Even when Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was brand new, it wasn’t an essential game. Amalur wasn’t as popular as other high fantasy role-playing games, or RPGs, released in the early 2010s, such as Dragon Age II, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But, it quickly developed a fervent cult following that championed its immersive art design, deep lore and gratifying gameplay.
The universe of Amalur, created by fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and designed by comic book artist Todd McFarlane, is mystical and fascinating. The story is set in the land of the Fae, a race of immortal beings who, upon death, are reborn into new bodies, endlessly forced to live out their preordained fates. The player is “The Fateless One,” a mortal who dies and is resurrected to find that they have the ability to alter others’ fates.
Although Amalur’s plot begins with overdone yet adeptly employed video game tropes, the world’s majesty elevates the experience almost instantly. The epic orchestral score, stylized character models and vibrant environments beckon players forward, inviting exploration of the Faelands and invoking the sense that Amalur is full of alluring mysteries.
Even though it faced tough competition, Amalur stood apart from other games released around the same time because of its uniquely versatile combat system. In the new remaster, entitled Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, the combat remains the strongest aspect of this still nonessential game.
Unlike other RPGs, which force the player to choose a single class for the duration of the campaign, Amalur allows players to respec skill trees mid-playthrough. This means players are rewarded for trying every weapon and spell the game has to offer. Players may spend the first half of Amalur as a heavy weapons specialist before putting skill points into sorcery, trading in their war hammer for a magical sceptre.
Not only is there a massive range in the various weapons and fighting styles, but each strategy — with the exception of stealth — is robust and carefully balanced. Stealth is mostly obsolete as enemy artificial intelligences were not programmed to account for a silent approach. There is more than enough depth in the combat, however, to warrant exploring every option and developing a play style unique to oneself.
The biggest issue with Re-Reckoning is that it retains too much of the original Amalur experience. This version still includes the unintuitive menus, poorly paced checkpoints and long, frequent loading screens that existed in the 2012 release. The game screeches to a halt every time players need to update their loadout because items are hidden behind layers of sub-menus. Losing a boss battle often resets 15 to 20 minutes worth of progress, and players will learn to put off using stores or travelling between parts of the map due to painfully slow load times.
Re-Reckoning adds a new difficulty setting and updates the back-end rules for spawning loot, but it brings little in the way of graphical upgrades. Any improvements to the original textures are subtle to the point of invisibility. Although the sole purpose of a remaster should be to bring an old game up to standard for current hardware, Amalur still experiences screen tearing, occasional crashes and framerate drops in large battles. Several progress-hampering glitches also plague Re-Reckoning, including one where the camera drops below the ground.
While the original score is perfectly suited to the universe, Re-Reckoning also suffers from poor audio design. Several sound effects have a low fidelity technical quality and sometimes the music abruptly drops out after swelling to an emotional crescendo, undercutting moments that would otherwise be climactic. Further, the dated control scheme makes it easy to get trapped in a loop of wrong moves.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning changes so little from the original that it doesn’t justify a second purchase for established fans, and feels dated enough that it will only appeal to the most patient new players. Re-Reckoning constitutes the minimum possible effort that can be put into a rerelease — this is a shame, because Amalur has enough of an interesting core experience that it deserves a more significant revamp.
This review is based on the PC version of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.