by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
A Second Shot at Glory
Remasters. Rereleases. Remakes. Re-reckonings? As we stand on the brink of both a new console generation and a new series of GPUs, it’s that time in the cyclical rotation of the video game industry when players are given the chance to dive back into newer, shinier versions of many games of yore. One of the latest, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, shines the spotlight once again on one of the great, criminally under-played RPGs of the early 2010s. Received well critically and enjoyed by most who’ve played it, Amalur (2012) just wasn’t ever able to hit the mainstream in the way that other releases of the time like Skyrim (2011) or Fallout: New Vegas (2010) were. Chalk it up to poor marketing, blame the challenges of being a new IP, or say that it just looks too generic on the surface; whatever the reason, Amalur is exactly the kind of game that’s ripe for some new love and a second shot at life.
Exactly what you’re getting with Re-Reckoning might be a bit confusing, and, in truth, the game lies somewhere in between a rerelease and a true remaster. Those expecting a top to bottom revamp in the style of the recent Resident Evil projects are going to be disappointed. Visually, Re-Reckoning looks more like its original self than something new, having undergone an upgrade more akin to some nice makeup than plastic surgery. The original’s bright, cartoonish visual style has aged fairly well, and, with a few tune-ups, colors and details pop a bit more than they did before. There’s no denying, though, that this is a game made almost a decade ago. Up close, it’s clear that most textures are “painted” instead of molded in three dimensions. The lip syncing ranges from “alright” to “not even close.” Held side-by-side, it’s clear that this is a visually-improved product, but nobody’s going to mistake it for something recent.
The visuals aren’t the only thing that have been touched up. First, you’ll notice a new difficulty, “very hard.” The game was never super challenging, so this may interest some, but I found myself perfectly content playing on the plain “hard” setting. Furthermore, the way zone leveling works has been retooled too. Under the hood this means that the way the player character relates to the level of enemies in a given area is calculated differently, but in practice it means that it’s harder to out-level a zone on higher difficulty settings. It sounds good on paper, but, in practice, you’re unlikely to notice a big difference unless you’re bouncing directly back and forth between the old version of the game and this one. Nonetheless, positive changes are positive changes, however big or small.
Fight Your Way
The quick, action-oriented gameplay may not seem quite as fresh in a modern era that sees most western RPGs play their combat more fast and loose, but the tight controls and customizable class combinations still make for incredibly engaging enemy encounters. In my run for this review I went full-on mage (I was a great-sword wielding behemoth back in the days of playing the original), and there are very few things less satisfying than dancing through enemy crowds with a pair of icy chakrams.
It’s the openness of the leveling system and class system that drives a lot of the joy in combat. With classes (and hybrid classes) being one thing, weapons being another, and skills being yet a third, the sky really is the limit with how you’d like to make use of the available systems. While you’ll want to match your skills to the weapon they boost for the best results, making a tanky spell-slinger, sneaky sword slasher, or mystic rogue are each not only do-able, but completely viable and effective. The icing on the cake here is that respeccing (getting back points you’ve spent to instead spend them somewhere else) is incredibly easy, meaning you never have to feel like you’re missing out on something the game has to offer. Are you a staff mage, but you just found a really cool bow and you feel like going all Robin Hood for awhile? Do it! Long day at work, and you feel the need to smack some things with a war hammer? Don’t worry if you’re a dual-dagger rogue, change things up and swing for the fences. All the ways to fight are fun, and all the ways to fight are accessible, and it feels great that the game encourages people to test out what might be fun instead of locking them into one style for the entirety of the game.
Great For Newcomers
All things considered, your enjoyment of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is going to depend wildly on what your experience is with the base game thus far. If you’ve already played the original Amalur, I don’t think any of the changes here are substantial enough to warrant your money. If you’re new, this is definitely the best way to jump into an experience that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Re-Reckoning is underwhelming as a second release, but, with the original game being as much fun as it is, it’s hard to hold much enmity. While I may yearn for a truly modern Amalur title to bring the franchise into more modern times, Re-Reckoning is a solid blast from the past that, if we’re lucky, might give the franchise the demand it needs to keep moving forward.
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Fluid combat, well-made class and skill system, pleasant visual style.
Textures show their age, not enough change to justify a purchase for players of the original.