2012's Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning by 38 Studios is undoubtedly one of my favourite games of all time. The story, the combat, and the overall look and feel of remains in my memory as being more than just a game - it was an experience the memories of which have stayed with me through the years. In my opinion, it's up there with the breathtaking experiences of Suikoden 2 on the PS1, Goldeneye on the N64, and Halo on the original Xbox. When I played these games for the first time, I knew I was getting into something truly special, and Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning, back in 2012, was no different.
It's interesting that I mention Goldeneye, because, for its time, Rare's shooter was a mind-blowing game that kept me happily occupied for hours on end. But, if it were to be remade now, it would no doubt trigger plenty of nostalgia, but its mechanics, the feel of the controls, and the overall vibe would feel dated. Sadly, that's my overall feeling of this game too.
If you don't know the story of Kingdom of Amalur and how it was developed, it's quite the read. It was the passion project of a baseball star who enlisted the help of best selling author RA Salvatore, Todd Macfarlane (the creator of Venom) to work on the art, and Ken Rolston, who had worked on the Elder Scrolls franchise. Together, this dream team created one of the most underrated RPGs of the last generation, which only became a hit slowly over time.
I often wonder what a sequel would have looked like, but we'll never know and that's down to the bankruptcy of the development studio. Luckily, much like the main character, THQ Nordic managed to resurrect the franchise after buying it. However, the things that made the game special back in the day now feel somewhat dated and its once positive traits now pale against more modern examples. In short, it's not quite the triumphant return that this underrated adventure undoubtedly deserved.
What made the original so great was the combat and the story, and these two things still hold true. You follow the story of The Fateless One, who was resurrected thanks to the Well of Souls, and who has no memory of their former life. The Fateless One battles through Faeland, one of the Kingdoms of Amalur, fighting beasts against the backdrop of an ongoing conflict, all the while uncovering the truth about their past. It's a magnificent story set in a fantastical realm and playing through its 40-odd hours of content will do it more justice than I ever could when describing it in just a few words.
Another area where the game excelled in the past was the combat system, which has plenty of versatility and the aim of each fight is to increase your fate levels with the goal being to unleash almighty combination attacks. The system is more engaging and dynamic than something like Skyrim. In fact, the combat, I'm pleased to say, still holds up, at least to a certain degree, and provides a lot of fun thanks to a good range of weapons, reactive enemies that are satisfying to kill, and a mix of weapon and magic-based attacks. It has aged well, however, the same cannot be said for some of the other features.
There is a reason Kingdom of Amalur is showing its age; while it is still a lot of fun to play, there's a lack of improvements that make it feel of its time. First, the graphics: the textures and animations don't really seem like they've been improved much from the original. In its day, and I hate saying it, but it looked marvellous, however, it doesn't look like you're now playing a new or refreshed game. Similarly, the UI is a bit clunky and could have done with an overhaul - just a few quality of life improvements would have added so much. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is quite good and has aged just fine.
There is some stuff that has been added, with the two original expansions thrown in for good measure, but the knowledge that there will be some new DLC next year has me frustrated and I wish it had been included at launch for something new for fans to experience. What's more, gaming as a whole and our individual expectations have moved on and evolved; the quests here don't seem to have the vibrancy they once did, and they're mainly just about going there and killing that - and while all those years ago it wowed me, I've seen better since. And that's my main takeaway: this is a still great game but it hasn't been given the makeover it deserved.
All in all, this is a still good fantasy RPG. If you never had the chance to play it the first time around, and you love a decent action-RPG, then this is one you should look at. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has a good story, plenty of customisation options, and an interesting world realised with nice but dated graphics. The combat is ace, although sometimes held back by the camera angles, and overall there's a lot of fun to be had here. For fans of the original, check out some footage before embarking on another adventure - yes, it does inspire nostalgia, but I still couldn't get past its slightly dated look and feel.