Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning review (PS4)

THQ Nordic’s action RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PCs – does it stand the test of time, roughly eight years after the original release? We tested it on a PlayStation 4 Pro.

Even though it’s “only” eight years old, I had forgotten that Kingdoms of Amalur was a collaboration between author R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane of Spawn fame and Ken Rolston of Elder Scolls (Morrowind and Oblivion) fame. Too caught up in games like Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Diablo III, Mass Effect 3 and May Payne 3 at the time, I never gave Kingdoms of Amalur the time it deserved, but I’m happy that this remaster has provided me with a second chance to do so. When it comes to (real time) action RPGs, this is one of the most worthwhile titles I’ve seen in this console generation.

What’s an added bonus is that Re-Reckoning features all of the DLC that’s been released for the game thus far, with an additional expansion being planned for release in 2021. With the base game that particular expansion (called Fatesworn) isn’t included, but you can already buy the FATE edition and pick it up when it releases.

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Considering the fact that combat was never my favorite part of any Elder Scrolls game, it’s a pleasant surprise that this is the area in which Kingdoms of Amalur shines brightest. Like many games in the genre, you get a choice in character classes between a warrior, a rogue and a spellcaster. Unlike other games, however, a class isn’t strictly melee-focused or only good at long range. While spellcasting obviously works better from a longer range, you can still do well up close – and what’s traditionally seen as a melee character can also been effective at long range. This makes the combat feel more dynamic and free flowing as you mix things up between the two, and never get caught up in situations that feel frustrating.

Depending on how you spend your upgrade points, your options in combat grow as well, and you can add abilities that don’t traditionally “belong” to your character class as well, which is still refreshing even after eight years. The combat itself is fairly simple by modern standards though, and you can get away with a ton of button mashing if blocking and dodging isn’t your thing. Having played the Dark Souls games since they came out, it feel like a step back in time, but it’s a pleasant one because I can keep my focus on the story and not worry too much about how to engage in combat – which looks gorgeous.

While Kingdoms of Amalus simplifies combat, it’s rich in story. Besides adding DLC story content this is the same narrative players got back in 2012, but the fantasy setting that pits mortals and immortals against each other in a world where fate plays a large part. Having escaped death as a mortal, your role is a unique one, and its puts you on course for an epic clash with the forces of Gladflow – who do not wish to accept your status as someone not bound by fate.

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The Re-Reckoning release of Kingdoms of Amalur is a remaster, not a remake. Because of this you get to enjoy upscaled visuals and higher resolutions, but although the artistic and camera direction of the combat looks great this does mean that the game looks like a last gen title rather than something that was fully updated for present day consoles, like the Final Fantasy VII remake. On the plus side, the in-game performance is super smooth, the only real issue being that the way the game loads wasn’t redone to make use of the PS4’s enhanced bandwidth and capabilities – loading is frequent and takes a while, which feels out of place in a generation where an entire campaign can unfold without visible load screens.

Another area where the game shows its age is the cumbersome inventory system, which means you’ll frequently run out of items you can carry and is something we’ve seen done better in recent years. It feels strange to have to leave something behind on the battlefield while at the same time you can carry dozens of stackable crafting items and keep collecting them. This gets better once you get access to larger backpacks, but having to sell off things to make room in your inventory feels cumbersome.

But despite the visual and gameplay elements that show that this is a “last gen” title, Kingdom of Amalur is a lot of fun to play and games in this particular genre haven’t been especially abundant in this console generation. The rich world, the many secrets you can find within it and the visceral combat make this a great pick if you fondly remember games like Sacred, Titan Quest and Dragon’s Dogma, especially with the new Dragon Age still so far away.

Score: 7.9/10

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