In 2012, author R.A. Salvatore, Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston partnered with 38 Studios and Big Huge Games for the sprawling fantasy-action RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The company promptly went bankrupt and THQ Nordic later purchased the rights and announced a remaster for current consoles. Kaiko took control of the project and promised a revamped character level system, all previous DLC, and impressive new visuals. And as if this wild history were some kind of prophetic vision of the future, the end result is a glitch-filled mess that creates constant frustration.
Re-Reckoning tells the story of the Fateless One, a mysterious warrior that comes back from the dead after an experience with the Well of Souls. The character has no memory but possesses the ability to use magic with ease and rewrite fate itself. Now they have to use this ability to defeat Tirnoch and save all life in existence. They do so through a combination of magical abilities, a longbow, and several physical weapons.
The combat in Re-Reckoning is pretty basic considering that one button controls melee attacks while another shoots arrows. This does not take away from the experience, however, considering that each weapon has specific perks, and you can mix and match on the fly. Sneaking around with daggers and killing enemies from stealth is very satisfying but using the magical chakrams makes you feel unstoppable.
Unfortunately, the combat can only go so far considering the myriad issues. When the Tuathan soldiers, sprites, and other foes appear, they bring the game to a halt. The framerate drastically drops during battles involving more than three enemies and completely disrupts the timing.
Eight years later, the story is still fascinating as you learn about the history of the world and the main character's unique past. There is a never-ending supply of information about the mysterious Fae race, the evil Gadflow, and his Tuathan army. The writing is still top-notch and showcases Salvatore's skills as a storyteller, even if only in inspiration. Unfortunately, the story sometimes becomes lost due to technical issues.
Several times throughout the main campaign, side characters attempted to provide crucial information during cutscenes, but major issues distracted from the conversations. Some NPC's delivered lines while missing their legs while others disappeared because of a broken camera. Although these issues pale in comparison to a major game-breaking bug in the Teeth of Naros DLC. I could not complete the main storyline after running into an impassable wall. The companion character simply stood motionless nearby, only occasionally reiterating that "we must hurry" as I tried endlessly to find a way through the wall. Reloading the save or a previous checkpoint did nothing to fix the problem
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. The camera routinely dropped with no explanation, only showing the Fateless One's feet. Other times, the character would stand in the middle of an empty room while voices yelled about "killing the dustling." No enemies ever appeared, but the shouts continued.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning also promises enhanced lighting and vastly improved visuals, but the game still looks very dated. Some textures are very fuzzy, especially when attempting to pick locks, and the cutscenes tend to slow to a crawl or freeze altogether. Occasionally, the game would switch to a cutscene in order to show a troll appear as a random encounter, but only its weapon would be visible. The actual enemy only popped into existence when the character walked closer.
The original Kingdoms of Amalur was not a perfect product by any means. Some side missions, for example, had bugs resulting in lost items, and there were also several lighting issues prevalent when roaming the outdoor areas, as well as occasional hitches when autosaving. However, the larger combat encounters still run more smoothly on old consoles in 2020 than the remaster does on the PlayStation 4.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning's story is fascinating and still holds up eight years later. The combat is basic yet enjoyable, providing several opportunities to be a deadly assassin, unstoppable warrior, or powerful mage. However, the near-constant technical issues derail this game almost entirely. Kaiko has since provided a significant quality-of-life patch after the game's release, so fans may not run into the same issues. The early impressions show improved performance and fewer framerate issues.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model PS4.