Libra: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (Switch)
Libra is our “first impressions” series. These are generally spoiler free, but may reveal some base plot points and mechanic details.
Over two years ago, I said a Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Switch port would be a dream come true. Naturally, THQ Nordic’s acquisition of the long dormant property back in 2018 had me hyped beyond belief. While the eventual remaster (or Re-Reckoning) wasn’t initially announced for Switch, I knew there was a chance it would circle back later. Crazier things have happened, right? We’re getting SaGa Frontier on Switch next month – a remastered version at that – so anything and everything is on the table!
Sure enough, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning was finally announced to debut on Switch on March 16th, 2021. I have been fortunate enough to get a head start on the adventure, but it is a journey that will undoubtedly take dozens of hours to complete. For now, I hope you find these impressions of the Switch version useful!
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a remastered version of the 2012 open-world action RPG of a similar name. Its world and narrative are centered around the concept of fate – all lives have a predetermined path that can be read (but never altered) by the aptly-named Fateweavers. The player controls a mortal that defies this philosophy by being devoid of fate; slain in the opening events of the game, but is the first to be reborn into a new vessel via the Well of Souls.
The (re)birth of the “Fateless One” would certainly raise a few eyebrows, as the mortal races were in an ongoing battle with a nefarious faction of Fae known as the Tuatha. Unlike mortals, the Fae live much longer lives and are in a constant cycle of rebirth. While most Fae are friendly – if a bit arrogant – the Tuatha use their “immortality” and zeal for their new god, Tirnoch, as fuel for the Crystal War.
Obviously, a mortal that circumvented death and is not bound by fate is something the opposition wants to nip in the bud. Fate suggests that the Crystal War will be won by the wicked…but that was before the arrival of the Fateless One. Now, nobody – not the Fateless One or even Fateweavers themselves – can foresee the outcome of the conflict.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is an open-world action RPG that shares a base structure to other open-world RPGs, such as Skyrim. This package features “enhanced” visuals (more on that later) and includes all previous DLC.
The player creates their very own character before quickly setting off to explore a sprawling world, aid numerous cities and townsfolk, join and climb the ranks of various factions, take on a plethora of side quests, and, you know, try and focus on that main campaign. Combat is action-oriented and was considered quite impressive upon its original release. While the many games that have released since 2012 have certainly made it lose some of its luster, Amalur still does a great job with the most important aspect of any combat system: making you feel like a complete badass.
Whether you’re flinging spells, exploiting weaknesses from stealth, whirling around with a gravity-defying hammer, throwing chakrams with deadly accuracy, all techniques are visually satisfying and impactful. That’s without even bringing up Reckoning Mode, which essentially turns the player into a god for a short time and grants a massive experience bonus.
That said, it is insanely easy to become overpowered in this game. Multiple difficulty options can offset this some, but it is still possible to massively outclass the opposition, particularly for those that dive deep into the various forms of crafting. While enemies can still hit like trucks, damage mitigation (or outright avoidance) is both simple and effective to perform. All specializations have an active dodge/block and certain talented skills can increase your defensive capabilities even further.
Players can further customize their character through gear, multiple skill trees, and passive buffs known as “destinies.” Furthermore, blacksmithing, sagecrafting, and alchemy also exist for those looking to supplement their characters with some potentially powerful equipment. And for those wanting some RP in their RPG, Amalur does feature a robust dialogue system with multiple topics to choose from, and even a persuasion skill for those wanting to get the most out of their conversations. There are even some quests that have a few different outcomes based on the player’s actions, so there is some level of choice and consequence present. There is a lot of lore here for those that want to get invested, but it can just as easily be ignored for those that prefer more streamlined conversations. For added immersion, the game is also fully voice acted with an overall performance that is certainly passable even by today’s standards.
Presentation and Performance
With the general overview out of the way, let’s talk about some Switch-specific quirks and oddities. One of my biggest concerns going in was performance, and the long and short of it is that it’s not bad, but not great either. The framerate can drop in certain areas and when attacking multiple enemies at once.
You may also notice some occasional stutter-stepping when running around the world, but this can typically be fixed by reloading your save if it doesn’t clear up on its own. Alongside that, there’s an odd glitch that can delay the activation of nodes and containers until you reload a save. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often and saving/reloading is a near painless process.
Amalur’s high-fantasy world and cartoonish visuals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the design tends to age more gracefully when compared to more realistic aesthetics. And that is certainly the case here – it is one of those visual experiences that may very well stop you in your tracks from time to time, encouraging you to soak in your surroundings. Clever use of lighting, shadows, and environmental effects combined with the art style results in a surprisingly beautiful world despite having a decade-old framework.
While you might think that this being the remastered version is why the visuals have aged well, that is only partially true. Re-Reckoning does look a bit better compared to the original game, but the actual degree has been hotly debated since its release on consoles last year. Many have seen this package as a simple cash grab, others have commended its commitment to staying true to its original essence. Doesn’t really matter either way here since the Switch only has one version to begin with.
As stunning as the world can be, the character models are anything but. Up close, texture quality can be very hit or miss and in some cases, models can look like they have just emerged from a bath of donut glaze. At times it is really bad, but they do fare better at a distance. Also, bald characters beware: a layer of dark fuzz may appear on your head that will randomly fade in and out of existence. Nothing a hat or new hairstyle can’t hide, though!
Even so, the cartoonish, WoW-esque design of the models have an undeniable base level of charm, but it just isn’t portrayed well due to some poor textures and the aforementioned coat of wrestling oil that can appear on characters. However, that charm is occasionally exchanged for downright horror, as models in scripted scenes can sometimes have their jaws protruding through their face. Nightmare fuel. Amalur is neither a technical nor a visual marvel by any stretch – frame dips, muddy textures, and pop-in can occur – but it still is mostly pleasing to the eye.
- Cartoonish art design has aged well (environment-wise) and the soundtrack is still amazing.
- Massive world to explore.
- Satisfying (albeit simple) action combat system.
- Lots of meaningful side content.
- Many avenues for character customization and advancement.
- Dialogue choices and detailed lore bits encourage diving deep into the world.
- Character models coated in donut glaze (occasionally, and only up close).
- Performance can be spotty.
- Absurdly easy to get overpowered.
- Certain aspects haven’t aged well (camera in combat, quest marker design, etc).
So far, I’m very impressed by the Switch version of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. While I still have many, many hours to go yet, things are looking positive for now. When it comes to most ports, the Switch has to cut a few corners and it certainly does so here. However, the package still appears to hold up well in spite of cutbacks and other minor issues under the hood.
Be on the lookout for my full review of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning in the coming weeks!