Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review — A Great Reason to Revisit
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning on PC, PS4, and Xbox One is a brilliant highlight of a massively missed game that stands the test of time.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
38 Studios, Big Huge Games, KAIKO GmbH
PC, Xbox One
Review copy provided by the publisher
The tumultuous lineage of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and it’s developer, 38 Studios, spelled doom for the infant series in 2012. While it was received well by critics and fans alike, it just wasn’t able to meet the unrealistic sales expectations required to press forward, and the world of Amalur faded into history, as all hopes of a sequel seemed to be lost.
That is, until the fall of 2018 when THQ Nordic acquired the rights to Amalur. The light of hope for fans was reignited. Now, two years after the acquisition, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning will reintroduce new and old fans to this unique action-heavy RPG, bringing with it all the previously released DLC additions in one package, and promises of a brand new expansion later next year, with cleaned up graphics and 4k resolution option.
Re-Reckoning is the latest enhanced edition from Kaiko games that previously worked on the Warmastered and Deathinitive Editions of Darksiders 1 & 2. For newcomers unfamiliar with the game, Kingdoms of Amalur is a sprawling and colorful fantasy action RPG. The sheer amount of content crammed into Amalur remains impressive, with tons of side quests, crafting, and exploration opportunities to take advantage of when you aren’t tackling the games main story of resurrection and the evil Tuatha armies bearing down on you. You can even murder entire towns and take on the city guard if you choose, though shop keeps and other essential characters won’t die for good. There is a lot to do, and with some quests featuring branching outcomes, it lends itself well to subsequent playthroughs to see what you missed the first time around.
Combat is the real star of Amalur, though, taking a more action hack-n-slash approach. Players can chain together attacks with their two weapons, each tied to a face button while mixing in special abilities and popping off spells in quick succession. Even in 2020, it remains one of the most fun combat systems I’ve played in a western-style RPG, and it makes me wish more games had taken more cues from 38 Studios in this regard.
“Combat is the real star of Amalur, though, taking a more action hack-n-slash approach.”
Character progression and options are equally as plentiful with three different trees: Might, Finesse, and Scholar that you can put points into. As you might imagine, these trees unlock new abilities and spells, as well as allow you to equip certain pieces of armor. Whatever route, or routes, you decide to travel down, Amalur will reward you with special “classes” that will unlock after a prerequisite amount of points are put into the three trees, granting you additional bonuses.
For my playthrough for this review, I jumped into the boots of the dashing rogue, Barnaby, master of everything graceful and finesse savant. Daggers and the bow are my faithful companions, with poison my mistress. Barnaby was a nomad, never staying in any village for too long, taking requests from townsfolk as he made his way to the next adventure or creature-infested cave to plunder. All the while, honing his craft, getting stronger, and weaseling his way into the good graces of various groups, even becoming the Halls of Valor Arena Champion! It was all a ruse, however, as Barnaby held a dark secret. Ever since his rebirth thanks to the Well of Souls, he has needed to channel his wrath, which has directed him and his dagger into various peaceful individuals’ backs. No one will ever suspect that the “Mysterious Stabber” is Hero of the Realm, Barnaby!
Re-Reckoning certainly looks cleaner and performs better than the original release, which was locked at 30fps and 1080p on previous-gen consoles. Console players will be able to enjoy 60fps with the PlayStation 4 Pro able to output at 1440p and upscaled to 4k and the Xbox One X also at 60fps at native 4k resolution. PC players will be able to run the game at 144 Hz too, if they so choose. Outside of the graphical improvements t, the outcome of the port is a bit of a mixed bag.
Except for the previously mentioned graphical and performance improvements, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning feels and plays unabashedly like a game from 2012, and little has been done to bring aspects like the camera or accessibility options up to 2020-standards.
“Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning feels and plays unabashedly like a game from 2012….”
During combat, I found the camera would disconnect and position itself in rather obtuse positions, leaving my targets out of view, or my character far in the distance. This camera annoyance was only exacerbated by the fact that you can’t manually select and lock onto targets in combat, or toggle between targets. Instead, you will target the nearest enemy you are facing. Playing as a rogue with a bow, this often would lead me to be hit by someone out of view or a foe that I wasn’t able to target.
The movement to improve accessibility in games has gained momentum in the past eight years since the original release; unfortunately, Kaiko Games hasn’t taken this opportunity to improve this area. There is no option to increase the size of the HUD elements, the subtitles, or the damage numbers from hits. The button-mashing Reckoning finishers are locked to having to be mashed with no option to toggle it to being a hold command instead, a disappointing omission. It was a bummer to also discover the inability to rebind or customize my controls either; it should be noted that I have only played the console version, so I can’t confirm whether or not this is also the case with the PC release too.
Re-Reckoning suffers from a few other rough edges, less game impactful yet still noticeable. The audio is an impressive mixed bag, as the music tracks sound great that would fit perfectly in an epic fantasy game or movie. On the other end of the spectrum are sound effects like when you break pots sound heavily compressed and cut off early, more in line with something you would hear from an old PC game from the 90s. Another example is with some of the dramatic finishers in Reckoning mode seem to have missing audio as well, making some far more exciting while others fall flat.
“Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning’s world holds so much promise that it was heart-wrenching when the franchise went dormant….”
With so many other remastered and enhanced ports on the market offering new features, content, and more, the offerings presented to fans with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning are disappointing. This port comes across less as the best way to play the game and more just the most convenient way to play it in 2020. Luckily though, Kingdoms of Amalur is still a damn fun game to play in 2020, jankiness, and all. Galavanting across the wilds, exploring caves, and helping (and murdering), the townsfolk never stopped being fun, and I was always looking forward to what new piece of gear or fight I would get into next.
I’m hopeful that with the brand new Fatesworn DLC expansion already announced that some of the issues will be fixed, and I’m anxious to see where the upcoming story goes. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning’s world holds so much promise that it was heart-wrenching when the franchise went dormant, but with this new lease on life, I am keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be long before we get a full-blown sequel. Until then, I shall continue exploring the world of Amalur as Barnaby, the dashing rogue.