amalur is packed with things to do. Setting aside the lengthy main quest, the game is absolutely loaded with side quests for days. There are multiple factions to join each with their own quest chains, and just enough random NPC side quests that all together will add up to hundreds of hours of content if you want to do everything.
Most of the quests have been standard MMO-like quest; go kill these enemies, go acquire these items, go to this location and do this thing. I don’t say that as a bad thing, as how much variety in quests can you really have in a game where you’re killing stuff and chasing loot?
Re-Reckoning also includes both The Legend of Dead Kel and Teeth of Naros add-ons, so for someone like me who didn’t play the game when it first came out this is even more content.
With all the quests and the amount of hours you can spend in this game, it’s a good thing that the core of the game is fundamentally great. And that’s the combat. The gameplay is just fun, and to me that’s the most important aspect of a game that could be asking for 40+ hours to see its main campaign to a conclusion.
A story, setting, and progression could all be amazing, but if the game isn’t fun to play then I’m not going to invest the time into seeing that story come to a conclusion. I never finished The Witcher 3, a game universally praised for its story and world, and the reason I never cared to finish it is because the combat in that game sucked so much for me that I didn’t have fun playing it.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning gets the fun right thanks to the great combat. The rhythm of attacking an enemy with your primary weapon with one button, using your secondary weapon with a different button, using magic attacks and blocking or dodging your enemies is wonderful. It’s not cumbersome, it’s not mindlessly easy, and it’s not frustrating. It does a great job of feeling very balanced.
Re-Reckoning looks good graphically. Does it look like a big game released in 2020? No, it looks like a slightly prettier version of a game released in 2012 when games already looked good. The environment can look a little barren when you’re running around by todays standards, but I’m not sure what some folks expected. It’s a remaster, not a remake and furthermore most of the environment is fairly linear paths and not a true open world.
I only have two issues with the game that hold it back somewhat for me, and one of them I probably wouldn’t have had much a problem with in 2012 when it was much more common. The other I would have always had a problem with.
Regardless of year, I hate the fact that you can’t jump. I will always hate when games make me walk or run around some path when there’s no reason the magical warrior character can’t jump two feet to save some time. Walk around the cliff, walk down the steps. Why can’t I jump up or jump down. Yeah I know it’s petty and would just save a few seconds, but I’ll never like it when characters can’t jump.
Now to what probably wouldn’t have been an issue in 2012. The menu system is pretty bad by todays standards, which I try not to hold against Re-Reckoning because it is important to remember it’s a game from 2012. Still, if there was one area that could’ve been adjusted that wouldn’t have changed anything about the game, it’s the menu. Four layers of a menu to change a weapon. Everything you pick up takes up your limited space (although thankfully duplicate crafting items stack to just take up one space) and doing clean up to pick up loot is further made annoying by the menu different menus you need to go to. It makes inventory management a mess and feel like a chore. This is the one aspect of the game where I think some time could have been spent to “modernize” it to a more player-friendly UI.
I have thus far had one crash while playing on PS4 Pro. Everything else has gone fairly smooth and I haven’t experienced any notable technical issues.
Kingdom’s of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has two versions. The standard edition is $39.99 and is just the current game. Then there’s the Fate Edition which is $54.99 and includes access to the brand new Fatesworn expansion which is coming sometime next year and will add 5+ hours of new content to game world.
I’m enjoying it a lot, and will be spending a lot more time with it working through the various faction quests and whatnot. I’m intrigued by the brand new content coming next year and what all that entails, and whether or not it’s new from the ground up content being developed currently or content that was left unfinished from way back when.
Furthermore, it’ll be interesting to see what this re-release and new expansion means towards the future of the IP. This is certainly deserving of a sequel, and the world and lore here is rich enough to tell many more stories in this universe and hopefully at some point in the next generation of consoles we can see a return to Amalur in a much more glorious fashion.
As is, I’d put this just below Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen as one of the best single player RPG’s I’ve played in a very long time. It’s a rich world packed with things to do and some incredibly fun and satisfying combat with a fairly in depth character class build that gives you the tools to carefully craft your character to your preferred play style.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning gets a four out of five: GREAT.
* A digital code was provided by the publisher for review.