Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning Review – Blast from the Past

    Title: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
    Developer: KAIKO, Big Huge Games
    Release Date: March 16, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: THQ Nordic
    Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Action-adventure fantasy titles have found their place in the gaming market for well over a decade by this point. In the age of remasters, we see plenty of these games getting a second chance, which brings us Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning’s release on Nintendo Switch. To be blunt, this is a by the book’s example of an action-adventure title. It offers minute uniqueness in this day and age, but it can still be quite enjoyable for those seeking adventure.

Having not played the original release of this title and never having been exposed to it in any form at all, the graphical fidelity here was more than a bit jarring to get used to. One look should make it abundantly clear that this title is clearly from a time of gaming that we have since long progressed past; remaster status aside. For this reason, playing it felt like stepping back into a time machine where I was whisked away to days of old playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

The story of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning hones in on the player character who had been dead before the game’s start and is revived by a gnome scientist in the Well of Souls. The main character, known as the ‘Fateless One’, is an amnesiac of sorts, lacking memories of their life before death, and ends up battling their way out of the facility they initially awake in. Once outside, they attempt to learn more about who they truly are while aiding other denizens of the world thanks to their ability to defy fate.

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Now, I’ll be sincere; the story made absolutely no impression on me whatsoever. I had to rewatch some scenes and read some promotional material to grasp the narrative better. When it came down to it, I had a challenging time feeling remotely interested in whatever was going on. This was due to an admittedly petty critique, that being the presentation. The voice acting quality is rather humorously done, and the graphical quality is very rough around the edges.

This graphical style has not aged well, even worse than most titles of its initial generation, I’d argue, and while it does hearken to times of gaming long since past, it was difficult for me to take these interactions seriously due to the super blocky models, environments, and lack of character expression. However, I would not go so far as to say that the story and cast are poorly done; quite the opposite because it is clear that effort was poured into the creation of this game’s world making it feel as lively as possible.

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While I did not find myself caring for the sequential events transpiring, the nostalgic ambiance and classic fantasy vibe the title evokes will likely be an immediate hit for players seeking a more traditional adventure for times long past. There are heaps of quest lines and character interactions that flesh out the world’s depth and the intricacies bubbling beneath the surface.

Regardless of how ill or positive reception is amongst players, every player who dives into this story with just the slightest bit of investment and intrigue will assuredly find some thread that hooks them, no matter how slight. There is a lot to experience here, but the general premise and world have to make a solid first impression for players to feel compelled to keep learning.

It is onerous to state whether or not this narrative is worth experiencing, but if you’re a fan of this high fantasy, you should give the game a shot for that reason alone because you could do far, far worse than experiencing what this title presents. And besides, the key facet of this title that stuck out above all else is that this is one of those games that is more about the journey rather than the destination. This is thanks to the simple act of exploring being a satisfying endeavor. This title’s scope is legitimately impressive, thanks to the intricate lore and the dialogue branches and the amount of freedom and agency that players have with what they wish to tackle.

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Combat in Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is unfortunately where boredom quickly crept in, and the initial interest I had fell by the wayside. Now, combat is methodical and requires great introspection, thanks to the degree of customization players can employ. There are many ways players can choose to approach battles, but at least, personally speaking, the act of battling is quite clunky due to the subpar movement options at disposal.

Close quarters combat lacks the smoothness required to make hits feel satisfying, and long-ranged combat with spells and bows lacks build-up for those eventual hits to feel like they hit their mark. Combat, in general, can certainly be enjoyable for the right crowds seeking moderately thought-provoking planning. Still, its true strengths lie in the menuing and the set-up rather than the execution.

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When it comes to performance, the title felt rather poor on the Nintendo Switch. I never experienced any outright crashes or game-breaking bugs. Still, there were certainly a fair amount of frame drops, however, and those were a great hindrance to the already clunky combat, making fights far slower than need be. Entering new areas and even opening menus caused noticeable frame dips as well. Loading times were arduously long at points too.

At the very least, the combat and general movement felt smoother when playing on handheld mode, but the same general problems persisted while both docked and in handheld mode. While the title always felt playable, this is clearly not the ideal platform to play it on unless you especially desire to play it on the go.

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a game boasting a classic fantasy feel with an addicting gameplay loop that some players may find themselves enticed by. The narrative will be the biggest draw for some, but I was too distracted by the dull combat and dated presentation to really care. The Switch allows fans to bring this fantasy on the go, but new players should do their best to understand what they’re getting themselves into.

Score:
6/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.