A reckoning to be sure…
Platform(s): PS4, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action RPG from a now-defunct company, remastered
It’s rather sad that the 2012 action RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is renowned for the Studio 38 versus Rhode Island drama rather than the game itself. While not exactly innovative and groundbreaking, it makes up for it by being a solid action game with RPG mechanics and looting, while offering a flexible system that lets you be whatever archetype you want without any penalties for being a jack-of-all-trades.
I’m pretty glad that THQ Nordic is bringing the series back with a graphical remastering of the 8-year old RPG, “masterfully” titled Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. Granted, it’s not the most spectacular of remasters, but it does rework the insides of the game a tad while offering some slick visual adjustments.
Fate Stay Night
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning’s story is about a high fantasy world where faes, mythical creatures, and humanoids of colour and sizes are bound by a literal chain of fate. Everything in that world has preordained destinies and fates, going so far as to create special factions and “houses” to recreate ancient tales and fables just to keep their respective deities appeased and their societies from deteriorating. So along comes your character, who comes back from the dead and can’t have his/her fate and future read by the world’s fatespinners & weavers -hence your title “Fateless One”. It’s up to you to find out why on a series of action beats, loot hoarding, and combat, while also enjoying some open-world nuances here and there.
While not immediate from the get-go, the game’s story does bring up interesting plot points to ponder. From the many sidequests and tasks where folks are at it via racial tension, to backstabbing abound from factions, there’s a lot to uncover. The fact that RA Salvatore’s writing and Todd McFarlane’s aesthetics stand out from elevating Kingdoms of Amalur from being generic-looking and sounding, at least by a tad, makes the visuals stand out.
The Re-Reckoning remastering job here is well done for the most parts. Every area and its specific fauna, from the night forests with the glowey blue fungi and plant life popping up whenever you walk closeby to the desert wasteland, is quite a sight to take in. It also helps that you have camera elevation, camera distance, and field-of-view options so you don’t have your viewpoint up your character’s back and bum up-close and take in the sights from a perfect camera view.
It’s also a heckuva trek that doesn’t feel monotonous. Part of it is because there’s a lot of discoverables, from lorestones that give you bonus experience points while telling you more of the game’s many fables to the secret chests & loot caches that house random loot that doesn’t seem that random. More on that in a bit.
Roll For Initiative
Even if it’s been 8 years prior, the game still holds up most of the time. Like we mentioned above, the game’s flexible Destiny and “class” system lets you play different playstyles and change it up with little to no cost. Basically, you put a bunch of points in either of the three stat categories -Might, Finesse, Sorcery- and you get Destiny cards that give you bonuses that complement that playstyle.
Want to be a melee bruiser with groundpound AoE attacks? Go ahead and put all your points on Might and get Destiny cards that help you with health and damage-dealing. Want to balance between being a backstabbing rogue and a magic-user? Split up points between Finesse and Sorcery and not only do you get bonuses in elemental resistances and armour penetration, you can also do a sweet teleport dash that can poison anyone at the end of the dash. Want to be a jack-of-all trades? You can put points in all three and get a Destiny card that helps create homing projectiles if you kill a bad guy. Re-Reckoning’s “class”
flexibility, coupled with its action-heavy combat that relies on blocking, parrying, dodging, and mixing up melee and ranged attacks, helps make the entire gameplay package fun. Tight controls really help, and this game offers that in spades to the point that you don’t need manual targeting and lock-on.
The Re-Reckoning’s looting and difficulty changes also make sure it complements with the challenge and fun of exploring a dangerous-yet-ephemeral land. So far, my runthrough of the main campaign (which will take you 30 hours minimum) net my Finesse/Magic-focused dual-wielding knives warrior a bit too much gear in the set match and purple tier. At least it’s tailored after my setup, so it’s less frustrating than in the 2012 original, where items are pretty expensive and farming for gold requires you to respec to certain talents that up your gold acquisition bonuses. You don’t need to do that as much, though at times you may end up with way more loot than you need.
The challenge itself calculates and scales to your character level, though if you picked the new “Very Hard” difficulty, you’ll feel the sting from each wolf and annoying boggart f*** that loves to dodge all your attacks while able to soak up more than they should. Because of this new scaling, you can now go visit certain DLC campaigns (The Legend of Dead Kel, Teeth of Naros) straight away after you’ve reached level 10, which will take you about 10 hours or so if you’re doing the standard “main and side quest-taking” balancing act.
This is good news so that you aren’t being kept out of the min-max level gate for each area and quest, making for a more organic experience. You can still choose to farm, though you won’t feel too overpowered when dealing with challenging enemies like a swarm of Mountain trolls or those Niskari demon a**holes and the incredibly unpredictable & fast Scavs. Add it the many armour sets, OP weapons, and even houses to store your stuff & craft goods to uncover and unlock from the multitude of quests, and you’ve got a lovely hybrid of The Elder Scrolls and God of War that pulls it off then and now.
Chinks In The Armour
For all of its praises, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning still needs a bit more work with its user interface and quality of life tidbits. For one, entering different areas in a town and region still takes quite a bit of load time; it was mildly frustrating then, but on current-gen tech and hardware? This is pretty annoying given how games have loaded quicker than usual throughout 8 years.
The list goes on: you still need to scroll down the toilet paper roll inventory interface to either equip or sell items. There isn’t any way to filter loot so that you accidentally don’t pick up standard white items you don’t need. Sometimes the shop/repair/miscellaneous icon on the town’s shopkeeper does not appear unless I exit and reenter the conversation. Pathways that look jumpable and are just slight in height can’t be crossed over unless you find the “Jump Down” icon on the map. And what is up with the game’s audio-mixing? It wasn’t this bad & abhorrent before.
In short, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has a silly subtitle, but everything about it isn’t. Short of a few nitpicks and loading issues, this is one action RPG that’s aged pretty well and somehow isn’t being replicated. A shame, truly. It may still hold some 2012 game design holdovers, but its main hook & fantasy trappings hold up just fine & dandy. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 30-to-60 hour RPG with a lot of meat & teeth in its gameplay & story for just US$40.
- Fun action RPG combat and mechanics with flexible “class” system.
- Loot & difficulty adjustments enhance overall dungeoneering experience.
- Vast and interesting fantasy world to explore; made better-looking.
- FOV adjustments & frame rate buffs are welcome.
- UI & quality-of-life issues that aren’t fixed from 2012.
- Loading is still just as long as the original game.
Final Score: 80/100