Originally developed by 38 Studios and published by EA, Kingdoms of Amalur was well received back in 2012 but didn't sell to the publisher's expectations.
Since then the developers filed for bankruptcy, EA released the IP, and THQ Nordic has taken up the reigns as part of the publisher's spending spree, and here we are eight years later with Re-Reckoning, a cheekily titled remaster likely testing the waters for a sequel.
Thankfully, the action RPG was well worth reviving.
Seen It All Before?
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning starts with our character being dumped into a huge device called "The Well of Souls". Entering as a corpse before returning to life amid a pile of rotting flesh, there's little time to question why you're here, as you're immediately beset by the Tuatha Deohn.
In many ways, Re-Reckoning's biggest issue is one that many shared back in 2012 - its story is incredibly generic. While there's an undoubted cartoonish charm to the Gnomes you'll start your journey with, it's all "high fantasy 101".
There are giant rats and spiders, a "Crystal War", forests, mines and everything else we've seen in fantasy-based games, and it's not often that you'll feel genuine surprise in terms of quest, location, or enemy design.
That's not to say there isn't plenty to do, though. Side quests are spread generously throughout the world, many rewarding new weapons and items that feed into combat with clear and bountiful effects.
This version of the game makes tweaks to loot to ensure it's tailored more to your character's skill set, meaning the items you find are more consistently useful.
Thankfully, Kingdoms of Amalur sets itself apart from its many contemporaries with a more colourful, almost "chunky" art style.
Perhaps to be expected from Todd McFarlane's character designs, but each race offers its own distinct identity; the aforementioned Gnomes have kind, prominent features, while human characters are often square-jawed and Elves are lean. It's a nifty way of differentiating Amalur's cast from the likes of something like Skyrim.
Environments in the Re-Reckoning version are stacked with detail and colour, but there is plenty of texture and even character pop-in in many locations. It's a shame because with an eight-year-old game we were hoping for some more visual improvements.
Particle effects are a nice addition, as are new lighting, but while it's clear that the game _is_ prettier and more vibrant than before, there's no danger of mistaking Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning for a 2020 release.
Swords, Staves, and Daggers - Oh My!
The real draw of Kingdoms of Amalur back in 2012 was its combat, and it not only holds up well today, but it still feels immensely satisfying.
Players can equip two different weapons that are each mapped to a face button, as well as wield a quartet of spells.
Combat is much closer to a pre-Demons Souls action game than anything as weighty as a FromSoft title, but here it feels perfect.
Players will need to dodge, block, and attack enemies when the opportunity arises, with boss battles being particularly sizeable.
Brutal finishing moves are right up there with some of gaming's most satisfying, too - even eight years on from the original release.
Players can opt for multiple weapon types, with character proficiency with each being determined by your character build. That means my mercenary is able to wield a staff with magic energy and fling fireballs, but he's just as capable of swinging his sword.
This kind of diversity ensures you can mix things up on the fly, although sticking to your race and class' more inherent strengths will allow for more powerful bonuses.
Character builds also factor into your upgradeable skill trees. My mercenary, for example, has skills ranging from persuasion to long sword combat, to negotiating better prices in shops, whereas other classes have more of a focus on arcane abilities or increased health.
This is achieved through the Destiny system, letting you switch your class to your preferred set up on a regular basis. This means that playthroughs have the potential to be vastly different if you so choose.
The Best Is Yet To Come?
While Re-Reckoning bundles in two DLC expansions, there's more to come. Fatesworn, a new expansion, is coming in 2021 and will continue the game's story.
While we don't know exactly what it'll entail, it certainly seems as though THQ Nordic is getting behind the Amalur IP.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is undoubtedly a great way to spend around 100 hours. As bland as its main quest and world can be, its combat remains fresh even dozens of hours after you've slain your first Rock Troll, and its RPG systems run far deeper than its modest visual makeover may suggest.
With Fatesworn still to come, here's hoping the game finally gets the love it so clearly deserves.
Reviewed on PC
Review Code Provided By The Publisher