Review – Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was originally released back in 2012 and despite favorable reviews, it was the only game to be released from developer 38 Studios before they filed for bankruptcy. This shocked and devastated me, as I was a huge fan of the game and had become fully captivated by its rich world and lore. I had hopes it would become the next big franchise, but it seemed it wasn’t meant to be. Then along came THQ Nordic, who acquired the rights and saved the game from be forgotten into obscurity. In typical THQ fashion, they have re-released the game under a clever reworking of the original title: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. The resulting product is… a bit of a mixed bag.

Fans of the original will be delighted by the wave of nostalgia that hits you the moment you start the adventure and hear its classic score. For the newcomers, I’ll quickly summarize the premise. You start off as a corpse who is brought back to life by a mysterious underground artifact known as the Well of Souls. The well’s creator, a gnome by the name of Fomorous Hugues, revels in the fact that his experiment has finally worked. You have lost all of your memory, so he briefly informs you of a war between the immortal Winter Fae (elves) and the races of humans across Amalur, known as the Crystal War.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Thanks for experimenting on me?

The facility is then raided by the Tuatha, a corrupted subsect of the Winter Fae, and you just narrowly escape. You cross paths with a Fateweaver named Agarth, who is astonished to learn that since you have already perished he can no longer see you within Fate’s grand design. This means that you are able to affect the predicted path of Fate and change the course of history. 

The story only gets better the longer you play it. Amalur has five distinct regions, with numerous towns, caves, and other points of interest in each area. Amalur is also home to a wide variety of inhabitants, both hostile and friendly, four of which are playable options for your character. There are the Almain, which are your more civilized humans, the Varani, nomadic humans, the Dokkalfar, the dark elves, and Ljosalfar, the light elves. Each come with their own specific traits and bonus stats.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Gadflow, leader of the treacherous Tuatha.

You’ll also be able to choose one of three class types at the start, Warrior, Rogue, or Mage, but this is where the game becomes really fun. Each class has twenty-two abilities within each tree and you’re not locked in to one specific class for the rest of the game. This is what makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning truly special. Much like the world renowned Elder Scrolls games, you can start off with one class, but adjust your skillset along the way to match your preferred playstyle. Try as I might, I can’t seem to break away from the allure of the Rogue/Mage character, but that’s just my personal preference.

The combat is fairly basic for the most part and features a lot of the same moves you’ve seen before: run, dodge, block, attack, charged attack, and special attacks. However, the controls are responsive and the moves have a lot of style and flourish. This makes the combat simple, yet highly satisfying. Once you get more leveled up and can string together long chains of combos, attacking enemies can look like a beautifully choreographed dance.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

The enemy designs are really creative.

That about sums up the original version, so let’s see what’s different with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.

For starters, the graphics have been updated. It’s only slightly enhanced however, with some of the resolution being cleaned up and shadows made darker and more dramatic. There hasn’t been a full overhaul on the visuals, but the art style being mildly cartoonish, still holds up pretty well. It reminds me (in more ways than one) of a perfect blend between the serious Dragon Age series and the humorous Fable series.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning also includes not just the base game, but both of the DLCs, Teeth of Naros and Legend of Dead Kel. Having played both of these when they first came out, I can say that this greatly ups the already hefty amount of content and enriches the experience further.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I can praise this re-release for, since that’s really what this product is: a re-release. It’s not a remake nor even a remaster. It’s truly just a re-release of the original, with all of the bugs, glitches, and framerate issues still intact.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Bizarre camera angles like this during cutscenes are all too common.

This is by far the most shocking aspect of this version, aside from being re-released at all after the financial ruin of its developer. With all of the time and technological advancements we’ve had since it first premiered in 2012, to deliver a game that has no quality of life improvements is mindboggling. There even seem to be a few new issues I’ve never encountered before, but perhaps I didn’t run into them in the past of simply blocked them from my memory.

For example, the framerate will struggle constantly and not always when there’s even a lot going on onscreen. I’m talking plummeting into the single digits kind of struggling. Unfortunately, this happens far too often throughout the game. It kills the graceful flow of the combat when your screen stutters and chugs along to the point where you worry it might crash on you.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

That’s not a close up of a giant spider, that’s my game freezing.

However, even if you make it though a section full of enemies moving at 5 fps, you will still have to worry about the game crashing on you for no reason at all. I was exploring one cave when my screen went completely white with the exception of my character. I could still hear things and move, but I couldn’t see or interact with anything and had to restart my game from a previous save several hours back. There’s also the prevalent bug where enemies will spawn, but be invisible. Fortunately, you can still deal damage to them, it just makes things much more challenging.

Then there’s a bug that I do not remember encountering when I first played this on my Xbox 360. It’s a weird camera issue that causes the camera to spin around out of control for absolutely no reason. Rarely can you get it under control again either once it starts. I call it the “Spiral of Death”. I lovingly named it this because more often than not, you’ll have to restart your game from the previous save to make it stop. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently and can make longer play sessions maddening.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Despite its issues, there’s arguing that this is a gorgeously constructed world.

On the bright side though, one of my major gripes about the original has been addressed in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. There used to be a level cap at level forty. That might sound like a high level, but leveling up was so easy that you could hit that cap by the halfway point in the game. Needless to say, it really put a damper on the rest of the campaign. Fighting hordes of monsters and enemies loses its fun if there’s chance in you unlocking new moves or skills. The story is still great, but that was the one thing that felt disappointing with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning on the other hand, has adjusted the leveling system so you level up at a slower and more balanced rate. There’s no level cap either, so the incentive to fully explore everything and take on armies of foes is strong the whole way through. They’ve even added a new Very Hard difficulty. To be fair though, all this seems to do is make the enemies twice as tough to take down, which would be great if it weren’t for the weapon’s durability system. Playing the game on Very Hard will really only result in more gold wasted on fixing your equipment.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

The Lorestone behind me is just one of the brilliant ways to experience the history of the land.

All in all, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning can be great or disappointing depending on your mindset. If you’re looking for a fully remastered and polished up version of this game, then you’re going to feel let down. If you’re simply looking for a new and more accessible way to replay this cult classic, then you’ll probably overlook the imperfections and be happy you can actually play it again. While I might personally be bummed that one of my favorite games hasn’t gotten the makeover it deserves, it’s still very much worth your time. Especially if you’re looking for a lengthy game with satisfying combat and incredibly compelling lore.

 

Graphics: 6.0

The art style has aged fairly well, with a slightly cartoonish look. The graphics have been cleaned up a bit and more dramatic shading has been added. Not much else has been done though. The framerate is frequently horrible.

Gameplay: 5.0

it’s a classic RPG with fairly basic, yet satisfying combat that is nicely varied. The controls are as responsive as ever, but the framerate is atrocious and can plummet to single digits. None of the bugs from the original version were fixed either.

Sound: 9.0

The classic soundtrack is still present and is as beautiful as ever. Most of the voice acting is really well done throughout.

Fun Factor: 8.5

This is still an amazing RPG with some incredibly rich lore, diverse environments, and a perfect blend of humor and depth. The framerate, bugs, and lack of quality of life upgrades are holding it back from true greatness.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning was provided by the publisher.