Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (PS4) Review

Back in 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was released on PC, Xbox 360 and the PS3, a game which a lot of people seem to have forgotten or never knew about. The story behind what happened next was rather strange, with the game being classed as a failure despite selling over 1.2m copies within 90 days, the developer going bankrupt, and the IP for the title being left to the taxpayers of Rhode Island (seriously!). However, thanks to the IP Gobbling team at THQ Nordic, they were able to get their hands on it and have re-released the title as an ‘enhanced edition’ for modern consoles aptly titled ‘Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning‘.

Originally developed by 38 Studios and Big Head Studios, the new Re-Reckoning edition has been touched up by the team at KAIKO, the developer behind this generation’s remasters for the original Darksiders and Red Faction Guerilla. Don’t go into this game expecting a full remake, or hoping to see a massive change as we saw in the recent SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom remaster, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is more aking to a modern generation port with a few enhancements and mechanic changes to make the overall experience more fun.

So, after just over 108 hours and the platinum trophy proudly in my virtual trophy cabinet, why do I believe Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is probably the best RPG you’ve never heard of? Let’s find out…

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 1

You’re reborn with clothes on – I took them off…

Our adventure revolves around the Fateless One, a mortal being who has been resurrected within the Well of Souls by a gnome scientist known as Fomorous Hughes. As with most games these days, your character has no recollection of their life before being brought back to life, the events which are occurring within the world, or how they met their pre-determined fated demise. The Kingdom of Amalur is a fabled land which is ruled by fate and predetermination, everyone has a set path in life and can’t divert from it, everyone except you…

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After meeting up with Agarth, a Fateweaver, you’re informed of the ongoing war and advised that due to your special circumstances, you’ve been pulled out of ‘Fate’s Weave’, allowing you to not only change your own future due to Fate no longer having a hold on your life, but you can also change others by interfering with them and making moral choices as you go. As such, you’re the only person who could possibly help in resolving the war and changing the land for the better due to the uncertainty your actions can bring. 

Thus begins your adventure, a very big adventure which sees you travelling all across the large continent, a second smaller island and two other DLC lands which are included seamlessly. You’ll meet new allies, make dangerous enemies, have to pick from a number of moral choices and explore the land for various resources and treasures. I was hooked to this game for five days straight – hardly sleeping or stopping until I’d fully completed the game – it’s hard to describe what makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning so special, but let’s give it a go…

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The game gets rather colourful when using elemental weapons!

Gameplay
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is an action RPG title which plays like a hack-and-slash game but with Skyrim and MMO-style quests and a Diablo-like looting system. In a way, it’s what I wanted Elder Scrolls Online to be like once you switched to third-person mode (but that game is nowhere near as solid as this one). There is so much customisation and on-the-fly swapping of combat styles, classes, and equipped gear which changes the gameplay and experience more than simply altering the cosmetic appearance of the protagonist.

There are three skill trees which you can invest three points into each time you level up, Sorcery, Might and Finesse, each one enhancing your passive skills and granting you new active abilities to aid you in your journey. Choosing which to spend your points in not only gives you the enhanced gameplay but also allows you to equip new weapons and armour which requires a certain amount of each category based upon what combat style they are or protection they offer. For example, going the route of Finesse will allow you to wear lighter clothing and wield smaller weapons for speed and stealth, yet the Might tree allows for heavier armour and chunkier weapons. 

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Each level up also allows you to add a single point into your main skill tree, a list of various skills such as lockpicking, persuasion, stealth and alchemy. As you increase these, you’ll become more efficient at the task or boost the effectiveness of the action, you’ll even be able to guarantee to pick locks at lower levels, dispelling weak enchantments, and have a higher chance of finding resources at scavenging points in the world. You can mould your character into whatever you want them to be, as thanks to the amnesia of being brought back to life, you’re technically a blank slate from the moment you wake up. 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 3

Threaten or be nice? Hmmm.

The Destiny of the Fateless One
Although you have no fate and no predetermined future, you do have a destiny. Well, you have destiny cards. As you invest your points into the above pathways, you’ll unlock new destiny cards which you can choose between – these are like classes but they don’t change your ‘style’. They grant you with certain boosts such as an increase in your melee, ranged and magic damage if you choose the Adventurer, or a larger melee attack and block efficiency if you opt for the Soldier. These are yet another method to immerse yourself and create the person you want to be.

Similarly, at certain times within the game, you’re given moral choices to make, ones which will possibly change the world from that point onwards. These events grant you with ‘Twists of Fate’ cards – these are basically the same as the above Destiny cards only all of these are active and you don’t have to pick only one of them.

