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Review: Kingdom of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Is a Repackaged Relic

Screenshot: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Stop me if you’re heard this one before:

Once upon a time there was a former Major League Baseball pitcher named Curt Schilling who wanted to make video games. Curt didn’t want to make any ol’ game, but instead wanted to make a massively multiplayer online game—one to rival World of Warcraft. With famous fantasy author R.A. Salvatore they developed a 10,000 year history to world which players would come to know as Amalur. But just jumping into an MMO would be difficult, Curt Schilling probably realized, and decided to take the massive amount of money that Rhode Island gave him to help create a game called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This game was meant to be the introduction to the world of Amalur—a springboard for players to launch into their planned MMO. But, that MMO never came to be, as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, despite its generally favorable reviews, did not sell enough copies—and the developer went bankrupt.

Despite its financial failure, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had its fans at release. This is purely anecdotal, and probably because I was playing mostly World of Warcraft at the time, but most of the fans seemed to be from the Warcraft fanbase. And it makes sense. Kingdoms of Amalur, to me, always looked like a straight clone of World of Warcraft. The art style, races, and even the classes would look like they were at home in the kingdoms of Azeroth just as easily as Amalur. And because one of my close friends absolutely loved it, I was almost compelled to play it.

I remember Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning well from my playthrough eight years ago. I guess “playthrough” is generous, as I made a character, and wandered Amalur’s open world for ten hours or so, completing quests and side quests, before I realized that I would rather be doing dailies in World of Warcraft. Sadly, that means I never finished the original game, and thought that Re-Reckoning would be an excuse to do it, but—for better or worse—my experience with Reckoning then was pretty much my experience with the Re-Reckoning now.

And I mean it when I say not much has changed in Re-Reckoning. The graphics even look pretty much the same as I remembered them from eight years ago. There are gameplay refinements, and the graphics are enhanced—but I would have had to look it up to see what those refinements and enhancements are. I only mention that because this game is a relic. If you booted up Re-Reckoning and had me sit down to play it without knowing better, I don’t think I would even notice that it was an enhanced version. Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh—because at 4K and with enhanced lighting effects, there’s definitely a difference. But with eyes already adjusted to modern graphics, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning still looks old to me.

Screenshot: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Okay, enough about the remake, is it actually a fun game? Well, that really depends. As I mentioned before, it has taken heavy cues from World of Warcraft. My friend who loved it even described it to me as a “single player WoW’ though in hindsight that sounds terrible. One of the draws of massively multiplayer online games is the massive multiplayer part, and the online. Otherwise you’re just running around a mostly static world, doing endless fetch and kill quests. Sadly, I just described the gameplay loop for Kingdom of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.

If that sounds like your thing, at least you get a little variety to do it with. Though there are only four races to choose from—each with their own inherent racial bonuses—you’re never really tied down to a class. Kingdoms of Amalur allows you to put points into any of its trees as you see fit, making hybrid or specialized characters. There are all of the normal MMO class archetypes—like the warrior, magic wielder, rogue, etc.

Screenshot: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Combat in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning ranges from “meh” to okay. I always found it best played with a controller, because while it tries to emulate the control scheme of World of Warcraft to a degree on the PC, it still feels more like Darksiders or even something like God of War, but never as satisfying as those games. To put things into perspective, Dark Souls had been released for almost a year by the time Kingdoms of Amalur came around, and I was still actively playing that game for its mechanically satisfying combat.  That’s not to say that combat in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning isn’t fun at all. It’s just not the best combat system. Still, certain weapon archetypes are fun—I love the chakrams—and chaining together spells/abilities and attacks can be satisfying.

Other than fighting, you’ll find yourself questing and exploring in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. The world of Amalur is pretty big, and mostly open. I say “mostly” because while you can explore this continuous open world, it is divided into large sections in a way that sort of breaks the open world illusion for me. The world itself is static, and feels mostly empty, with long sections where you have to run before getting to anything interesting. Once fast travel is unlocked, I never found myself wanting to take the scenic route like I would in Skyrim, a game that released months before Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning’s original release.

Screenshot: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Since Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was originally released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as well as PC, those that played the console versions are probably the ones who will benefit the most from this re-release. PC players who don’t own the game are forced to buy Re-Reckoning, since the original was taken off of the Steam game store in favor of the remake. But to those that owned the original, there’s nothing groundbreaking that will change your experience from its previous version, unless you want native 4K support. If you loved Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and want an excuse to play it again, this can be that excuse—but I don’t know if it’s worth paying for minimal upgrades.

 

Available tomorrow on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4

 

 

 

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