Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review (Switch)
Back in 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning achieved something that very few games managed to do back then: it completely diverted my attention away from World of Warcraft. While I would go on to sink over 50 hours into the game over the years, I never did “roll the credits” but knew that I would circle back to it…eventually. The acquisition of the seemingly dead property in 2018 by THQ Nordic was the beginning, as I held on to hope that the game would be released in some form on the Nintendo Switch.
Sure enough, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, a remaster of the original game, was slated to arrive on Switch on March 16th, 2021. This was it, the moment that I could finally beat the RPG I had championed for and stood beside for years, but could never quite reach that finish line. This time, I would not get lost in the myriad of side content it offered – no, it was my destiny to finally beat this game.
I knew that corners would have to be cut to adapt the large scale RPG to the hybrid console, but I firmly believed that some of its magic would persist through those sacrifices. And, for the most part, it turns out I was right.
RPG fans by their very nature are creatures of habit. Many find comfort in the grind, and this idea of comfort in repetition correlates with the game’s narrative. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is set in a world governed completely by fate. All lives have a predetermined path, and while mortal races have come to accept this, the immortal Fae fully embrace it through a process known as the Great Cycle.
This cyclical process of rebirth is core to the Fae’s beliefs, with certain subsects returning from the Great Cycle to perform their people’s age-old tales in a never ending loop. This over many years has made the Fae all but impervious to any matter of change. They don’t expect change, therefore they don’t accept it.
However, that would all change with the rise of the nefarious faction of Fae known as the Tuatha – dead set on change – as well as the revival of Amalur’s first fallen mortal. The rebirth of this mortal would soon be known as “Fateless One,” for they would not be bound by death or fate. This would raise eyebrows as the mortal races were in an ongoing battle with the Tuatha – the overzealous branch of Fae that have used their innate immortality to fuel the raging Crystal War.
Fate suggests that this war will be won by the wicked, but that was before the arrival of the Fateless One. Now, nobody – neither the Fateless One nor the Fateweavers (fate readers) themselves – can foresee the outcome of the conflict. With a blank slate, the Fateless One sets out to make sense of the questions surrounding their mysterious death and resurrection, while perhaps choosing to turn the tide of the decade-long war in favor of the mortal races.
Straight from the minds of esteemed author R.A. Salvatore and Erik Caponi of Bethesda fame, the world of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is fully realized through a wealth of in-game lore. Virtually every NPC in the game can be questioned on a wide array of topics, adding a surprising amount of depth to both the world and the characters themselves. Various books are also strewn about Amalur that will provide lore nuts with additional context about all sorts of topics.
The dialogue is well written, and the game does a fantastic job of pulling you in at the beginning with its interesting premise. The payoff (or lack thereof) of the main story is a bit disappointing, but the journey leading up to that point and all the secondary lore bits ultimately still make it worth the effort. Many of these optional storylines are good, but there’s certainly some fluff thrown in the mix.
There are even some quests that have different outcomes based on the player’s actions. 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 a more streamlined experience. Narratively, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is not going to blow anyone away through sheer creativity or surprises, but it still features a respectable, well-constructed fountain of lore.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is an open-world action RPG that, at its core, isn’t that different from similar endeavours, such as Skyrim. The player creates their very own character before setting off to explore a massive world, aid numerous cities and townsfolk, join and climb the ranks of various factions, take on a plethora of side quests, and maybe – just maybe – focus on that main story campaign.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is one of those RPGs that you can easily lose yourself in, as the amount of optional content available is staggering. My own run this time concluded in around 35 hours, and that was with prior knowledge of the game and doing maybe 25% of the side quests. First-timers could easily be looking at over 100 hours to see and do everything, with the main story alone easily taking up a third of that time.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is all about letting the player choose their own path – you could have dozens of tasks to choose from, and many of them can be completed in numerous ways and even have multiple outcomes. There is often a “good” and “bad” outcome for everything, and you can attack (or even kill) most NPCs by turning friendly fire on. This has repercussions, of course, as the law won’t be particularly happy about you stirring up trouble (murders, stealing, or otherwise).
Avoiding the authorities is part of the fun being an outlaw, though, but you can always bribe them if you happen to get caught. There are limitations to this whole system – you can’t lock yourself out of the main campaign, for example – but there’s certainly some fun to be had for those that don’t like living a squeaky clean virtual lifestyle.
