Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning - Fatesworn (XOne) - ReviewLee Mehr , posted on 15 January 2022 / 3,189 Views
Before THQ Nordic, fate always dictated remasters played by the book: doll-up the visuals, add some quality-of-life features, and include all of the DLC from the original. Now, like the protagonist, this publisher shreds The Tapestry of Fate by including a remaster-exclusive expansion. Developer Kaiko has now officially added its own world, stories, & lore to Amalur. As interesting as these implications are to discuss, does this fundamentally improve Re-Reckoning? In a couple of ways, Fatesworn feels like a love letter for long-time Amalur fans; in others, its mismanaged design, filler content, and other foibles drag down its potential.
Although you must complete the main campaign to access this anyway, let's have a quick refresher: you play as The Fateless One, someone once dead who's now unmoored from Fate. Your resurrection, which was also prophesied by Fate, occurs during one of Amalur's most desperate times. After the defeat of the Tuathan Army, its leader Gadflow, and the dragon god Tirnoch, a new age arose; an age where everyone is free of Fate's shackles. With this dent against Order, Chaos now threatens to ravage the whole world. The vile god of Chaos, named Telogrus (tell-oh-gruss), has found a human host and now threatens the new land of Mithros.
I wasn't initially sure why this concept irked me. Despite most of Re-Reckoning's narrative rarely connecting with me, I still dig the ingenious sales pitch of how your actions feed into the gameplay and story. I figured it was capped off pretty well: you were a vanguard for all of the kingdom to no longer be bound by what the tarot cards say. For an RPG tied with banal high-fantasy elements, that's a cool way to leave future adventures open (such as the Legend of Deal Kel & Teeth of Naros expansions).
If you get past that semi-reset of the original's intention, Fatesworn's story delves into an age-old dilemma: is unmitigated freedom the correct way? Should The Tapestry of Fate be ripped asunder, thereby utterly ending Order in the world? Given how the supposedly-charismatic Telogrus and his disciples have been tempting some westward travelers, it seems some people wouldn't mind a change. Aside from a couple of one-off dialogue selections and background details, it's cut-n-dry that the group sacrificing humans and summoning demon portals must be cleaved in two. Like Re-Reckoning, it's just background text to fulfill a good vs. evil storyline in a single-player MMO structure.
Similar to how Re-Packaging didn't clean up several presentation issues, Fatesworn retains many of them here. As suitable as Telogrus is on paper, it's a shame his first in-game appearance is met with wonky lip-syncing (often not moving at all) and mismatched voice acting. Alastair Duncan has a storied history in games, so I can't comprehend the final result here. Between him and several secondary characters, I can't help but wonder if short recording schedules, inconsistent direction, or both are to blame. It's not a wretched production overall, but there are still signs of this being "fan-made" throughout.
I don't totally buy the thematic tweaking done to make Fatesworn's story work, but it has some positives too. Although most of the original's trite history goes over my head, I had a bit more interest in this lore by comparison. The conclusion presents interesting implications about your character and all of the successive payoffs feel genuinely thoughtful. These don't cancel out the bigger complaints, but at least Kaiko shows earnestness for the source material.
Before diving into gameplay and new mechanics, I must admit that my overall outlook is sullied by one unstated expectation: a surprise minimum level requisite. Considering I beat the main game (at level 25-26) as required (and as the review guide specifically stated), I figured there wouldn't be any issues. But once you leave the mainland and venture to Mithros, you'll get nowhere unless you’ve reached level 32. So, I had to do a lot of unexpected grinding just to be eligible to play this. I'm glad I pushed through the original's two expansions, but it would've been nice to have had some indication of this expectation beforehand – especially when the pre-Mithros quests weren't challenging.
With that annoying roadblock stated, Re-Reckoning's template is alive and kicking. The RPG stat flexibility between rogues, warriors, mages, and any permutation in between is exactly where you left it. The fetch-quest mission structure still emphasizes the ethos of World of Warcraft more than GreedFall or Mass Effect: go here, collect or kill x amount of this thing, and repeat. Given the development time since Re-Reckoning's release, it would've been a great time to include mounts. No fundamental tweaks were in the cards though.
