The dreams of becoming that next elite game developer has been the driving force of many a company. From the one-person do-it-all’s, to the kids doing it out of their garage, to the former employees of a big studio looking to make a project of their own, the aspirations they share become they tools they use to create what they hope is that “next big game”. While a select few do reach the highest levels of success, many others leave the video game world with nothing more than forgotten title listing on a console or PC game engine marketplace. Then there was 38 Studios, whose failure of epic propotions was well-chronicled in the media early in the last decade as a tale of deception, betrayal, and extremely poor decision-making. The studio’s only saving grace was that with their only creation, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the gaming universewas left with a title that was critically hailed, even though the company itself never got to reap any of its disappointingly modest financial rewards.
Left in the dust and the rubble of bankruptcies, lawsuits and closures, the opportunistic THQ Nordic (as they did with Destroy All Humans!) decided to snap up the IP and in the trend that defines much of this console generation, proceed to have KAIKO and Big Huge Games (who worked on the original) repackage it for a 2020 audience. So with that comes the return of this game in the form of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (2020, THQ Nordic, MSRP $39.99), a game that returns with much lower expectations. and from what can be assumed much lower consequences if it fails to succeed financially. But this was a game that was adored by critcs in 2012, eight years later does it still serve gamers to come back to the Kingdoms of Amalur?
If you’re not familiar with the lore of game, that’s OK because there will be dozens upon dozens of hours to get you caught up. Originally conceived of as an massively multiplayer online (MMO) experience, the gamer takes upon the role of the unnamed “Fateless One”, whose resurrection within the Well of Souls serves as the beginning of the adventure. With no memory of his past, he launches upon a journey through the Faelands in search of his identity. While doing so, he launches himself within a “Crystal War” where the evil forces of the Tuatha Deohn look to destroy all races that oppose them. While not a gripping narrative throughout, it serves to move the game forward enough with dialogue choices for the player that continue the progression or provides new challenges and quests along the way.
But the main reason this game holds up lies in a key factor: gameplay. With the ability to wield magic, a sword, crossbow, or stealth weapon and interchange within each with relative ease sets it apart from many an old or new-school RPG. That flexibility is greatly needed because the God of War/Demon Souls-like action hybrid represented from this third-person adventure is the driving force behind virtually all of Amalur’s successes. Each situation and battle requires a different approach and the Fateless One is up to the task whether it’s using a stealth or direct approach. Chain combinations together with special death animations that would make Kratos beam with pride. Sneakthrough the shadows and kill like an assassin straight out of Deus Ex. Test your archery skills with a lethal shot from long distance. Or even put some dangerous spells together to throw at your enemy to keep the combat flowing at the extensive array of creatures and enemies thrown at the player. Add in an easy to utilize inventory system that’s efficient to navigate through and you have at least a major portion of the game that can still hold up to today’s average gamer’s wants and needs.
The graphics of the game however have not held up so well. Amalur in its heyday wasn’t a shining example of aesthetic prowess and as the game regularly demonstrates, the years haven’t been too kind. THQ Nordic, who did a fine job with one of our most recent remake reviews in the seven-year older Destroy All Humans! with glossing over the game with a much fresher look couldn’t (or didn’t) go that same extra mile for Amalur with KAIKO behind the development wheel. Something that also stood out that was not improved upon was the Fateless One has plenty to say, yet is still prevented from doing so while everyone else around him gets to voice their thoughts. The lack of updates could have also been used with the enemy intelligence, which forgets their pursuit shortly after catching the player’s eye, which makes long-range combat that much more reliable and adjustments of the inventory system to be able to externally store unused items collected (like Elder Scrolls) and “junk” the keep-or-junk option that stayed in the game.
If you missed the opportunity in 2012 (and many did) to play Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the remake even without many apparent revisions is still a fine open-world role-playing game. For those looking to remind themselves of an appealing style of gameplay not found enough in the genre the following years since, the game will still hold its value there as well. What keeps this remake from achieving the original’s heights it received nearly a decade ago however is the game’s minimal effort in making it nothing more than a run-of-the-mill remake in a new generation. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is not much more than just a fun reminder of a game whose promise was ultimately more than what the studio that brought it to life could handle.
(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos/Game Source did receive a review code/model/sample from the company/developer/public relations firm responsible for distribution to the press.)