When it first made its 2012 debut, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning rocked the genre as a rather unique westernized RPG. Leading in its category, the original game beautifully blended elements of action, adventure and role playing mechanics to create a solid gameplay experience. Today, developer THQ Nordic, (who is no stranger to revitalizing games) has recently breathed new life into the game, re-mastering much of the game’s visuals, soundscapes and character designs right up to and including the title itself. (Re-reckoning, get it?)
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning unfolds as you, a human mortal known as the Fateless One, is brought back to life by way of an experimental “Well of Souls”, built by a gnomish scientist, Fomorous Hugues. Incredibly enough, you are the first and only success of the experiment. Having no memory of your previous life or death, you find yourself smack in the middle of a gruesome war between mortals and an immortal race known as the “Winter Fae”. You eventually learn that you have the unique innate power to alter the fates of those around you, and it is up to you to save the mortals from their predetermined end. The background story of Kingdoms of Amalur extends well beyond this précis as this game does not lack in the dialogue and story department. You can easily spend hours getting lost in the lore. As you progress along your journey, almost every character you encounter or cross paths with has a long winded origins story to tell. While the game’s writers have done much to flush out the world building and the history of the kingdom itself, if you are in a mood to just play the game, all of this is easily skippable. Luckily, discovering mission objectives and other relevant way points still remains at the forefront of all the character conversations.
After nearly a decade out of the limelight, Kingdoms of Amalur still handles surprisingly well. The remaster is a welcomed upgrade to the original, and still holds up in the aspect that fueled its popularity with fans in the first place – its brilliant combat style. Fighting enemies feels great. Very tight mechanics akin to the early God of War games keep the combat learning curve rather low and super easy to pick-up. You may easily forget that you are playing an RPG. Much like many games of this nature, the combat system hinges on what class you decide to align your character with. Kingdoms of Amalur allows for three main fighting stances: Finesse, Might and Sorcery. Finesse essentially allows your character to move stealthily, focusing more on lighter, quick attacks and rogue style engagements. Might, being self explanatory, focuses primarily on brute force, hack and slash attacks. This class leverages heavy armour and a variety of melee weaponry. Finally, the sorcery class excels at the use of magic and spells to get the job done. Weapons include basic staffs and an assortment of mystical items that create powerful radius attacks guaranteed to mow down enemy forces.
While a well defined class system is not new to the RPG genre, what ultimately makes this game unique is the ability to seamlessly switch between all three fighting stances. If you find that the brute force, hack and slash is not working for you in a battle, simply switch styles and try again. As you gain experience fighting enemies and completing quests, your character is able to level up and further hone their skills in each fighting class – making you a true force to be reckoned with across all three planes. Interestingly enough, if your character is suddenly weighing too heavily in one fighting stance over another, the game also allows you to re-spec your skill points across these abilities to really fine tune your ferocity on the battlefield.
Combat itself is more fast paced than one would think given that this is an older RPG. Mixing it up with herds of enemy forces requires lots of quick thinking and some seriously precise timed attacks. The game rewards you with tons of experience for swinging your weapon at just the right moment. Similarly, blocking enemy attacks works the same way. Pressing the block button at the last possible second also becomes just as imperative as attacking. Just like attacking, the game allows you to take powerful reaction attacks if you pull off a parry at just the right instant during an encounter. Sound complicated? At first, maybe. But with time, this precision attack and blocking tactic gels harmoniously as you get used to defeating each of your opponents, and becomes increasingly more important than the strength of your character or the rarity of your weapon. It would be wise that you practice your timing skills in advance on easier enemies in order to accelerate your prowess and prepare you for harder maps later on in the game. Ultimately, this mechanic is what sets the game apart from other RPGs, and really bends the traditional Western RPG genre so that it’s not so cut and dry.
Bland visuals and repetitive textures however, do not pair well with the fact that this is a remastered iteration of the game. While it does offer sprawling landscapes that create very realistic fantasy worlds, it does so in a manner that is not visually satisfying when viewed through a modern lens. During its glory days in 2012, I can imagine that this game really pushed the bar for awesome artwork and visual design. However, for a game that has been “re-reckoned”, the graphics could have been revamped further to really earn that title. While there is some vibrancy and a bit more fidelity in the cool atmospheric environments that the game allows you to wander through, more could have been done to modernize the overall look. Levels, maps, worlds remain pretty much the same as its predecessor. While the combat and action systems have been given an overhaul, the poor graphics of this game will remind you that this game comes from an older time period.
The core RPG elements of Kingdoms of Amalur really do make the game defy its age however. Much like a typical RPG this game comes packed with a myriad of customization options. You can easily spend hours getting lost in tweaking your character’s composition. These options include skill point distribution, weapon, armour, item loadouts and mapping specific actions to your quick attack menu. There is also a ton of inventory management to keep on top of. The game offers many loot drops, and selecting the appropriate weapon / item to keep and what to toss all comes part in parcel with this game’s core RPG mechanic. Thankfully Kingdoms of Amalur does a great job of not going overboard with character customizations (sorry Dragon Age fans). I found that the menu options and character customization sliders within are rather easy to understand and navigate. For the most part, customizing your character made sense to the degree that you are able to do so. Adjustments you chose truly are impactful to your gameplay and feel significant when you make them. In other words, you are not adjusting sliders for the sake of adjusting sliders. Each category that your character can be customized on makes sense for the encounters and missions you will embark on, and for the game at large.
Kingdoms of Amalur is large! The game comes packed with tons of missions and side quests to complete. Aside from uncovering the deep back story and infinite mythos of Amalur, sticking to only the main quest and not stopping to smell the roses will keep you busy for about 45 hours. If you choose to also complete the surprising volume of ancillary quests and faction stories, you may be roaming around the entire Kingdom for nearly 100 hours. True fans of the RPG genre may appreciate the amount of effort required to complete everything that this game has to offer. Nevertheless, a forward looking adventure story, great world building and sensible character / class customization options give this game a good foothold within the RPG genre. However, it’s unique and highly engaging combat system really pushes this game further into the realm of replay value!
Kingdoms of Amalur was an awesome western RPG for it’s time, and definitely made its mark back then. This new refresh on the game is most definitely welcomed, and a good testament to the evolution of the genre at large.