America - Front
America - Back
By Jacob James 07th Oct 2020 | 2,220 views
Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning is more of a re-release than it is a remaster. With improved visuals and mostly upgraded stability, it does make for a welcomed revisit to a much overlooked action RPG of days past. All the components that made the original great are still excellent here: the combat, exploration, flexible character builds, and every RPG mechanic known to man! That said, most of the issues that nagged with the first release are back as well: lengthy load times, pop-in, and other various technical oddities. Despite not being the remaster the CG trailers would have us believe, Re-Reckoning remains a worthy title everyone should experience.
Anyone who’s heard of Kingdoms of Amalur should be familiar with its back-story by now. For those who haven’t, it first released on PlayStation 3 in 2012 thanks to 38 Studios' founder, Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling. I so admire the story of Curt and this project. Despite conquering the MLB world, Schilling had a dream of creating a video game studio and making great games. He hired some of the best talent around to join him on his quest, including R.A Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, and Ken Rolston. In the end, a controversial Rhode Island loan and bad business ended up sinking Curt and the studio, costing Schilling more than $50 million dollars of his own personal money, and his dream of producing games. Notwithstanding all that, a pretty sweet game was released, though it became lost in obscurity very shortly after its debut.
Now in 2020, THQ Nordic has given the world another chance to experience this massive action RPG world. The two main differences in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning are that you won’t be encountering so many glitchy bugs, and the world of Amalur has received a visual upgrade. Being a remaster, though, and not a remake, one should keep any lofty expectations in check. The animations are still the same as they were before. Character models and environments haven’t really changed at all either, although they do sport cleaner, sharper textures, and more vivid colors. The storylines and dialogue are also unchanged from the original, though a new higher difficulty setting has been added. While it took a few post-release patches, the game does seem to run better as well. Admittedly, prior to patching that was a different story entirely.
At the onset of the game you're resurrected and become a “Fateless” one. Not bound by your previous mortal destiny, you're free to weave whatever story you wish, and in turn become whomever you want. This is the backbone of the story in Kingdoms of Amalur. The lore is vastly deep, and there are those who love the delving tale this story tells. For me, though, the story remains as it did in the original; long-winded and far less interesting than the continuous hack and slash action. That’s not to say it’s a bad story, it just never gripped me the way a more succinct fable would have.
Where the story is a bit generic for me, the huge open environments create a sense of true fantasy wonder; it's like anything is possible when exploring the world of Amalur. Venturing from realm to realm you encounter wild creatures to battle, gather flora used to concoct potions, discover hidden secrets in caves, meet quest-giving villagers in local taverns, amass loot and gear to adorn and sell in shops… the list goes on and on. It almost feels like the developers created a list of all the RPG mechanics they could think of and then added them all to the game. You can salvage parts from old gear, to aid in crafting new equipment through the blacksmithing system. You’ll gather shards used to forge new gems, which are socket-able into your weapons and armor, via the Sagecraft skill. You name it, Amalur's got it!
All the tropes in the world won’t do you any good without fun and rewarding combat. Luckily, this is where Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning really shines. As a Fateless one, you’ll be able to choose one of three main adventuring paths: Sorcery, Might, or Finesse. Each skill tree specializes in abilities and upgrades tailored to a mage, warrior, or rogue. Better yet, you aren’t beholden to any one tree. Half the fun is crafting the perfect fighter, by mixing and matching until you find your ideal build. Want to be a greatsword-weilding wizard that specializes in stealth? You can be that. How about a backstabbing assassin with a magic staff as your secondary weapon for boss battles? You can do that.
The ability to pick and choose how you want to approach combat is utterly freeing, but what’s even better is being able to speak to a Fateweaver and reset all your skills at any time. For a small gold coin fee, you can completely respec your character to take a whole new path - as many times as you see fit. In my first playthrough of the original, back in 2012, I was a pure mage through and through. This time, with Re-reckoning, I went the complete opposite and rolled a pure warrior. Dozens and dozens of hours into my warrior playthrough, I realized I missed my magic-slinging merlin, and asked the Fateweaver to make it right. From that point on, mixing both sorcery and might, I became an armored arcanist of annihilation.
The base game and its core mechanics are still a blast to experience, whether it’s your first time playing or just revisiting it. The remaster effort leaves a lot to be desired with long and frequent load times, and the visual upgrade being less impactful than I was expecting. However, with all the current DLC on offer being included in the package and significantly improved stability, this is the best way to play a somewhat forgotten, hidden gem of the past decade.
Jacob James grew up in the golden era of 8- and 16-bit games, forever shaping and molding him as a life-long gamer. Some favorites include: Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Super Mario RPG. Jacob graduated FullSail University with a degree in Computer Animation, so he has a working knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make these imaginative and immersive games he spends so much time playing and reviewing. You can follow him at www.LiveLootLevel.com