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It’s important to start this review with some context: On the Steam page for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, one of the top positive reviews is “Ellen was right”. I am Ellen.
My fellow Outside Xtra host Luke Westaway mistakenly allowed me to share my love for this criminally overlooked game in our videos, and since then, to some people, I have become synonymous with it.
People bring boxed copies for me to sign at meet and greets. Whenever it was in a Steam sale, people flooded my Twitter. When THQ Nordic announced they’d bought the licence in September 2018, my Twitter EXPLODED, and when Xbox UK announced it was backwards compatible (on my birthday no less), they tagged me to let me know.
I love Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. But why?
On the surface it’s your average RPG. You’re the chosen one! Only you can change the world’s fate by taking down big-bad Gadflow. There are multiple factions to join, and hundreds of NPCs with floating exclamation marks hoping you’ll help by fetching stuff and/or killing monsters, often involving a lengthy dungeon sequence.
It can be a little repetitive for some, but I love getting sidetracked, which is easy thanks to colourful visuals, interesting lore and exciting combat. It’s like someone took Fable 2’s combat and dialed it up to 11: while never being particularly tricky on normal difficulty, it’s always fast and fun.
Reckoning’s skill trees let you multiclass and build sneaky mages, but the flexibility doesn’t stop there. If you change your mind you can visit a Fateweaver to reset your stats (for a fee), and unlock a different class, or “Destiny”, each giving different bonuses.
Then there’s Reckoning mode and Fateshift finishers: time slows, your character weaves the “threads of fate” into a big glowy weapon, and hits an enemy real hard with it. Those animations alone make it a 9/10 game for me. And don’t get me started on Grant Kirkhope’s amazing soundtrack.
So after THQ Nordic announced Re-Reckoning with a fancy CGI trailer, I was naturally excited (and bombarded with Tweets).
I take CGI trailers with a huge pinch of salt, but since they weren’t showing gameplay or in-engine cutscenes like most remaster trailers, it gave many the impression that they were perhaps working on more substantial changes than cleaning up existing assets. This August I even spent a week wandering the original Amalur as prep to spot the, quote, “refined gameplay and all new content” coming to us on September 8.
So when I booted up Re-Reckoning on my PC just to see a high res Reckoning with darker shadows, I can’t deny that I was… disappointed.
“Vines on trees, mossy cobbled paths, and flowing waterfalls mostly appear to be the same flat, painted-on texture designs from the original team, just in more detail with a higher contrast ratio.”
Re-Reckoning is testament to how great Reckoning’s art style is. Amalur still looks gorgeous with this HD upgrade, but I scoured around and not much depth has been added, and I mean this literally.
Vines on trees, mossy cobbled paths, and flowing waterfalls mostly appear to be the same flat, painted-on texture designs from the original team, just in more detail with a higher contrast ratio. Even the Battle for Mel-Senshir that plays below you in one mission is still a hilarious bunch of identical 2d sprites wibbling about.
Texture popping remains common, shadows from tree canopies remain pixelly and choppy, Mel Senshir’s ramparts had giant marshmallows on them, and I’ve encountered one new bug throughout where assets just aren’t there. For instance many chests don’t spawn with a lid, which is at least mildly amusing when they’re labelled as “hard” to unlock.
Plus, Nanne Hanri’s sidequest, which I’d usually recommend as your first one for cash reasons, crashes the game every time I get to a certain dungeon. So maybe leave that one for post-patch. Oh and the game crashes every time I plug in or unplug my headphones.
There are also things they didn’t fix from the original game, such as the camera pointing in hilariously weird directions in conversations and in battle. The framerate is smoother (except when I tried 4K, oh god) and numbers have been fiddled with to improve combat and balance zone-levelling when you enter new areas of the map.
However, I didn’t have any complaints before, didn’t feel any difference in its responsiveness, and still didn’t have issues with enemies other than chugging some more health potions in the story missions. Plus that’s without buffing up my character and gear via a million sidequests beforehand, so if you want a challenge, the new “Very hard” mode might be for you?
I’m glad THQ Nordic saved Amalur from IP purgatory. This remaster might make more people aware of a great game, and finally gives PS4 players a way to play it alongside everyone else, but THQ Nordic and KAIKO could’ve really elevated it beyond some tweaks.
“Re-Reckoning is a real lesson in the value of clear marketing around a game’s announcement. CGI trailers and vague buzzwords do not set clear expectations, and a flurry of gameplay trailers a week before release does not reverse the hype, merely deflate those swept up in it.”
I’m intrigued as to what they will bring with the Fatesworn expansion, but that’s next year and the big question is: will fellow Reckoning fans buy a £35 spit-and-polish version of a game they already own just so they can pay another £18 for a mystery expansion? Even if it is half price for Steam users, who probably got the original for a fiver in a sale? Although, you do get the crossover Mass Effect Shepard armour without activating a stupid online pass for EA. So, swings and roundabouts.
In the credits, there are more people listed in THQ Nordic’s Sales, PR and Marketing teams than the whole of KAIKO’s development team, but Re-Reckoning is a real lesson in the value of clear marketing around a game’s announcement. CGI trailers and vague buzzwords do not set clear expectations, and a flurry of gameplay trailers a week before release does not reverse the hype, merely deflate those swept up in it.
I honestly feel silly for getting my hopes up and expecting more from a remaster, such as finally having the ability to jump, but love makes you do stupid things, even if it is just a video game.
- Lead designer (original)
- Ian Frazier
Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning is the same great game given a hi-res finish, but fans might be disappointed that it’s not more.
- It’s the same great game fans love...
- ... but it’s not much more than that.
- The new stuff isn’t here yet.
- Camera is awful in larger boss fights.