The story behind Kingdoms of Amalur is an interesting one, in that it came out at the wrong time, and suffered from poor exposure and average reviews. This, thrown in with average sales and being generally regarded as just ‘okay’ meant that Kingdoms was doomed to walk in the shadows of more successful RPG’s. But that was not the case for all. Kingdoms always had a dedicated fanbase, and in some regards, was more highly thought of than much larger names, such as Skyrim. This fanbase grew into a cult-following which still exists today. A coalition of dedicated players who were adamant that Kingdoms just needed more exposure and a second chance. Well rejoice, fans. Kingdoms of Amalur is back, though once again arriving just as the current console generation ends, and it has been polished up and made modern, with minimal changes to the existing title. But is it a little TOO unchanged?
The first impressions of the game will be very underwhelming for anyone who has never played the original, and a little too familiar to dedicated fans. Visually, the game looks very much like the original. A blend of cartoonish graphics and a watercolour pallet of painted backdrops, that can best be described as Fable meets Oblivion. This in itself is not an issue, but when you take into account that putting it side by side with the original there is very, very little change, people expecting a high quality visually dazzling masterpiece of a remaster will have their jaws on the floor for all the wrong reasons. It has been upscaled to UHD, and visually sharpened, and that is it. The framerate has been locked down, though stutters still regularly occur, and it is a certain improvement to how it runs for the most part, but ultimately, it has just been a bit polished. You could be forgiven for expecting more.
The game itself is a familiar RPG tale. You are a godlike being of unfathomable power, drawn straight from legend and prophecy, preparing to fight back a dark force that threatens the lands. You can be a good guy, a bad guy, an in-between guy, or an all-of-the-above guy. Standard, but serviceable and proven. Unfortunately, the lands and villages in this game are so by the numbers, there is nothing insanely memorable about them, or the inhabitants, save for a few races. So far, it is looking very plain, very by the numbers, and very unmemorable. Not a great start. Thankfully, the music is very capably made, if not a touch repetitive, so you always have that to enjoy. But what about gameplay?
The easiest way to describe the gameplay is World of Warcraft on console. You do have to initiate attacks, and dodges, and spells, and powers yourself, but as you run around and see all the enemy health bars, and accept all the fetch quests, you begin to realise that this is designed to tap into the addictive but repetitive design from World of Warcraft. Now this is no bad thing, as it has been one of the most successful games in history, but without other people to share in the glory, the quests quickly become repetitive and stale. Numerous times I found myself puffing out my cheeks when I next received ‘go kill ten of x’ quests. Occasionally you get to kill an interesting or difficult enemy, but most of the time it is predictable and familiar. This would be more of a problem if it were not for the actual combat.
Combat is easily the strongest element in Kingdoms. With a strong mix of tactical timing, quick time events, and button mashing, the combat stands out amongst other RPGs. With an excellent array of weapon types, upgrades, and unlockable skills, the entire game comes into its own once the fighting begins. You are rewarded for your spatial awareness and timing, as well as your bravery and decisiveness. The range of destinies or hybrid destinies you can pick for your character also lend a lot to your preferred combat style. The whole presentation of combat, and the various nuances that go with it, is very impressive.
This brings us to crafting and potion making. No RPG would dare be without crafting and resource management, and Kingdoms is no different. There are plenty of resources to harvest from the world, many of which can be used in potion making. These require recipes which you can purchase from merchants, and though they are costly, spending a few extra hours doing your side quests will award plenty of gold. I found myself with excessive amounts of gold in only a matter of hours. The game asks you to sell your stuff often, giving you occasional but infrequent opportunities to increase your storage, as well as invest in a home for yourself, and many features within such as a personal stash. Potion crafting is fun enough, if not a little repetitive. It would have helped the game to learn a basic structure for how to track down special ingredients, particularly when a potion being crafted is required for a task.
Voice acting is top notch, and I recognised several voices throughout my play time. Though character models and movements can be stilted, the dialogue options are varied and open. It is at this point you could hang up your sword and declare this a passable if familiar RPG experience. However, for a game that is not pushing the boundaries of what is graphically possible on the hardware, there are a lot of issues. I experienced numerous crashes during my play time, all of which cost me considerable progress. But worst of all was that the use of certain weapon types could cause the game to chug, or crash, even if it seemed like extraordinarily little should be testing the endurance of the Xbox One X. The only answer can be that it is poorly optimised and needs a lot of work. And that is a shame.
In conclusion, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning takes few risks in bringing itself over to the new consoles and pays a price for not being braver. It suffers numerous technical issues that are sometimes so bad they force you to choose some weapon types over others, and regularly crashes despite the apparent lack of exertion made by the console. It is poorly optimised and needs work done urgently, but is still a capable if not safe RPG, with a passable story, forgettable world, and OUTSTANDING combat system.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is the safe Fable and Oblivion fusion we remember from all those years ago, but it is a little too familiar, and inexplicably has numerous game-breaking bugs and technical hang-ups, despite the lack of truly awe-inspiring presentation or technical requirements. Nevertheless, it is a fun but safe RPG with wonderful combat, great crafting, and repetitive staple RPG quests and gameplay loops. But ultimately, if you still have the original and your Xbox 360, it is not worth it.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.