When Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning first arrived in 2012, I was in a very different place in terms of my gaming experience. While I’m still primarily a console gamer today, back then the genre lines were not as blurry as they are now. Grindy MMORPGs were mostly relegated to PC, and my exposure to Western RPGs was limited to The Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3.
Nowadays, I’m looking at a playtime with Destiny and Destiny 2 in the thousands of hours. I have raid groups. I grind new content in hilarious binge sessions when it’s released. I venture out into new releases and I find RPG mechanics, questing, and grinding in half of what I play. I’ve watched Assassin’s Creed transform from an action-adventure into a full-blown 100+ hour RPG series. My console gaming bubble has evolved, and my take on Kingdoms of Amalur has evolved with it.
The original release of Kingdoms of Amalur hit an interesting balance. It was an RPG with tons of voiced dialogue; main quests; side quests; and a fairly robust gear, loot, and leveling system. It also had action game combat reminiscent of God of War, rather than utilizing a menu-driven or turn-based combat system.
The player moved between large, colorful forests and dungeons; taking on groups of enemies scattered around the environment; plucking reagents from every plant in sight; and returning to towns to turn in quests and gain XP points. The quest design was all “collect 10 of these,” “kill 5 of these,” and “go to this place and kill the boss at the end.” The art style had that look of lovingly-painted textures cast over simplistic polygonal structures. The look that allowed World of Warcraft to stay relevant up to today. It felt, in so many ways, like a single-player MMO.
Back then, I played though Amalur and had a decent enough time with it, but it felt like a lot of high fantasy fluff. Despite never really playing World of Warcraft, cultural osmosis meant I was all-too-familiar with the quest design, and it felt like a bit of a treadmill. It was fine, but simply didn’t compare to the Bioware and Bethesda RPGs I was used to.
Today, with Re-Reckoning, you’re getting the same action RPG with a fresh coat of paint. On PS4, where I played it, the game runs at a smooth 60 FPS and looks sharp on a 4K TV. Unfortunately the re-release struggles with loading times (even on an SSD on PS4), and has some pretty glaring pop-in in the open world environments.
Additionally, this remastered version includes a chest in the first town with gear that was released as DLC in the original. This is a really odd decision, as even fans are likely coming to this game after years and relearning it. Almost immediately, this chest overloads your inventory with overpowered weapons and armor. It’s easy to think you should grab it all at once, and this mistake leaves you with a maxed out inventory of items that are hard to know the value of early on.
Between the loading times, a pile of gear that trivialized the rewards system, and a half-dozen modern loot games all vying for my attention, Re-Reckoning feels a bit like wrong-place, wrong-time, all over again. The original game couldn’t really hang among its peers, and now it feels like a game a step behind the current titles it likely inspired.
As I made my way through the opening zones, I came upon one character after another with some problem. The opening of a quest will seem interesting—a wolf stuck in a man’s body stopped me in the road asking for help—but by the time I’d make my way to one objective, I’d heard the opening of 12 different quests along the way. It all blurs together and dilutes the storytelling, bringing the game back to that “collect 10 plants, kill 15 spiders, turn-in quest, get the loot” grind.
The bigger problem is that I’m doing that already, in larger games, with bigger investments, online-play, and more depth. Once again, it’s hard to avoid comparing Amalur to the games around it, and the comparisons are not flattering.
At the end of the day, I found Amalur perfectly enjoyable and decently polished. This remake fails to clean up some technical things and throws off the early loot grind, but it still offers up an enjoyable gameplay loop. If you don’t already have a loot-focused game you’re obsessed with, and Amalur looks interesting, I’d probably recommend it.
For me, the original game didn’t fit my gaming palette, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning still doesn’t fit. I have my loot game already with Destiny 2. If you’re in my shoes, already absorbed in a game like that, whether it’s Bungie’s shooter, Warframe, The Division 2, Final Fantasy XIV, or something similar, then your bases are covered. You don’t need Amalur in your life, and I don’t think its story or quests offer enough to justify stepping away from another grindy game you’re already enjoying.