Sunday 18 October 2020

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning ★★★☆☆

Welcome to our review of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, available on PC, PS4 & Xbox One. There’s a strong argument to be made that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one of the most underrated games of the modern era. At one time, the 2012 cult classic RPG seemed to be a legitimate alternative to Skyrim, launching to positive reviews and slated to be the first entry in a sprawling series. However poor management led to its original studio shutting down and the franchise effectively dying. 

Fortunately, it was picked up by THQ Nordic, who’ve decided to give it a second chance in the form of the cleverly named remaster - Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. But after nearly a decade, is there enough on offer to appease old and new fans alike? Read on to find out...

Firstly, to call Re-Reckoning a remaster is a stretch, instead performing as more of a straight port. There’s no discernable visual upgrade, which unfortunately leaves it looking pretty dated. The colours look washed out, and textures appear bland, almost as if they were made of clay. Yet the most egregious relic of the past is the character faces, which look rather odd with poor expressions and truly rubbish lip syncing. 

With that being said, it does have a charming artstyle that doesn’t rely on being photorealistic, so the antiquated aesthetics we by no means a deal breaker for us. It just felt like a huge missed opportunity not to at least freshen them up for the remaster. However, what was perhaps an even more annoying relic of the past was the loading times. The open world of Amalur isn’t seamless, and you’ll come up against several loading screens while playing. Loading screens aren’t too bad themselves, but what’s less forgivable is that they don’t seem to be any shorter than they did in 2012. With very few updates to the original, we would’ve expected wait times to plummet on more advanced hardware, and the fact they haven’t is more than a little annoying. 

Thankfully, the game itself makes all the above worthwhile. It has one of the largest, most dense open worlds we’ve ever experienced, full of unique places which in turn are full of interesting characters and things to discover. There’s a rich lore and backstory to sink your teeth into, and while not all the quests on offer are winners, you’ll want to complete them all to spend more time in this enchanting place.

It’s also great to see the combat is still one of the highlights of the experience. You can pick to be one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue or Mage, with each offering plenty of choice regarding progression. Once you’re in the game, you’ll find the action is still punchy, responsive and slick. It’s all super satisfying if a little too easy in the higher levels.

To wrap up, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning remains a bit of an outcast. It’s still the great game it once was but doesn’t do nearly enough on a technical level to entice players used to the modern comforts of 2020. Likewise, if you enjoyed the original, there’s no real incentive to purchase it again, aside from having it playable on current-gen consoles. We’d still recommend picking it up if you never played the original, but only with the huge caveat that you’ll have to overlook its performance limitations.

Tom Baker

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