Speaking of which, yes, the game itself changes based upon your actions and decisions – to a certain extent. At one point I wasn’t really paying attention and I agreed to side with an evil spider woman and accepted her quest to return to a small town that was in-hiding due to their fear of her minions, and slaughter every single person living there. Suffice to say, I wasn’t able to buy anything off them ever again. Similarly, there’s a point where you can help out another man you’ve been fighting against and turn against your companions for the promise of a stong Twist of Fate card and weapon. However, doing that one removed the ability to complete a bunch of quests and certain towns will attack you on sight – I reloaded after choosing that option!

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There are also a bunch (over 80) of occasions where you can persuade NPCs into thinking as you do, turning the conversation in your favour without resorting to violence or agreeing with their suggestion and possibly losing out on bonus money or gear. As such, investing in that particular skill is a requirement – especially if you want the trophy which revolves around it!

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I wonder where the sword is going?

The combat
As I mentioned above, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning lets you be who you want when it comes to combat and skills. You can equip two weapons at a time, one which is mapped to Square and one which is Triangle, allowing you to either go for the standard main weapon and a bow or mix it up with various swords, daggers, Fae Blades, or even a staff for magic attacks. The combat itself though is very simple and very much like a hack-and-slash button masher as you only have the single button to attack with.

Thanks to the skill trees, you can unlock expanded attacks which utilise the single button. For example, holding down the Triangle for the bow allows you to charge the shot but if you unlock the ability, you can also charge three or five arrows to fire at the same time. You also have a shield which can be used to parry the enemies just before they attack, as you can do in Mortal Shell, and you can counter-attack with a riposte if you’ve also invested in that ability. Certain weapons like the daggers can also be used whilst you’re in stealth mode in order to fatally take down enemies quietly from behind.

So, although combat seems basic and ‘boring’ at first, it soon becomes much more advanced once you mix it up with the shield, dodging, charging and stealth.

You can activate the ‘Reckoning mode’ once you’ve killed enough enemies by pulling on both triggers until the world turns blue. This mode slows down time for everyone but you and greatly increases your strength, allowing you to absolutely slaughter anything that gets in your way. Once you’ve reduced everyone to mere mush, pressing Cross near one of them will initiate a simple single-button QTE in which you can increase the amount of XP you get up to 100% – you also get a cool animation of you throwing them on a spear or shoving a sword down their throat, to name a few. 

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I personally found the combat to be very satisfying, especially when you pull off chained attacks that seamlessly beat all of your opponents to a pulp, swapping between the bow and daggers by simply moving my thumb to the other button, followed by holding R2 and performing a magical and much more powerful attack such as electrifying my foes! Oh yeah, you can map up to eight skills to your R2 trigger which can be performed as long as you have enough MP – once again, unlocked via the various skill trees. 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 5

You never know what’s around the corner.

The world
The Faelands is massive – I don’t think it’s as big as Skyrim but it’s still a massive mass of land for you to explore. The main continent is split into three countries, there’s a second continent which is a bit more linear but still quite big, and then there’s the pirate island DLC and the Teeth of Naros which is a smaller continent with a floating city placed above it. The landscape is full of things to find such as lorestones which present you with some backstory to the area you’re in, campsites populated by friends or foe, towns full of useful NPCs and crafting tables, and both enemies looking for a fight and people looking to give you a quest.

In terms of the quests, I hope you like helping people out and doing countless A-B type missions! The main story, and the faction missions, consists of many multi-layers quests which require you to do something before being given the next step, then the next, then the next, etc.. These are your more in-depth missions. NPCs will often ask for your help with certain unique situations such as freeing someone from prison, obtaining certain items, or finding out information from around the town. These also have two or three layers to them in most instances. Finally, there are ‘tasks’ which are your standard MMO-style on-going missions such as killing enemies and selling their armbands to a merchant or selling certain resources.

The enemies which populate the world are also quite fascinating. They don’t instantly respawn so you could end up running around for around fifteen to twenty minutes without seeing any if you’ve already been there and killed them – even if you fast travel. This is great if you’re looking for a smooth journey whilst going from one place to the next, but it’s also a pain if you’re trying to farm certain enemies for a mission or trophy. The diversity of enemies is great though, each area has its own style of creatures and they gradually get bigger and more bad-ass the further into the game you get.

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The towns are full of life, even if it is with stationary NPCs and people walking on a set path. You can talk to most people and there are often multiple stores you can buy and sell with as well as crafting tables for you to create your own items with the resources you pick up. Just like games such as Skyrim, you can forge your own armour and weapons, craft your own potions by either experimenting or picking a recipe, and you can even craft mystical gems to forge into your gear you make to give them an extra ability or boost. There’s also a lot of chickens just waiting to be slaughtered by your hands.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 6+1

Commander Shepard, is that you?