Similar to the mainline Elder Scrolls games, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning features a handful of factions – the mercenary-esque Warsworn and the mischievous Travelers, to name a couple – you can befriend for a variety of benefits. These factions each have their own storyline that, upon completion, will provide you with additional passive bonuses in the form of Twists of Fate. Furthermore, some factions benefit players in unique ways, like the fencing services provided by the Travelers. Overall, factions are a great addition to the already staggering amount of content available.
Combat is one of the strongest features of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. It is an action-oriented battle system that allows the player seamlessly weave in melee, ranged, and magical attacks, alongside an active dodge/parry mechanic. The player can equip two weapons and up to four spells/abilities at once, allowing for a healthy amount of flexibility and depth to the player’s combative toolkit.
No doubt, time has taken a toll on this combat system, making it lose some of that unique sheen it was once known for. Regardless, it continues to achieve what any action combat system worth its salt should: making the player feel like a complete wrecking crew, no matter what archetype, weapons, or spells they have chosen. Seriously, find me another game where staves are this fun and satisfying to use!
Whether you’re flinging spells, exploiting weaknesses from stealth, whirling around with a gravity-defying hammer, or are throwing chakrams with deadly accuracy, all techniques are visually satisfying and have tangible weight to them. Weapons are further bolstered by unlockable abilities that add more depth to the toolkit. And we can’t leave out the Fateless One’s truly destructive Reckoning Mode, which essentially turns them into a god for a short time and can grant a massive bonus to experience. Everything comes together in a package that is visually satisfying, and is both easy to learn and master.
“Easy” is key here, as it is perhaps too easy to become overpowered in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. The available difficulty options will offset this to an extent, but the player eventually just has far too many avenues to increase player power and most enemies simply cannot keep up with it. The lack of difficulty is further exposed for those that dive deep into the various forms of crafting since it is the easiest way to get amazing gear.
The lack of difficulty cannot be completely chalked up to enemies being frail – some can absolutely hit like trucks – but damage mitigation (or outright avoidance) is just far too easy to perform consistently. Fortunately, combat never ceases to be visually satisfying and downright fun, which goes a long way in allowing the player to overlook these potential shortcomings.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning powers up the Fateless One through traditional level-ups, a general skill tree, a three-pronged ability tree, a vast assortment of gear, and passive buffs in the form of “destinies.” Upon each level-up, the player will receive one skill point and three ability points, with the former used in investing into more general skills (persuasion, stealth, lockpicking, mercantile, etc.) while the latter can be distributed into the might, finesse, or sorcery trees.
Fateweavers around the world can reset both the skill and ability trees for a fee, so there should never be a fear of investing poorly. In fact, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning more or less encourages the player to experiment with its variety of tools in order to see what works best for them. Destinies are cards which the Fateless One can acquire by investing in the three ability trees. They can only equip one card at a time, but can change their “fate” anytime from the main menu.
New destinies unlock at certain ability point thresholds, and tend to mirror those investments appropriately. A player that dabbles in both the might and sorcery trees, for example, will unlock destinies around melee, magic using, and even the battlemage class, granting them appropriate bonuses as long as that particular destiny is equipped. Think of it as a way of declaring your chosen playstyle, granting buffs catered towards your desired experience.
A second form of destinies, known as Twists of Fate, are always active and are usually rewarded after completing certain milestones in both main and side content. Perhaps the most compelling part provided by all this flexibility and customization is how well it accentuates the narrative as a whole – not being bound by fate, the Fateless One truly has the freedom to choose their own path.
Those that dislike idle hands will find joy in the game’s multiple crafting systems – blacksmithing, sagecrafting, and alchemy – which progress in tandem with the aforementioned skill tree. While players can try their hand at any craft without real commitment, only those that invest heavily in the associated skill trees will derive the most benefits. Blacksmithing allows the player to create their own weapons and armor from purchased/scavenged components. They can even name their items for added immersion and personalization!
