I was completely surprised by the announcement of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning – surprised and excited, because I was a big fan of the game when it first released. Most aspects of this game have aged rather well over the last decade, though not everything. Still, I found myself quite excited to dive back into this action-RPG experience and once more explore this unique world.
When the game first came out, Amalur was rather well-received, but the studio behind it famously went under shortly after its troubled release. I originally covered it for the Xbox 360 and sunk over 100 hours into the title and enjoyed almost every aspect of the game. By and large, I’d say the same feelings persist today despite the time that has passed.
The tale gets off to a fairly unique start as your protagonist is dead – only to be revived and realize that he is part of a much larger destiny. Of course there is a bit of amnesia involved with this rebirth, giving you a blank slate character that can hear about the world as thought it was the first time. And what a world it is, famously created by R.A. Salvatore of Forgotten Realms / Drizzt fame (I’ve actually been rereading numerous works of his lately due to a Drizzt Humble Bundle I purchased a couple of months ago).
The visual style of the game is also unique, in that it’s a sort of chunky, but vibrant fantasy setting brought to life by Todd McFarlane (known largely for his work on the Spawn comics). That is a heavy-hitting pair of talents to help flesh out the world, and those fingerprints are still all over the original product, even if the visual update are perhaps not as robust as I had hoped and some of the clunkier UI / menu choices are not updated to improve overall quality of life.
This is a massive and beautifully fleshed out world. There are countless books, scrolls and conversations to be had if you really want to get a sense of the world building that took place here. There is enough text to fill a visual novel, but almost all of it can be skipped if you don’t have the interest. I remember clicking every… last… dialog… choice the first time around. I was surprised at how nearly a decade later, I still remembered a lot of the details and admittedly began to bypass most of those after about a dozen hours with the game this time. Still, for those who like to delve into lore and really immerse themselves in a fantasy world, that can be done here.
While the visual updates were a bit underwhelming given where technology is at now, the basic art style itself still aged rather well. Small bits of visual flare such as Reckoning mode or how certain items in the environment respond to your presence are certainly appreciated and gives the world a sort of mysterious beauty that I can still appreciate today. The sound effect and music are all solid and go nicely to wrap up a pleasant presentation.
One of the primary things I recall from back when I first played the game was how much I enjoyed the combat. I wound up playing this title and Skyrim rather close to one another, and while there were many things about Skyrim that I enjoyed more at the time, I certainly preferred the fast, fliud and often meaty combat that Amalur presented. That aspect still holds up today. There are three basic playstyles here, with magic focusing on powerful arcane attacks, might focusing on slower, heavy-hitting and better armored attacks and the ninja-like finesse build that focuses on quick strikes and avoidance. I was focused on the finesse build, sneaking up on enemies to perform brutal backstabs.
Progression is one of the highlights here, as you are not forced down a particular path – you can spend points across the three different branches as you see fit. This unlocks hybrid classes as well, instead of penalizing you for not specializing in just one area. The combat itself is pretty shallow when you really think about it, but it’s enjoyable because of the various tweaks in the progression system. Very little of what Amalur does now hasn’t been addressed by other games over the last several years: blacksmithing, alchemy, gem crafting, lots of loot and more are all pretty standard in action-RPGs these days, but they’re still well done in this game.
It is worth noting that there were some rough spots with the initial Xbox One release, but a recent patch has cleaned most of those up. I say most – but not all – because the game has crashed on me three times now. Usually when I’m in very busy / populated regions where combat is happening and I haven’t fast-travelled in a while. I’m not sure if it’s a memory thing or what, and thankfully each time the fairly generous auto-save got me back to within about five minutes of the crash, but there’s still a few kinks to be worked out evidently.
There is some future DLC slated for sometime in 2021 that is supposed to provide several hours of additional content, and that will be interesting to view when it releases. That being said, this release does package all of the DLC that came with the original such as Teeth of Naros. However, fans should keep in mind that this is a remaster – not a remake, and that is probably the biggest bone that some people will pick. There were a handful of missed opportunities to streamline and improve quality of life here, but there were really no major changes to speak of under the hood.
PY’s Thoughts on the Re:Reckoning
While I wish I could say that I had spent as much time with the original as Nick, the unfortunate reality is that life got in the way after a good twenty or thirty hours so I never did finish my original adventure through this expansive world. Excited to be able to dive back into it, and to challenge Nick’s Monthly Gamer Score, I pre-ordered Kingdoms of Amalur Re:Reckoning with the upcoming DLC on the Xbox so that I could play starting on launch day at 11am while on vacation.
Things for the most part were great, however it soon came to my attention that there were a few items that didn’t quite seem to jive. I found out soon after that the Day 1 patch which not only added some quality of life improvements but also stability and achievement unlocking, was not present. So after about a good dozen hours, I restarted once this patch was done and I’m pleased to say that since then, I’ve had no more crashes, quick slotted abilities have been increased from the original four to eight which is fantastic, and Reagents / Crafting Materials now have “bags” that they sit in no longer taking up your entire inventory space.
Back to where I was and even past it, the return to Amalur while a bit rough at the very beginning has been a great one and my only regret is not having gone further in the original version when I picked it up for my PS3.