Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review
I’ve officially decided that I’m getting old. Although I’ve only been able to legally drink for a short time in the United States, I don’t feel young anymore. My bones ache, I can’t stand cocktails and I keep having to yell at kids to get off my lawn. My favourite drink is black coffee, I can’t justify staying up past 10 p.m., and strangest of all, games from my teenage years are starting to get remastered. Between Dark Souls, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Red Faction Guerrilla, I’m finally old enough to remember playing through all of these games before they got remasters and watching reviews of them on IGN. However, I’m now of the age where kids are playing graphically enhanced versions of my favourite childhood time killers and I’m the one reviewing them, and the latest entry into that list is Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.
For those who don’t remember, the original Kingdoms of Amalur game was a fantasy RPG that launched in 2012. The game received good reviews, with an overall score of 81 on Metacritic, but it didn’t sell particularly well because of when it launched. The game had the audacity to come out in the same six month period as Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition, which meant that most players overlooked it in favour of those two immensely popular entries into well-established franchises.
However, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning didn’t make the same mistake, and has chosen to launch in a time when there aren’t many other interesting games to play. Just like the original version, then, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is an action RPG that shares a back-of-the-box description with most other games set in a vaguely Lord of the Rings-esque world. At its core, the game is a third person slash-em-up with a huge world and overly complex story that’s designed to keep you occupied for dozens of hours at a time. However, this brief description doesn’t really do it justice.
Although the premise for Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is still pretty generic, especially in today’s video game market, once you get past the tutorial, the game offers something that’s more enjoyable than many of its competitors. Instead of forcing you into a gameplay loop that requires you to spend hours reading guides in order to optimise every aspect of your build, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning instead presents itself as an RPG that’s simply straightforward and almost relaxing to play. There’s an ever present mini-map to guide you to your objectives, leveling up rewards you with points that can be spent in one of three skill trees and you don’t need to toy with any of the usual RPG crafting elements unless you really want to.
This makes for a game that doesn’t require a ton of mental energy to play, and this extends to the game’s combat as well. Most enemies can be stunlocked with a basic attack, which makes them just easy enough to defeat without it ever feeling like the game is handing you your kills. You’ll still need to use health potions and roll frequently, but it’s rare for the game to require you to dedicate your entire brain in order to survive a fight, which is refreshing to say the least. Like with the original Fable games, it’s intrinsically satisfying to beat an entire group of bandits to death with a warhammer and then not have to worry about changing out every aspect of your build for the next fight.
The game’s story, too, is about as direct as can be. Although you’ll need a dictionary if you care about the specifics of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, the overarching plot can be understood by just about anyone. You’re a warrior who died but then came back to life, which messed with fate and now you’re the only person in the universe who can change the future of the world for the better. Over the course of a few dozen hours, you’ll team up with dwarves and elves to stop evil creatures from Hell, all while trying not to become evil yourself. It’s not exactly The Odyssey, but it is fun in the same way that the aforementioned Fable games are and offers plenty of depth if you go looking for it.
It’s worth noting that none of this has changed from the original Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Instead of being a full remake of the game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning instead exists to fix bugs and improve the game’s visuals. The Re-Reckoning sports some noticeably better graphics over the original, for as little as that’s saying, and a few of the major bugs have been effectively squished. Admittedly the game doesn’t look quite as good as it should given all of the time it’s had to be developed, but anything is better than nothing and the general lack of bugs is a godsend.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning also has a few new gameplay improvements for veterans of the original who want to spice up the experience. There’s now a very hard difficulty mode for anyone who’s looking for a more intense RPG that’s fairly enjoyable, there have been a few minor tweaks to the gameplay and areas in the game no longer have level restrictions on them. None of this is game-changing by any means, but all of the changes are still welcome in a game that didn’t really need much tweaking to begin with.
The only real problem with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is that it fails to address a few of the original game’s minor flaws. Mainly, weapon degradation is either too slow or too fast depending on how you play the game and enemies still respawn way too quickly for a single player RPG. There also still isn’t a lock-on button, which can sometimes be a pain in crowded combat arenas. None of these things are deal-breakers, though, but instead serve as passive annoyances that can easily be overlooked given the quality of the overall experience.
Taken as a whole, then, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a fantastic RPG and a solid enough remake. The core game is just as addictive, fun and straightforward as it was in 2012, which makes it perfect for anyone looking for a break from the overly complex fantasy games that have dominated the market over the past 8 years. The aspects of the game that have been remastered for this edition don’t add quite as much as they should, but this doesn’t diminish the final package enough to not make it well worth a purchase for anyone looking for a mostly relaxing RPG that’ll help take their mind off of what is becoming an increasingly stressful world.
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