Republished on Wednesday, 28th October, 2021: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of November 2021's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
As regular Push Square readers may already know, we decided to hold off on our Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning review back when the embargo lifted. This was thanks to a game-breaking bug that we encountered on three separate character saves, which prevented us from seeing most of what the remaster has to offer. Thankfully, that bug was fixed with the game's latest update (at the time of writing, anyway), and so we finally feel like we can give Re-Reckoning a full review.
Let's start from the top: Kingdoms of Amalur was one of our favourite action role-playing games of the previous generation. It certainly had its flaws, but it was fantastic fun to actually play. The whole experience was propped up by a slick, satisfying combat system — and the good news is that this system still holds up today.
Performing combos with various weapons, unleashing powerful magic attacks, and pulling off perfect parries — this is what Kingdoms of Amalur is all about. We're almost a decade down the line, but this combat system is still one of the best that the genre has to offer. It's weighty, punchy, and really rewarding once you've mastered the fundamentals.
So smacking monsters about is still a joy, but the same can't be said for the rest of this high fantasy adventure. In terms of storytelling, structure, and presentation, Kingdoms of Amalur hasn't aged especially well. Even with its graphical touch-ups on PS4, Re-Reckoning is rough around the edges. Character models are downright ugly, the user interface is seriously clunky, and a lot of the voice acting is decidedly dodgy.
Still, there's a certain charm to Amalur despite its chunkiness. Its semi-open world, complete with picturesque forests, rolling plains, and foreboding swamps, is fun to explore. It feels like a secret or two hides down every overgrown path, and quests often lead you towards fresh and exciting new areas. It's a big game, and only following the main story means that you miss out on some of Amalur's most intriguing attractions.
Speaking of the main story, there have always been some cool concepts at its core. Your custom character is not bound by fate in a world where everything is predetermined and foretold. You and you alone have the ability to alter destiny, and as such, your actions send shockwaves across history. Needless to say, your hero has a role to play in the ongoing war that engulfs the world — a battle that mortals cannot win without your help.
It's an interesting plot on paper, but it's mostly told through dreary dialogue from secondary characters that you don't really care about. Similarly, side quests are often quite boring. Killing a specific monster, collecting a certain number of items — you know the drill. There's a lot of busywork to get through if you go looking for it, but again, it's the promise of more combat that keeps you hooked.
Character progression is also a factor. Developing your fateless hero is engrossing, as you mix and match abilities from three different skill trees: Might, Finesse, and Sorcery. You can spend all of your skill points on maxing out a single tree, or you can dabble in a bit of everything. Depending on your choices, your play style may change dramatically as you begin to favour specific weapon types and skill synergies. There's so much room for experimentation here, and it's another area in which Amalur still excels.
However, as a remaster, Re-Reckoning can be very hit and miss. It adds some welcome bits and pieces, like camera distance options and a very hard difficulty setting, but visually, it's not a huge improvement. Aside from an obvious bump in resolution, not much has changed, and the remaster has even managed to introduce a number of graphical glitches that weren't present in the original release.
Fortunately, if you can look beyond the graphics, Re-Reckoning makes some much needed changes to the game's underlying systems. Most of these alterations won't mean a thing unless you're already familiar with Amalur, but they make a huge difference to how it all works. For example, zones are no longer locked to your character's level upon entry. Instead, they scale with you throughout the game, resulting in a much more consistent experience, both in terms of enemy difficulty and loot. What's more, randomised loot is now geared towards the kind of character that you're playing.
Re-Reckoning isn't a great remaster, but there's no denying that Kingdoms of Amalur is still a lot of fun to play. Its action-based combat has stood the test of time, and exploring its often whimsical world is enjoyable. If you can look past the clunky presentation and fairly frequent bugs, you'll find an ample high fantasy adventure.