Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was the game equivalent of that girl/guy you kind of fancied back in your early teens for me. It piqued my interest at the time, but I never got around to playing it, and it slowly withered away as a lost memory in my brain. That is, until now. Just like a rom-com movie plot, the game comes waltzing back into my life under a new moniker: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.
It seemingly looks like the start of a redemption for the series. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came out in 2012 amidst buzz surrounding the involvement of novelist R. A. Salvatore for the story, Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame leading the art direction and also having Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion creator Ken Rolston in the development team, all while being backed by Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling.
A positive reception was received for it by games media upon release and hopes were high on a franchise being created around the name. Unfortunately, financial troubles surrounding the development company 38 Studios prematurely ended those ambitions as they were shuttered just three months later.
The new Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a surprise return for the series some eight years later, after publisher THQ Nordic purchased the rights for it in 2018. The game, as evidenced by the name, is a remaster of the original and includes the base game and all released DLCs for it, with its graphic fidelity now improved for the current generation.
Mostly, its return is perhaps a second chance for me personally, having not had the
money courage during my teenage years to go ahead and ask for more allowance take a chance with it. So now, my rom-com plot begins right here with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
Story and world
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is set in a high fantasy world called the Faelands, where humans are just a subset of races that inhabit the lands, including Gnomes, Elves and the immortal Fae creatures.
You begin the game as a corpse, slain by a previous battle and now on your way to being dumped along with other corpses. Just before you get thrown down the trash though, you get to create your character where you get to choose from several different races (Almain, Varani, Ljosalfar and Dokkalfar) which grant different bonuses to your build as well as your gender and appearance.
Once you’re settled, your character reawakes from their infinite slumber with no memories of the past and soon learns that they were revived through a magical device called The Well of Souls, which in turn has granted you a god-like power to change fate. Now known as The Fateless One, you’re sent to journey across the Faelands to learn about this power as well as discover your past.
This just serves as the basic premise to start your journey, but it barely scratches the surface of what the world has to offer.
There are numerous tales and conflict involving many of the creatures and organisations within the Faelands for you to uncover, and the game is ever so keen to immerse you in it with copious amounts of exposition and quests — there really is a substantial amount of lore and world-building involved.
The problem I had with this level of immersion was the fact that it was just so overwhelming. From the moment you start the game, an introductory cutscene begins and attempts to provide context to the world, but all it ever did was spout names and locations that I wasn’t familiar with yet, and it did little to explain them; it was poorly thought out in hindsight.
Even when you eventually get to control your character, the game does not relent. Walking into the first town, I was greeted with four to five side quests to do even before I could continue the main story quest, whose location was still a ways off. This was the beginning of the game, and I already felt suffocated, and there was still a significant portion of open-world left to explore.
Luckily side quest numbers do get more manageable as you play on and there are also some amusing ones to find, including one that has you helping a wolf who has been cursed and turned into a human. There’s a couple of interesting characters that you’ll find as well through these quests, though they again can be heavy-handed with the exposition.
Side quests also sometimes offer diverging paths to quest completion. For example, you may be given a choice to either stick to the good side and complete it normally, or you can choose to betray the person you are helping. While it offers variability to how quests play out, it comes off a little strange sometimes since it comes up suddenly; almost as if the developers added these choices last minute.
My main problem with side quests rather is the constant trekking back and forth while doing them. Many of the quests require you to travel to a specific location to do it, and usually, they can be pretty far; keep in mind you still need to travel back to complete them officially. Fast travel is available in the game, but it only works after you discover a place, so usually, you’ll have to manually travel to the area yourself, which can be a huge time sink.
While we’re still on the topic of fast travel, I have to say; its implementation is horrendous. For whatever reason, you can’t fast travel whenever you are inside a location. This includes things like houses or caves/dungeons — the latter of which, more often than not, side quests have you going to.
I say this is a problem because once you have completed whatever you needed to do in that area for the side quest, you have to run all the way back to the entrance so that you can reach the open-world and start fast travelling back to the quest holder again. Sometimes there are shortcuts back to the entrance, but it is almost always tiresome to do.
Much like how The Fateless One, isn’t bound to fate, you — the player — are not restricted to a single playstyle for combat.
There are a total of nine different weapons to choose from within the game, and each of them works slightly different. You have the usual Longswords that are medium-range hitters, and then there are unique ones like Chakrams that work a lot like the Blades of Chaos from the God of War series which can extend and hit a wider group of enemies.
For combat, you can wield two weapons at a time where you can immediately access it with the triangle button; first beating down on enemies with a Hammer before finishing them off with an arrow. It’s a great system that works well, especially when dealing with mobs.
The weapons are tied to one of three schools of abilities — Might, Finesse and Sorcery. When you level up, you have three points which you can spend to increase your power within any of these ability trees. So basically, you can opt for a hybrid build of Finesse and Sorcery, or you can go all-in on Might if you so desire.
There are also magic spells you can use in addition to weapons by holding R2 and choosing one of the face buttons. Starting out, you only get a lighting spell, but eventually, you can equip more to your arsenal.
Finally, there is a mechanic called Reckoning Mode that you can activate when you have enough Fate energy from killing enemies. Essentially, it slows down time and allows you to deal massive damage while also getting bonus experience when you combo-kill multiple foes.
It’s really cool the amount of freedom you get in terms of how you can craft your character for combat, but unfortunately, the combat itself isn’t as varied as the systems build around it.
Overall, combat feels too easy and button-mashy — especially with how overpowered Reckoning Mode is — to be able to extract much enjoyment from it. A lot of the enemies can be easily dispatched with a long-range weapon before they get to you while you can run rings around higher levelled foes while whittling down their health without much trouble.
The best thing I could say about the enemies is that at least they come in unique flavours and aren’t repeated whenever you cross over to another location.
As with many other RPGs, loot and inventory management is a massive part of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, and you’ll frequently be checking the corpses of your foes to see what things they leave behind while desperately trying to see what junk you need to drop to hoard more things.
The inventory system works for the most part. Items are categorised so that you won’t get lost finding a particular item and there is also a quick junk function to quickly make space for new items.
Graphics and performance
Despite coming with sharper visuals for the current generation, the jump hasn’t exactly been kind to Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.
Artistically, there is a sense of the developers trying to convey the wonder of a fantasy world through the lush and colourful environments. However, it is undone through the models and textures, which tend to appear blurry and blocky and is especially jarring when seen up close through dialogue with characters or even cutscenes.
Performance isn’t stable as well. Though it runs smoothly at 60 fps when exploring the world, combat quickly brings it down, sometimes dipping below 30 fps if things get chaotic. I’ve also had instances where the game has crashed when too many things were happening at once.
Its revival on current generations also seemingly hasn’t seen better loading times for the game. If you are planning to get Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, be prepared to be patient as you will see a lot of loading screens in your playtime — some lasting upwards of 45 seconds.
After eight long years, THQ Nordic’s revival of the series would at first be seen as a happy reunion. However, after having experienced Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning up close, I have definitely noticed the imperfections it contains that perhaps nostalgia has previously painted over.
The journey for Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning reads like a rom-com, but alas, what I’ve experienced was more like a tragedy.
Additional visuals courtesy of THQ Nordic.