Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review – Cult Hit Revival
THQ Nordic, and its parent company Embracer Group, has been gobbling up IP after IP that we at Gamer Matters have been jokingly call them the Lich King. But never did anyone expected them to go out and acquire the rights for Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning.
And so they did, and with the purchase comes a remaster for current-gen consoles and PC. Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning continues the trend of THQ Nordic’s pun-intended names for its remasters, and doing a bit more than just a simple port.
The result is a bit mixed, and a let down in the execution. But fans of the original, fear not- it’s that same overlooked action RPG we all loved back in 2012, now (arguably) better.
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning’s main appeal as a remaster is of course, the visuals. The original game has a pastel look that was okay for its time but rather too flat and generic for the current standards of video game graphics.
Re-Reckoning makes the Faelands less like a knock-off World Of Warcraft in the early days with improved textures for the environment. Rocks and trees are now vibrant, while the beautiful ethereal lighting that colours the world of Amalur remains. It’s a welcome upgrade.
Unfortunately, it comes undone when it clashes with many other visual aspects that remained the same. A lot of the 2D art assets, like UI elements, icons and the like, are not designed for resolutions higher than 720p it seems. And what you get are a lot of jagged edges on many parts of the game. Character models are for the most part untouched, and they definitely show their age with them looking simplistic- though still good enough.
There are also more visual bugs than the original had on PC. A setpiece quest in the middle of the game was supposed to be epic, but with many of the dead bodies flickering in random solid colours as like an obnoxious RGB lighting on a gaming keyboard, it robs all sense of epicness to the scene.
Re-Reckoning remains running at 60fps, even on consoles, which is nice to see. While we reported on game-crashing bugs in our first impressions (and saw a bit of stuttering), the version 1.04 day-one patch makes Re-Reckoning properly playable on PS4. There might be a slim chance of crashing in the later zones, but should be rare.
Sound-wise, it has some tweaks. If you played the original, you might have that awful trombone scream in the battle music etched into memory. It’s not there anymore- the normal battle theme only consists of the banging drums. Otherwise, it’s all the same, for better or worse. Including the vague Irish and Scottish accents of the races.
The great thing about the Re-Reckoning is that the core gameplay remains intact, and it’s as fun as it was back then. Plus, developers Kaiko implemented some changes, which seems minor, but actually something fans have requested for so long and also makes the game much, better.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, you are the Fateless One. Supposedly dead, you are revived once more in this fantasy world where Fate is pre-determined in the absolute. Until you came back from the dead, free to carve your own fate, and change others.
It’s a simple setup for a simple story- the world has tons of lore written for it but it’s pretty much a very generic one, to be honest. But it works for the game.
Crunchy Combat Goodness
What makes Reckoning still has a following is due to how good the core gameplay is. This is an action RPG, and it plays more like a character action game in a way. Combat isn’t as fast as a character action title, but it behaves like one. Combos and air juggles are there. Hits have impacts with good use of hit-stops. Block and parries are here.
Combat feels crunchy- a bit hard to chew but it feels so good. Here’s my bread-and-butter moveset I’ve been using. A three-hit greatsword attack launches a small enemy into the air. While you can continue the greatsword combo, cancelling into a three-hit staff combo juggles the enemy in the air longer. And once they are down, follow it up with a long-range Storm Bolt spell finisher.
Playing as a warrior gives you meaty weapons with big damage but slow hits, opening you up for hits that can interrupt your attacks. Rogues get fast daggers, a long-range option in the form of the bow and one-shot stealth kills. Reckoning also made mages look cool. Staves and sceptres have cool animations, but chakrams is where it’s at. These oversized hoola hoops of magic death strikes enemies far and wide, and is tremendously satisfying to use, especially for crowd control.
Choose Your Destiny
What makes Reckoning an RPG is the abilities you can pick up, split into three skill trees: Might (warrior), Finesse (rogue) and Sorcery (mage). The cool thing is that the game accomodates you with experimenting, and reward you for going either specialising or generalising your builds.
If you give the Fateless One all their points into Might, you get a tanky powerhouse that wields the strongest (slowest) of weapons, that can get super armour that stops your attacks from being interrupted. But you can also go for a Might-Sorcery hybrid build so you have more options when the pummeling hammer is out of range from enemies.
In fact, you can totally put points into all three- there are builds that accommodates a jack-of-all-trades character, helping them out by reducing point requirements on equipping gear, and giving flat bonus points across various trees to make them as strong as specialised builds. It’s fantastic.
