Developed By: 38 Studios | Big Huge Games (previously)
Kaiko Archives (remastered)
Published By: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Steam | Epic Store)
Reviewed On: PS4
When Kingdoms of Amalur was released back in 2012, nobody really put it in their scope. It was one of those games where you aren’t sure if it’s going to be worth your time. Many were skeptical. I was one of them too but I decided to take the plunge and bought the game.
Furthermore, the game developers themselves also made news back then when 38 studios was filed for bankruptcy. The owner, Curt Schilling, a former baseball pitcher, failed to make loan payments which led to the closure of the studio. The current remastered is being passed on to Kaiko Archives.
Kingdoms of Amalur (KoA) is one of those games that you can’t be sure what to expect. It had very little marketing going on and considering games like Skyrim was the most talked during its time. However what came to me as a surprise when a low key game such as this was able to offer something different and fun from Skyrim.
I immensely enjoyed the game back then and it has been one of my personal favorite action RPG. If one finds Skyrim too massive to take in then Kingdoms of Amalur offers a different alternative for RPG fans.
Hence when the game as announced that it will be getting the remastered treatment, nostalgia called and I was ready to dive back in.
The Story Behind
The story was done up by R.A. Salvatore, an author with 22 books have been New York Times bestsellers. KoA has you playing a character that had tragic death at the start but was revived through a magical creation called the Well of Souls. You have lost all of your memories and before you can get your bearings, you are thrown into a war where there are enemies coming after the Well of Souls and its only successful creation – You.
While I do find the story to be considered good enough to get you hooked on, it is not going to wow you in many ways. It still follows many standard RPG tropes of story elements and also re-uses a lot of story elements from other RPG titles that came before. However, the little twist as you discover more of your character’s story is actually interesting.
So, What’s New?
Remastered games have been turning up left and right in recent years. Some with pretty good improvements such as graphics, gameplay as well other notable features being added to re-enhance back the game experience. However, it is with disappointment that Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is just not even worthy to be considered a good remastered game.
What comes in this package are all the released DLCs for the game. It also includes some DLCs which were exclusive to certain promotions such as the House of Valor faction and the Shepard’s Armor Set which are only available for those that bought the EA Online Pass.
The Reckoning Finesse, Might and Sorcery Bonus packs, The Legend of Dead Kel, and Teeth of Naros DLCs respectively are also packaged in as these were only available through purchasing them on various online stores.
All in all, you are getting the entire content that the game has to offer which is nice especially for those who have never played the game or for those who have played the base game but not the DLC content.
There are also other DLCs that can be obtained when you play the KoA demo and the Mass Effect 3 Demo such as the Omniblade Daggers which is inspired by the Omni-Tool are also in this release.
Other changes include the removal of level locked areas. In the original there areas that locked to a certain level range. If you enter an area that is way above your current level, you will be wiped off easily. In this release, they have completely removed it and they will scale accordingly with your level. This removal offers flexibility in exploration without gating players.
The loot system has also changed and it will scale and drop loots according to your build and close to your level. However, I’ve yet to actually see that in full effect as most loots dropped to me are not beneficial to my current build.
There is also a new difficulty added in called Very Hard. As that itself already implies, it makes enemies a lot more harder to hit and making you feel soft as tofu even with the additional DLC weapons and armors.
Something Feels Off
For starters, this game did not age very well over the course of 8 years after its initial release. With so many other games of the same genre that has shown show much change and much improved overall quality.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning just does not stack up well. Let’s talk about the most jarring obvious issue, the graphics. It is the most obvious and the weakest “remastered” attempt I’ve ever seen. While the textures did get updates for 4K resolution as well improved framerates, the graphical strengths just doesn’t look good. The colors still look bland with environments looking all muddy.
The character models themselves also stands out in terms of how outdated they looked. If you have been too accustomed to character models that have far better facial animations then looking at this game is just going to be a major turn off. Some enemies also don’t seem to get the textured treatment hence making them look very off and blocky.
As for animation for movements, they can feel very clumsy and clunky. Often times it feels rough and you can feel that there is some keyframe animations are missing from certain movements.
The skill effects also remain the same. However, they are never a spectacle back then. That said, it can really use some rework or even some touch up to make them look better. For example, using certain weapons such as Staff gives some spell effects such as fire for your basic attacks. While they do look acceptable but they just don’t feel impactful when hitting on enemies.
Something Feels Alright
While the graphics have proven that the game doesn’t even warrant the “Re” on the title, there are other aspects that are still acceptable.