This violent realm bursting across Mithros showcases Chaos-variant enemies with a new gimmick: Chaos armor. These purple health bars can only be chipped away with Chaos weapons. I'm of two minds about its implementation. This new emphasis does bump the relevance of blacksmithing and sagecrafting potions, but I felt content with the starter Chaos weapon and transitioned to my main once adversaries' shields were down anyways. Since I never saw magic stagger enemies when they had any Chaos shield (excluding the final boss), it limits your options down to continuously slashing until all you see are standard health bars; only then can you fully experiment with the game's systems again. I don't see why I couldn't imbue my favorite weapons with this magic during the main campaign – even if I had to sacrifice a buff or damage stat.
Beyond that, Fatesworn does sneak in some extra nuances. Some of its treats include a max level bump from 40 to 50 and a new attribute called Chaos Sight, improving your detection of nearby Chaos rifts and portals throughout Mithros. That new attribute is a throwaway anyways, given how little deduction it takes to figure things out. If you look even closer, new chaos shards and essences result in new weapon or armor gems too.
Even with big & supplemental additions, it just doesn't measure up to other expansions in design. For starters, the penultimate main quest feels protracted thanks to what I'd call dungeon-ception: having to clear out a sizable dungeon before being able to fight in the Chaos realm (which is a mini-dungeon already). There is variety in their layout, but it eventually feels like padding. The final boss tips too far towards annoying versus difficult thanks to one obnoxious move; further, I'm still pissed off about being robbed of my first victory because his delayed lighting strike killed me during an in-game cut scene. The repetitive boss/sub-boss structure to complete a Chaos portal also reveals the limitations of Amalur's action mechanics: quicker attacks by multiple enemies can leave you continuously stun-locked.
The other comparisons would come down to personality and polish. Considering Kaiko's extra development time, it would've been great to have seen occasional camera issues and weird audio bugs cleaned up. Along with stated lip-syncing issues, audio mysteriously drops during some cut scenes (both the sound foley & music). On the personality side, I don't think the new characters nor the fun-focused side quests measure up to either Dead Kel's Rast Brattigan or Naros' unique setting and concepts.
If there was one unblemished quality it would be the artistic visuals & world design. Kaiko did good work incorporating the hellish shadow realm with the original's aesthetics. Mithros' variegated elevations and areas are also pleasant to explore. Even though the story tosses this aside, the opening caravan locales and the idea about various people traveling westward worked for me. It implicitly encourages you to keep moving forward until the map doesn't allow it. Kaiko's deliberate placement of visually memorable landmarks is the easiest plus over 38 Studios’ original expansions.
Trying to quantify Fatesworn's value is an odd task because it depends on a couple of factors. I'll admit: my extra time with it made me slightly less harsh on Re-Reckoning's cost value, but more sour on certain gameplay dynamics on the whole. That's the dilemma when keeping Amalur fans in mind. If you want more content then you'll get around eight hours from the main quest (Hard difficulty) and much more when including everything else. $20 seems like a reasonable ask. But when it comes to the quality, I don't see it satiating long-time fans.
In the end, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning - Fatesworn is certainly a long title and more content. Personally, the talk around remasters getting exclusive expansions feels more exciting than what's offered here. There is genuine creativity and fan service that argues this expansion's purpose, but they're constrained by Kaiko's amateurish design choices, lesser production values, and the original's admittedly-aged foundation.
Contractor by trade and writer by hobby, Lee's obnoxious criticisms have found a way to be featured across several gaming sites: VGChartz, Gaming Nexus, DarkStation, and TechRaptor! He started gaming in the mid-90s and has had the privilege in playing many games across a plethora of platforms. Reader warning: each click given to his articles only helps to inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.
This review is based on a digital copy of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning - Fatesworn for the XOne, provided by the publisher.