Included DLC
As I mentioned previously, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning comes complete with both of the officially released DLC packs from 2012, The Legend of Dead Kel and the Teeth of Naros. These are both decent-sized expansions which take you to new regions and introduce you to new challenges and enemies. I prefered The Legend of Dead Kel as the woman you’re shipwrecked with is rather cute and aside from ridding the island from Dead Kel, you also get to rebuild a mini-village and take on an unlimited amount of bonus quests from the locals.

On top of these though, you’re also given a bunch of other DLC items which I wasn’t expecting. There’s a chest in the first town you encounter and within that, you’ll find all of the armour, weapon, and item bonuses which were given with the original game – included Commander Shepard’s themed armour! That’s right, even though this version of the game isn’t published or created by EA at all (the original was published by them), you can still grab and wear the Mass Effect ‘pre-order and online pass only’ gear! However, once you’ve played for an hour or two the armour will be useless – it’s a shame we couldn’t upgrade the gear so we could carry on wearing it.

The exciting news is that in 2021 there’s a new addon being released for the game! I can’t recall the last time that a new DLC came out for a remastered version of a game – remake sure, but not a remaster. As such, you can actually pick up three versions of the game tomorrow, the standard edition (just the game), the digital ‘Fate’ edition (which contains the game, the soundtrack and the upcoming addon) or the physical collector’s edition (containing the game, art cards, keychain, statue, and soundtrack). I really want that statue!

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 7

Let’s dance…

Difficulty and changes
One thing I’ve seen a lot of people criticise the original game for is the lack of challenge once you’ve invested into certain skills and become a God at crafting armour and weapons which are much better than anything you can buy within the game. Personally I don’t see that as a flaw, I see that as a reward for investing into the correct skills – you should become better at creating high-level items as you’ve just dedicated your points into that particular ability. However, I’ve read on various forums that this is something people don’t like (even though they could just, you know, not invest points and make their own gear…)

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As such, the developers have added a new ‘Very Hard’ mode. This obviously ramps up the difficulty and gives you a greater challenge should you choose to subject yourself to the more difficult creatures but there’s no trophy requirement to do so. I played the entire game through to the end on Hard (as there’s a trophy for doing so) and I found it challenging at first but pretty easy later on when I’d created a bunch of OP gear and weapons. I thought it was fun though as it made the combat more satisfying as I felt like a God, the God of slaughtering anything that moved!

Other notable changes are also in relation to the difficulty and the way the game scales throughout. Originally the game would determine the level of a ‘zone’ once you first enter it, meaning if you ran forward at the beginning then it may be hard-locked to a low level for your entire playthrough. Now, the game re-levels the zone each time you enter it. They’ve also reduced the XP rate and adjusted the back-end min-max level range within each zone in order to make it a little more challenging yet satisfying once you’ve out-levelled the enemies. 

Another thing which was changed was the loot generation. Just like the level scale, the loot would be generated as you enter a zone yet now it’s generated as you open the chest – resulting in more relevant items. They’ve also supposedly added a hidden counter that ensures your chance of finding something good is increased every time you end up with a not so good selection upon opening the chest. These are very subtle changes but they must have been good adjustments as I never felt like I was being treated unfair by the game or surrounded by enemies I couldn’t handle with my assigned set of gear. 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning 8

Meet my new girlfriend!

Visuals and technical issues
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a remaster, not a remake, so don’t expect much in terms of updated visuals. I’ve played the original game on the PS3 and the PC and the version on the PS4 looks very similar to the PC version only with a few touch-ups in regards to the sharpness of the textures and the lighting (there’s probably more subtle updates too). For the purpose of the review, I’ve been playing the game on my PS4 Pro via a 4KTV – I’ve heard the game supports 4K and is 60fps although actual numbers haven’t been officially confirmed by the developer in any press information we’ve received.

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First of all, let’s touch on the visuals – I like them. You can instantly tell it’s a simple remaster due to how much it looks like a slightly enhanced PS3 game. This isn’t a bad thing as I think the game looks beautiful, colourful, immersive, and very fantastical, but don’t expect a similar upgrade to what we saw in Red Faction Guerrilla or Saints Row: The Third. What you will notice is how sharp and clear the textures and characters look when you’re close to them, leading me to believe the PS4 Pro version is around 1620p or more. There’s also a lot of bloom and really nice lighting throughout, helping create a very dark and eerie atmosphere.

Speaking of ‘dark’ – I had to turn the in-game brightness all the way to the max as the default is very, very dark. It makes it impossible to see any details and feels like it’s not been adjusted right within the code – if you feel the game is too dark, crank the brightness in the menu all the way up!

Something which I noticed a lot was the pop-in. I’m guessing that the developers haven’t fully tweaked the game and they’ve left it on either certain PC settings or they’ve used the PS3 and Xbox 360 settings, but there is a lot of pop-in as you run around the world. You’ll see grass appear and textures define before your very eyes. I also witnessed a number of ‘glitches’ with NPCs heads spinning around like the Exorcist, the camera pulling back so I saw under the world, and some enemies and NPCs die floating in the air like a levitating magician. None of these affected the gameplay though.

