With the recent reveal of the Fable reboot at the Xbox Games Showcase in July, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning arrives at the perfect time to help scratch that Western Action-RPG itch. Constructed in a similar vein to Fable, Kingdoms of Amalur still holds up surprisingly well. There’s a lore-rich plot and sizable main quest, heaps of side missions to sink your teeth into (of fluctuating quality), an in-depth character customisation system, craftable items and loot drops that actually reward you for breaking boxes and crates.
Dazzling Combat Capabilities
The combat system in particular looks and feels awesome to this day. Reckoning’s heavy focus on combos, whilst varying up your movesets with a range of unique weapons and spells are a marvel to witness. There’s a gravitas to the battle animations too and they feel ultra satisfying to pull off – that slow-mo effect before the earthquake attack is always super hype!
Certain enemies can also be stealth killed Assassin’s Creed style or juggled with combos like a rag-doll. Keeping them floating above with an assortment of skills is very entertaining, but I wish you could follow-up with some airborne strikes like in Kingdom Hearts or Devil May Cry. As I felt this could’ve set Reckoning even further apart from Fable. Similar to DMC, the character animations you can watch in the movelist menu are really appreciated, helping you to visualise how each skill works.
That being said, it wouldn’t hurt if the game was a little harder too, I only really struggled when there was a heap of enemies on screen. Even if I made a tonne of mistakes in battle, I rarely got punished for it. Amalur’s eponymous ‘Reckoning’ mode makes these encounters even easier to manage, but so help me are they not gratifying to perform.
Reckoning mode allows the protagonist to slow down time and dish out some crippling damage, whilst receiving a huge defence buff in the process. Once a few enemies have been defeated, you can choose to unleash an intense, Mortal Kombat-esque fatality move called Fateshifting. This immediately destroys all knocked out foes whilst Reckoning and displays a button prompt that you can mash for experience multipliers, up to 100%.
All About That Customisation, Baby!
The character class customisation in this game is glorious as well. Called Destinies, the protagonist can essentially choose any attributes they’d prefer from the Fighter, Mage and Rogue disciplines. You can also opt for a combination of the two or a Jack of All Trades approach to combat. You’ll also receive stat bonuses for the style of play you choose. This helps drive Amalur away from the traditional, RPG job systems for a more open-ended outlook. In one combo you can stab with a dagger, swap to a hammer attack, then finish off with a strong spell cast.
The game actively encouraging experimentation and freedom of choice for the player – big props there.
When the protagonist levels up, depending on which points you assign to Might, Finesse and Sorcery on the skill-tree will shape the protagonist to your liking. But at the end of the day, if you’re not happy with how the stats are shaping up, you can swap out the allocated points or even start the whole process again by consulting NPCs known as Fateweavers.
World-building & Plot Grievances
Speaking of fate, Kingdoms of Amalur’s citizens believe that mortal creatures already have their destinies decided for them. So when our seemingly dead, silent protagonist is somehow restored to life at the start of the game, his fate is now suddenly unbound…
Being the main premise of the game, the cycle of pre-chosen paths that transpire around the main character has apparently been happening for ten thousand years.
Ten… thousand. Since the game thinks a majority of these events are of the utmost importance; how this translates over to the plot is with huge, stinking piles of exposition that quite honestly, bored me to tears.
I can only handle an NPC babbling on about what happened to X and Y for so long. You’ll then hear a gamut of names and terminology that won’t mean much to you, breaking the cardinal sin of writing that is ‘show, not tell’. What’s disappointing is that it swallows up the intriguing hook of not being tied to fate.
The world-building by R.A. Salvatore and his writing of Amalur’s rich backstory is something to be commended though. You’ll discover local customs, traditions, cultures and dialects in different areas, and the voice-acting is consistently solid throughout. The Faction and side-quests complement this in their sheer quantity and scope alone. There’s at least over 200+ hours of content here, including the DLCs. So if you’re hungry for lore, you’ll get more than you bargained for here.
There’s one word that kept crawling into my mind during my gameplay that I just couldn’t shake – generic. Each character you meet seems so by-the-numbers and bland. It feels like you’ve met all these stereotypes in the Elder Scrolls, Fable and any other Tolkien-inspired media before. There’s an array of characters that barely have any screen-time as well, and those dull exposition dumps do not help their cause in the slightest. All in all, I found the characters to be largely forgettable, unfortunately – bar a few exceptions.
The same thing can be applied to the overall world presentation itself; it’s quite gorgeous-looking don’t get me wrong, but there’s no real identity for Amalur to latch onto. I feel like the developers just snapshotted a heap of Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter backgrounds, then slapped together whatever design blueprints they had. A little too cliche for my liking.
I was drawn to some of the enemy designs, as that’s ostensibly where the manpower went. Albeit on an overall scale, it’s very uninspired.
Disappointing Soundtrack (From Grant Kirkhope of RARE fame?)
The music wasn’t jibing with me either, and that really sucks because Grant Kirkhope of Rare and Banjo Kazooie fame has some absolute killer soundtracks! I’m not exactly sure what the directive was here, but again Amalur’s OST just comes across as generic, fantasy-adventure, insert-title-here affair with no real impact.
From a composer that can make such awesome tunes (and we’ve all heard how catchy and vibrant his style can be), it’s actually rather sad how lacklustre these compositions turned out. As much as it pains me to say, I honestly can’t remember any of the melodies from travelling around Amalur.
On the topic of travelling, a fast travel feature and the option to set the run button to ‘tap’ instead of ‘hold’ are much appreciated here. Since you’ll be traversing on foot for hours in Amalur, you’ll notice the open-world approach isn’t truly open, as you’ll need to progress through the story to reach other parts of the continent first.
One feature I respect is how the PC version can dynamically shift between the gamepad and keyboard plus mouse controls, so there’s no need to swap out your inputs. Both control schemes work incredibly well too.
New Additions In Re-Reckoning
So what’s new in Re-Reckoning? Well to address the somewhat easy difficulty of the original, KAIKO, the company that’s porting this new version, have included a Very Hard mode to address this concern.
They’ve also revamped the ‘level-lock’ system on zones. Since the original determined the enemy level of a zone when you first entered it, into your save file. In Re-Reckoning, levels are rather recalculated every time you enter or re-enter a zone within a minimum and maximum level range. It’s basically so each zone is not clamped to one level specifically. KAIKO’s made these level calculations easier to mod in this new version as well.
For Lock-picking, the loot level locks have been removed, meaning loot containers now only store their generated loot when they’re opened. Before, they used to store it when entering a zone and were generated at the current player level. The generation of said loot has also been revamped to better match the character’s skill-set, so you’ll pretty much receive more appropriate gear for your current player set-up, more often than the original.
Graphics-wise, Re-Reckoning offers full native 4K support and the textures, lighting and shadow systems have been updated with a new rendering engine. But the graphics don’t really look that different from the 2012 release, if I’m being completely honest.
Although there are some extra display and audio options like changing the HUD size, modern camera controls like field of view, camera smoothness and auto-follow settings, as well as multilingual subtitles and voice options.
Both DLCs from the original, Teeth of Naros and Legend of Dead Kel are included in the package. There’s also a new expansion on the way called Fatesworn which is being released sometime in 2021, but we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out, as it’s still in development.
Whilst the current release, Re-Reckoning doesn’t offer that much extra than the original, it’s still an excellent action-RPG offering that provides hours upon hours of combat, quests and exploration to grind through. The pacing of the story and general plot presentation definitely isn’t the greatest, but the sheer scope and magnitude of Amalur more than make up for its shortcomings.
Review by Anthony Culinas
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