Sagecrafting is all about manufacturing gems, which can then be inserted into equipment with sockets. These can be incredibly powerful, and can substantially improve the player’s power in conjunction with a high skill in blacksmithing. Alchemy grants access to a wide variety of consumables that are also extremely useful and powerful. Crafting isn’t essential to beating the game – in fact, it makes the game way too easy – but they are additional activities the player can enjoy and do provide avenues to push player power into (and well beyond) god status.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning features all previous DLC, notably Legend of Dead Kel and Teeth of Naros, which will extend your gametime even further. While I can’t speak for Naros, Dead Kel is a relatively meaty campaign that could easily add a dozen or more hours to your playthrough. Both DLC can be started at any time, even after rolling credits on the main story, but the game does recommend the player to be at least level 10 before jumping into Teeth of Naros.
While some new items and equipment become available from these DLC, they are more about story than anything else. No new skills are introduced and the level cap remains 40, which could be a bummer for those looking to push their characters even further. That said, Dead Kel alone introduces some great characters and has a solid storyline attached to it.
Part of the whole Re-Reckoning of Kingdoms of Amalur was to hype up Fatesworn, a new DLC supposedly coming this year. Although little is known about it at this point, fans (including myself) are hopeful that THQ Nordic and Kaiko will deliver as promised.
Presentation and Performance
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning sports a high fantasy aesthetic that takes a more cartoonish, almost WoW-like approach to its design rather than striving for realism. As a result, the environments have aged surprisingly well despite their age. The same cannot be said for the character models, as uneven texture quality, awkward lighting effects, and other oddities can quickly change them from passable to downright horrifying.
Character models in scripted events can sometimes have their jaws protruding through their face — pure nightmare fuel. The “Switch Tax” had to be applied somewhere, of course, but a more evenly distributed downgrade would have been better than the extreme highs and lows presented here. Even so, the actual designs of the models have an undeniable base level of charm, but it just isn’t conveyed that well due to the issues at hand.
Grant Kirkhope’s stunning soundtrack is definitely one of the highlights of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. The orchestration of a gripping, emotional score fit the high fantasy vibes well, whether you’re getting lost in the whispering woods of Dalentarth, running through the rolling plains of Erathell, or are anywhere in between. Sound effects are equally solid, though some ambient creaks found in later DLC locations are a bit too overused (and obnoxious) for my tastes. Virtually all of the written dialogue is accompanied by voice acting, which has held up surprisingly well considering its original 2012 timestamp.
Performance in general is middle-of-the-road. The framerate can chug sometimes, and the player might experience some stutter-stepping when running around the world. It’s also possible for a delay to occur when opening containers or harvesting resources, something which seems to worsen with playtime.
Fortunately, most of these issues can be fixed by simply reloading your save – a relatively painless task thanks to being able to save anywhere. Not once did I experience any sort of game-breaking bug, but that doesn’t prove their inexistence. Many players have reported bugs and crashes of varying degrees, which is obviously a problem.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a massive game, so there is a certain level of open-world “jank” that is to be expected here. Regardless, the developers need to support the game post-launch in order to iron out some of these inconsistencies, especially those reportedly heinous bugs, otherwise we may have a real problem on our hands.
Make no mistake, this game is neither a technical nor a visual marvel, but still manages to hold up well overall. At the very least, some of the finely-aged environmental backdrops will encourage the player to stop every once in a while and just take in the moment – a big win in itself.
Thanks to the success of the Nintendo Switch, Kingdoms of Amalur gets a much needed (and well deserved) second life. Open-world adventures aren’t uncommon these days, but Kingdoms of Amalur was really special when it debuted in 2012. While it has lost some of its wow factor to the sands of time, it remains an enjoyable adventure overall, one that still has some genuine substance to it.
At the price of $40USD, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is really a no-brainer for open-world action RPG fans. However, your mileage will vary depending on whether you are returning to the world of Amalur, or are brand new to the experience, as this version offers little to veterans beyond the obvious portability perk. The actual degree of “Re-Reckoning” in this package has been hotly debated since its release on other consoles last year, and any graphical advantages here have certainly been traded in to just make things work on the hybrid console.
The Switch port of Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning has some imperfections, no doubt, but nothing so bad (in my experience) that detracts from the core open-world experience that has aged well. Yes, performance can be spotty at times, and yes, that protruding jaw bug is very real and EXTREMELY disturbing. And those reported game-breaking bugs, even though I didn’t experience them firsthand, need to be addressed stat.
Regardless, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is still an enchanting open-world adventure from start to finish. I genuinely hope that we haven’t seen the last of this franchise. Time will tell whether this latent surge of popularity is enough to truly bring the franchise back from the dead.