The rise and fall of Curt Schilling is a fascinating tale. An ex-professional baseball pitcher who fell in love with the novels of R.A. Salvatore, he set up a game company – 38 Studios – and developed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, releasing it back in 2012. The game was well-received from critics and considered by many as one of the most overlooked games of the last generation. Unfortunately for Curt the studio very quickly hit bankruptcy, ensuring this was the only product to come out of the studio. In 2018 though THQ Nordic bought the rights and assets of Kingdoms of Amalur, now releasing the game under a Re-Reckoning guise. So let’s see how it all looks now, shall we?
Personally I always find it tricky to head back to a title from years gone by, even when that game has been remastered and redesigned again from the bottom up; there is just something about most titles that see it come across as, well, old-fashioned. I’m not talking visuals so much, but more about the gameplay mechanics, with original clunkiness having radically changed over the generations. There are some successes of course – like the recent launches of the Resident Evil remasters – so I was keen to see if Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning could live up to those high standards.
The story behind this is a grand one: full of lore, fascinating characters, and epic wisdom. You start things as dead as a dodo, only known as the “Fateless One”, who is revived in a place called the Well of Souls by a Gnome scientist. You escape the Well after a huge attack by the Winter Fae, who are currently waging a war against the mortals. Upon entering the huge Faelands, you discover a power that allows the Fateless One to alter the fates of others. From there you are left to go out into the world to discover your purpose and exactly what you need to do to change the course of history and the world. The story, as a whole, is excellent and massively deep; if you’re into your fantasy and D&D, you will be in your element. There are also many side quests to accompany the main objectives, and these build the world around you while adding more narratives and plots. It’s a game where you could get easily distracted whilst taking in a playthrough, always going off the path, following the shiny yellow exclamation mark over someone’s head which signifies the possibility for another quest.
The gameplay starts with you choosing the style of play that is best suited to you. You can be a hard and fast warrior, tanking it and hitting hard, or a wizardy mage-type, utilising spells and cantrips, or opt for stealth if you like the thought of being a thief, backstabbing your enemies into submission. The best bit about the systems of Kingdoms of Amalur is that you get the chance to combine elements of magic and fighting at will, attempting many combinations and trying a bit of everything. It really does make it easy for you to find the playing style you want to enjoy.
The combat is deeply satisfying to get involved in too. You have a main weapon – whether it’s a greatsword or hammer – and then a secondary weapon at your disposal like a longbow or mage staff. You’ll also be able to set up your defense, working with a shield and a whole bunch of special moves that are easy to learn and implement. It’s a great system and something that never grows old no matter how many hours you throw into the gameplay. Navigating the world is fun too, even though at times it can feel a bit empty when compared to more modern games. But there is plenty to do and two additional DLC packs are thrown in for good measure: Teeth of Naros and Legend of Dead Kel. In Teeth of Naros you play with god-like characters, venturing into a new realm with plenty of new content and hours spent. In Legend of Dead Kel though you are thrust towards a mysterious island; one complete with some new questlines focusing on an epic dungeon.
There is plenty of loot to be had as well, and adding stuff to your inventory so that you can equip your character with the best setup known to the world of fantasy is an utter joy. As is gaining experience and leveling up your character; it is super simple to action with some interesting skill trees and attributes to gain as you progress. All in all, the combination of mechanics and ideas means that Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a highly addictive game, and one that fans of this genre will most certainly be looking to fully experience. It won’t be a short term fix either, and you’ll need to knuckle down and be prepared to lose a ton of hours to this wonderful universe.
Visually, Re-Reckoning has some good character and creative enemy designs – ranging from horrific spiders spurting out poison to huge ogres with massive hammers waiting to cause you damage – especially as it originally came from the fantastic mind of Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. The areas you explore also have a wide range of variety in terms of fauna, biodiversity, and atmosphere. But my problem is that even with that in place, this still feels like a game from 2012, complete with loading screens and textures that feel a tad outdated. The game doesn’t help itself by being released at the end of this current generation, so you’re always going to be left comparing it to some excellent looking recent equivalents like The Witcher 3 or Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s also not helped that it feels a bit empty – there’s a moment in a specific mission in which I had to prepare for an attack from some trolls, fully expecting an army to come crashing into our camp. Five turned up. It certainly hasn’t got that fully remastered, full of energy effect that other games have embraced.
The soundtrack though is an epic piece of greatness that manages to sum up exactly what you want from an RPG – full of fury that inspires you to go that extra bit further and play that extra bit longer. The effects are great and it all works perfectly, especially in terms of the voice work which is of a very high standard. I’ll forgive the fact that it does at times feel like it’s the same actor taking on quite a few different roles.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning on Xbox One is certainly well worth taking in if you haven’t experienced it before, and this provides a great chance for anyone looking to delve into a solid RPG with loads of content, a great story, and fantastic combat. If you have played it previously, I don’t honestly think there is enough here to warrant going back, unless of course you want to repeat the process and get all the content included in one package. There certainly isn’t enough here on display to offer the tag of a ‘remaster’, but it’s a great RPG that shouldn’t be overlooked – like it was the first time around.