Review: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (30.72 GB)
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Publisher: THQ Nordiq
Developer: Big Huge Games
Original MSRP: $39.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: M
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

 

Video Review:

Gameplay:
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning never received the love it deserved. Despite generating some high scores from reviewers back in 2012 when it released, the game was plagued by legal issues that one can easily research. Alas, what was a very good game vanished into obscurity.

Recently (as in only a few months ago) I repurchased a physical copy of the original game for my PS3. A few days later, THQ Nordic announced it was releasing the game on current-gen consoles and PC, with the hilariously-named Re-Reckoning.

Regardless of the announcement, I still dug into my old save and remembered how much fun I had with this game. But the Re-Reckoning news was cause for celebration ,because I never thought I’d see this game in the light again.

And, it deserved, and now once again deserves, the limelight.

Combining the exploration elements of a game like Skyrim with the combat of something more akin to God of War, and written by renowned fantasy author, R.A. Salvatore, Kingdoms of Amalur aimed high to take some of your attention away from the understandably big fantasy titles. And, its execution was mostly solid.

You start Amalur after falling in a great battle and finding yourself re-awakened next to a pile of corpses. It’s not that you survived the battle. Rather, you were revived for some reason, and are immediately thrust in a story of fate, destiny, and the ability to wield them like weapons.

In fact, destiny is Amalur’s way of introducing the class system. You don’t really pick a ranger, thief, warrior, or mage. You create your own destiny through the choices in skills as you level. And even after you’ve decided on a direction for your character, you can change your mind and go a different direction.

Since this game is absolutely huge, this organic method of character growth is a very welcomed feature, because you will be spending a lot of time with your avatar, and having second thoughts will kind of suck 80 hours into the adventure.

This openness to the class system also allows you to experiment with various weapon types. I personally enjoyed the daggers and bow combination, but at any point, I could switch to Faeblades and Chakrams (the latter allowing for a combat style similar to Kratos in God of War).

Sorcery destinies also add spells to your arsenal, and they can be used in conjunction with melee attacks.

In fact, combinations are integral to combat, and as you level your abilities with a specific weapon type, you will learn various combo attacks. These assaults will reward you with higher damage upon your enemies and some spectacular visual animations.

Beyond the destiny system, Amalur is about exploration. The world is vast and beckons exploration, with an extraordinary amount of sidequests that reveal narratives about politics in the world and dive deep into the lives of Amalur‘s inhabitants and races. They also reward you with money and loot.

Loot is divided into familiar categories, particularly for fans of games like Diablo. Rare items will include perks and augments to your character that makes hunting for them worth the effort. Additionally, you can find components to forge your own weapons and items, as well as combine your swords and armor with gems for additional augmentations.

Regardless of what you choose to do with your time in the game, Amalur offers plenty of options to fight, explore, or create.

But don’t let yourself get too sidetracked, because this adventure is supported by a great story. Discovering that you can alter the destiny of creatures and folks around you might sound trivial, but as one of your companions says early on in the game, “you have now changed who that creature was going to be, who his children were going to be, and who knows what else.” I paraphrased that, of course. But the impact of that statement was strong enough that it made me pay attention to this narrative about destiny, and what it means to be someone that can alter it, not just for me but for those around me.

The original Kingdoms of Amalur is almost ten years old. So, there are some dated mechanics that, while not detrimental to the experience, are definitely noticeable. One that stood out the most to me was the camera system. Since Amalur has a heavy focus on combat, the game doesn’t really have a lock on system. This actually works in its favor, but often, I’d have to adjust my own camera, or press one of the joystick buttons to reset it in order to get a center on my character. This only became an issue when I was surrounded by a horde of enemies, and the hesitation did cause me to take some damage.

Fortunately, the camera somewhat intelligently knows to zoom out during combat and allow you a wider view of the arena. Another minor issue I noticed was during some of my combo executions. I’d perform a combination that would land a hit for the first two attacks, and then miss on the third strike, despite the visual evidence showing that my blades did indeed make contact with the enemy. This was not a common occurrence, but during a furious battle, every hit counts, and it was a bit frustrating to see that my efforts weren’t always resulting in damage to the monsters.

Visuals:
While games like The Witcher and Skyrim opt for a semi-realistic approach to their visuals, Amalur’s approach is one of fantastical designs. It actually shares a lot in common with World of Warcraft.

Vast and colorful vistas are adorned with vibrant and glowing textures. Whereas the night cycle in the game assaults your senses with bio-luminescent plant life, the day side looks like a cover of a high-fantasy graphic novel.

This highly-stylized approach factors into the geographical constructions as well. Cottages dot the small communities with exaggerated and skewed windowpanes, and the interiors match the warmth and inviting atmosphere with well-lit hearths and humble furnishings.

But Amalur is made up of various races and cultures. So, visiting the land of the Fae will completely flip the architecture and design, making the adventure of visiting new locations one that rewards you with fresh vistas.

Audio:
Life is given to the Kingdoms of Amalur via some talented voice work in addition to some lively and atmospheric music. I did feel that some of the world music grew repetitive, especially when it would reset every time I’d exit a building.

Your character doesn’t say much. In fact, he or she has the Link syndrome of “no audible speech”. But all the other characters that populate the world are voiced. This includes ambient characterization. This effect gives life to environments like the taverns and inns that populate the world.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I returned to Kingdoms immediately after visiting Kingdoms on the PlayStation 3. The added resolution and framerate made what was already a great game even better.

I put so many hours into the PS3 version, and yet I still found some fresh things in this Re-Reckoning. I tried to take my character’s destiny in a different direction, and I embarked some side quests that I hadn’t before.

Combat still felt tight, although some minor camera issues caused me to take damage that I didn’t feel I truly deserved.

In the end, this will either be your first time visiting Amalur, or you are simply curious about returning to this realm. For the newcomers, I highly recommend exploring this world. It’s filled with lore, created from the ground up for this game (although you’d believe it came from a multi-novel series).

For those of you curious about returning, this is a remaster, not a remake. But, the polish this game has received make it worthy of a revisit, especially if you were a fan of the original.

While it may not hold up against modern action RPGs, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has aged fairly well. This game deserves a sequel and an expansion to this vibrant universe. Hopefully it gets the love it warrants this time around.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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