First and foremost, the User Interface (UI) for KoA has been rather simplistic and easy to read and navigate. I have always been a fan of minimalist in any kind of game. Here, the health, mana, and the Fate bar are shown on the top left while the minimap on the right. Quest info will appear for a short while when a new instance is triggered.
While we have seen much better UI on current games, but for an 8-year-old game, it still acceptable. There is no clunky information floating around. Everything is easily seen and understand once you have understood their purpose. However, I do feel that there is a need for an option for a dynamic UI where it will appear when you enter a battle and hide when you are out of it.
The current options are either the default size – which many might find it a little big, the small one – which I personally think is a little too small, or to hide it completely – for the more hardcore ones I suppose. Nonetheless, for an 8-year-old game, I guess that is asking much.
Another part of the UI I find acceptable is the entire menu when you press the Options button. Everything that is shown is straight-up easily understood. You have access directly to your Inventory, Quests, Abilities, and many more. While it is not the nicest looking menu but it functions well enough. I have personally seen some recent games that have much worst that offers a very bad user-friendly experience.
The last but not least aspect which is acceptable is the combat. Back when it was released, KoA had one of the most fun combat during its time. While coming into 2020, the combat still retains what made it fun but compared to what current games have shown, it really pales in comparison. Anyone that has played the game back then would still find it enjoyable however for new gamers, it might need some time to get used to.
Combat in KoA is one of the most robust during its time. You have two weapon slots that you can equip any types of weapons ranging from Greatswords to Bows to Staffs. This allows for an interesting mix of attack combinations you can think of and experiment. Couple with the mix of Abilities which you can unlock new skills and passive bonuses which opens more avenues to dish out damage on enemies.
There are 3 Abilities that you can add points into them. There is Might which involves strength-based skills and attacks, Finesse for speed, and Sorcery for magic-based ones. Each time you level up, you gain a number of points for you to spend on either of them.
The game also has another feature called Destinies. In this section, you can equip what seemed like cards which offer different kind of passive bonuses. This allows for an additional layer of customization where you can mix and match skills to create your own builds. You want to create a magic swordsman then this game gives you that flexibility.
Each destinies have a tier and to unlock the next tier, you need to spend a certain amount of points on either Might, Finesse, or Sorcery to unlock the next tier. There are also mix class destinies which offers more interesting bonuses but requires some proper point allocations on the Abilities.
Something’s Are Still Good
One thing I still like about KoA even now is how quest is obtained and also the amount it throws at you at any time. I like the dynamic approach of how you can encounter a quest. You can be dealing with a current quest which at the same time either triggering another or meeting up a certain NPC which is going to give you one. I really like how the game manages the quest giving mechanics which I dare to say some current RPG games don’t even offer such experience.
The quest can feel overwhelming at first but thankfully they can be still done at your leisure. Apart from that, you can also offer yourself to join factions which offers even more quest lines to do. There are no conflicts whichever faction you choose to join as you actually join all of them. Some players may find this rather jarring on a role-playing perspective but for OCD players such as myself, I am totally fine with this. Hence this comes down to personal preference.
Some quests also have their own interesting story to follow such as one which you offer your help to a certain church to find and save a lost acolyte which you found later one he doesn’t need saving and ends up working with bandits.
It is also funny that after completing the quest, you gain another which has you stealing a tome from inside the church from a lady who is trying to prove that the church can accept female practitioners. You can choose not to those quests and there are no penalties. The only thing that you may missed out is the rewards.
Not every quest you encounter is worth paying notice or are interesting, to say the least but it is still amazing to note at the amount of quest the game can actually throw-in.
What I Liked
- The story remains to be good with an interesting twist
- The amount of Quest is massive and interesting
- Combat still has the fun factor
- All DLCs included
- Removal of level locked areas
What Can Be Improved
- Graphics can be improved especially lighting, textures, and effects
- Additional options to improve Quality of Life could’ve have been added
- Polishing on control movement as well as animations
- Why do we even need this remastered version?
One thing still remains, why this game was being brought back. While I did enjoy the game back 8 years ago but I still fail to see why it warrants a “remaster”. What is bad the fact that it wasn’t even given a proper treatment to be qualified as a remaster version. Yes, the game can now run on 4k resolution but still makes it looks bad with very outdated textures and graphics. The get back from this release is the fact that not every game needs to be remastered. Bringing back an old game can at times devalue what it has achieved back then and sadly KoA is just one of those examples. Weird move EA.