One thing which stood out like a sore thumb was the cutscenes. A lot of them are in-engine and nice and sharp, but some are rather low quality and clearly not the same as in-engine ones. As such, I believe it’s using some pre-rendered videos from either the original PC or PS3 edition. I could be wrong, as some do show your custom character, but they looked really jarring when the game transitions back into gameplay. Also, written text in notes and books is also blurry on the 4KTV, it’s not been sharpened enough in my opinion – same with the minimap and other HUD elements. 

Although, you can set the HUD to an enlarged (as I did) or ‘small’ mode. So I imagine the small mode is the base resolution and size and it’s simply stretched if you pick the bigger option. However, on a 4K TV, this setting renders the HUD far too small, making the mini-map a literal ‘tiny-map’.

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However, what I’m unsure of is the framerate. Some people have said they’ve heard it’s 60fps but I can’t ‘feel’ it. To me, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning feels like it’s 30fps with motion blur enabled, but it could be an unlocked framerate as well due to the fluctuations in performance.

*Update – as per the KoA:RR FAQ (HERE) – the PS4 Pro version is running at 60fps at a base 1440p resolution. My TV must have upscaled the image, which is why I thought it was higher, and I’m clearly not observant enough to realise the framerate was 60fps!*

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My OP armour which I crafter myself.

Issues and disappointments
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has some serious performance issues. Now, there has been a patch in the last few days which simply states it’s addressed some stability issues (so these may not be here anymore) but these are the issues I encountered… *Update – version 1.04 came out today (launch day) on PSN and will hit Xbox tomorrow. This supposedly addresses a number of issues reviewers and early players have encountered*

Crashes. The game would crash if I started using flame-based weapons in quick succession, filling the screen with flames as the enemies were burning, this also happened when using my lightning-powered five-arrow bow attack on multiple enemies. The game freezes for a brief second when using the attacks and after a while, it just gave in and crashed. The game itself also presented me with a few framerate and slowdown issues as I traversed the world, sometimes causing the same brief stutter. 

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In the patch before the one that’s out now, the game crashed eight times in the 138 hours I’ve played (30 post-platinum) – mainly when I was entering a building. The problem here is that the game autosaves as you enter an area or building and it only has one autosave, so if it crashes whilst doing that, wave goodbye to your save. This happened once and I lost around four hours of gameplay. Since then I ensured I manually saved the game every twenty minutes or so. 

The biggest disappointment I had with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is the annoying loading times. Everyone complained about Monkey King: Hero is Back as that game had a loading screen when you went into a building, but that’s nothing compared to this game! Fast Travel or going into a building results in a 30-60 second loading time, longer if it’s reloading the overworld when you’re exiting the buildings. When you’re in a city, which is full of buildings to explore, it’s really, really annoying as every single door you open results in loading – it’s not like Skyrim where it loads the town then that’s all load-free until you exit, it just loads every time you walk into a door.

This is the second game this week in which I’m having to point out the terrible loading times – I seriously can’t wait for the PS5 to hurry up and eradicate them as there’s no excuse for any game (including remasters) to have this many in 2020. 

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is one of the best Action RPG games out there, and now you can easily play it on modern consoles! The combat is very satisfying, the customisation is plentiful, the environments are beautiful and vibrant, and the wide variety of quests will keep you busy for hours (even after you’ve finished the main story). With over 100 hours of content to play through, two DLCs, five factions with their own storyline, and the main quest, there’s never a dull moment as you travel the world seeking dangers to slaughter and people to help. There are a few issues with crashing, stuttering and horrendously slow loading times (at this point), but I imagine the technical issues will be addressed with upcoming patches.

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Seriously, if you’ve not played Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning before but you like Action RPGs, or you played it on last-gen consoles and enjoyed it, you should pick up Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning tomorrow – I honestly can’t wait to see what the new expansion is like and hope we’ll get a sequel at some point on next-gen machines.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • - Tonnes of content which will last hours after finishing the game and grabbing the platinum
  • - Very satisfying combat
  • - Lots of customisation and varied quests to complete
  • - Really good story with multiple factions, moral choices that change things within the game, and multiple DLC expansions
  • - Visually it's a nice remaster with higher resolutions and framerates than last-gen

The Bad:

  • - The current version is prone to crash, have some framerate issues, and stutter when using elemental weapons. Manually save often!
  • - The loading times are pretty long, not really long, but long enough to become annoying when you enter a town and have to go in multiple buildings
  • - Some cutscenes play out at a much lower resolution than the in-game engine cutscenes and gameplay
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