Best of all, you can respec anytime you want. Don’t have to wait for another playthrough, just go to a Fateweaver and ask them to read your destiny again. You are the Fateless One after all, a blank slate that can change to whatever you like.
A Boggart-Standard RPG
These two elements of Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning- the action and the RPG builds, are hard carrying the game, however. What you find outside of that is a by-the-numbers RPG. Go to a zone. Get quests. Do simple, straightforward quests. Turn in. Get rewarded. Repeat.
Outside of abilities, you can also gain skills used for non-combat uses. This includes skills like lockpicking, blacksmithing and persuasion. Exploration is fun, but the vast yet sparse zone areas the game splits its open world, with long windy corridors to hide load times, gets old quick. The game has a lot of worldbuilding, but outside of the nature of the Fae folk, it’s pretty mundane and generic in 2020. Or perhaps even in 2012.
It’s not that these aspects are bad, it’s just mediocre. Nothing too exciting or great, but it’s nothing problematic or horrid either. Think of Re-Reckoning as a third-person Elder Scrolls with a less interesting world but with a much, much better combat and RPG system. For some, bog-standard is good enough, and it’s a comfortable game to just relax and zone out- but no good enough to really immerse yourself in hours-long sessions.
The original Reckoning is substantially long game. Especially by today’s standards. Expect to go for 30 hours until you see the credits roll. And more if you are through with completing sidequests.
It’s a bit front-loaded, however. You’ll be spending 10 hours just going through Dalendarth, the first major zone and biome. But after that, zones are smaller. That doesn’t mean it’s easier to beeline through the game after that. Each zone you enter has at least one possible questline you can trigger. Most of these are not memeroable in the grand scheme of things.
The faction questlines are a bit more interesting, mostly because it has an overarching plot unravelling rather than the quests being interesting. So if you want to cut the fat that is sidequests, do faction quests instead. Trust me, I saw over 70+ of the 100+ sidequests on offer, I don’t find any of it original, or worth talking about at length. Quantity over quality, but at least it will keep completionists busy for hours on end.
Re-Reckoning includes all post-launch content, so you have the two major DLCs Teeth of Naros and The Legend of Dead Kel, as well as the cosmetics. It also includes the House Of Valor DLC, which was initially an incentive to buy new copies of the game (such times) and later as free DLC. So that’s a couple of hours added for each.
Kaiko will be making brand-new expansions set for release in 2021, so there’s plenty of content to keep you busy now, and the future.
I enjoy Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning a lot, but up to a point. The action-RPG delivers an action game and an RPG, and it’s the two major systems I kept talking about is why I adore this underrated gem so much.
And there’s good reason for it being an underrated gem. The outward-facing part of the game isn’t as appealing. It looks like another generic fantasy world formed with the usual tropes you’ve seen too much of. In fact, I’d argue it really is a fantasy world formed with the usual tropes you’ve seen too much of.
The original game’s biggest marketing point was its star-studded key personnel working on this project. I intentionally left those names out here because finding out who those are, and looking at this game, will leave you with immense disappointment.
It doesn’t help that in this current state, the remaster is a bit of a mess. For one good graphical upgrade it comes with a latent of glitches, which I do hope gets fixed over time.
Which is a shame, because outside of the cookie-cutter feel that makes up Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, it is an actually fun game. But even I can’t play it in hours-long sessions. The combat can only take the game so far.
That said, it’s a great game that you want to pop in and out for a quick session. Drop in, do a quest you really don’t need the context of, pull sick combos while having something else play in the background, and stop when you have your fill. In this way, Re-Reckoning is immensely enjoyable.
Another interesting bit for PS4 players in Asia. Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning actually switches which button is to confirm based on what region your account is. The review copy I received is for Europe (R2) but playing on my main Asia (R3) account, all the menus consistently use O to confirm rather than X.
This is the first time I’ve encountered this- let us know if there have been other games that implemented this- but this is a great thing to have. Why haven’t this see widespread use? It’s amazing.
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, as a remaster, could have been better. The vision the new developers have is clear- bring only slight improvements- and the new additions are all great. It’s a matter of execution where it stumbles- some technical issues and visual quirks that never appeared in the original is hampering it. It could use a bit more polishing.
On its revival, Kingdoms Of Amalur: Re-Reckoning might be another cult hit again. If you can get past the mixed visual quality and the rather boring setting and world, there’s a fun action RPG that you can sink hours on end. Give it a chance, you might just love it.
Reviewed on base PS4. Review copy provided by THQ Nordic