If there’s one game where its development could be made into a decent Netflix special, it’s Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning. Helmed by a studio run by a former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, with creative support from Todd McFarlane and R. A. Salvatore. A stellar ensemble of creativity, turbulent development process, and a peculiar case of why the state of Rhode Island owned the rights to the game after the bankruptcy of Schilling’s development studio. In any case, I’m waiting to sell you my overly sensationalized story, Netflix. But that’s all in the past. Maybe thanks to all of that I have a remaster of the said game, humorously called Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. THQ Nordic sure likes to put a comedic spin in the names of its game remasters.
Re-Reckoning is set in the Faelands, one of the Kingdoms of Amalur and home to the immortal Fae of the Summer and Winter Courts. Immortality doesn’t mean that they cannot die, it means that their essence will be reborn in another body, repeating the past, endlessly. Amalur is also home to a species of supernaturally-gifted people called “Fateweavers.” Fateweavers can look into an individual’s future and tell what they see, often with special attention paid to the individual’s eventual death. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning follows the story of a mortal known as the “Fateless One”, who, having died before the game’s outset, is revived in the experimental Well of Souls by the gnomish scientist Fomorous Hugues. After escaping from the Well of Souls, the Fateless One (having no memory of their life before their death) is briefed on the inner turmoils of Amalur, the political intrigues and where is his role in all of that chaos by a Fateweaver called Agarth. Agarth is simultaneously puzzled and pleased that he cannot read the future of Fateless One, suggesting that he might be the only one without a predetermined end. This power also allows the Fateless One to alter the fates of others, as Agarth discovers when the Fateless One saves him from his fated death at the hands of a native creature. And just like that, with your unique power and a huge arsenal of bladed weapons, you set your sight on the vast territory of Amalur to see whose fates you can alter – and possibly save the world. It would be an RPG without one world-saving plot, right?
Even during the release of the original, the game received praise for its engaging combat system. On the surface, it is a simple hack n slash combat where you can occasionally throw in a spell as you melee your way through enemies. But it is the simple flow of combat and responsiveness that makes it all shine. Your melee arsenal is made of daggers, swords, and hammers. Daggers are perfect for sneaking behind enemies back and dealing huge amounts of damage (as long as you’re undetected), sword is your “play it safe” pick when you just want to push through the horde and, as imagined, hammers are rather slow to swing but they tend to deal heavy damage. After every level up, you can assign points to be more proficient with those weapons, learn new spells, or having a higher success rate when persuading others in conversations. You can also learn to lockpick better, be a master alchemist or a blacksmith as you evolve. This will all take time and loads of exp, so what is the best way to earn them? Besides the obvious (playing through the story, duh), it would be wise do delve deeper into a hundred little side quests sprinkled through Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. What I like about the combat is that the enemies won’t just stand around as you attack one from the group (as it is sadly a common thing in older RPG games), instead they will all gang up on you from all sides. The smart tactic is to eliminate one or two from a distance with a spell or a stealth attack, before engaging with the rest.
After a couple of hours of playing, I could see why they went with such a joke title in the remaster. Cause the remaster in terms of visuals is a joke as well, just not a one that lands. Most objects and environments received a facelift, there is now higher resolution support, but other than that I was really struggling to find something that stands out in this remaster. There is still a touch of shared brown palette throughout the game, open areas will often feel washed out but we can chalk that up to the infamous generic shooter syndrome from a decade ago. To be honest, I expected a bit more for this price tag.
There is one name from the development ensemble that I haven’t mentioned above. Could it be that I saved the best for last? Who knows. In any case, the man behind the musical score in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is none other than Grant Kirkhope. The nerds reading this will recognize him as someone behind the music of Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye 007, and Perfect Dark. His presence here is more than evident. Every main area has a specific music theme that goes with it and sooner or later, you’ll know where you are not by looking at the map just by listening to the background music. And when you don’t pay attention to the music, you’ll certainly be aware of all the background noise in the forests and caves. You are never alone since that inconspicuous sound could just be an enemy preparing an ambush for you.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a welcome trip to the past. Despite the age between the original game and this remaster, the combat system is still as good as ever. There is great freedom in how you build and evolve your character and I have to mention a horde of side quests if you want to check out every nook and cranny of Amalur. And that’s only regarding the base game! The remaster comes with two huge story DLC, “Teeth of Naros”, and “Legend of Dead Kel”. In total, don’t be surprised if your playtime clocks a bit over 100 hours once you’re done with everything. There is also a 50% discount on the release day or the owners of the original and THQ Nordic has a completely new expansion called Fatesworn in the works, set to release in 2021.
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