Kingdoms of Amalur

What a pleasant surprise Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has been for me. I missed the original release in (2012). At that point, I was fully invested in Skyrim (would be all the way until the The Witcher 3 launched), and Kingdom of Amalur flew under my radar.

Thankfully, The Nintendo Switch has been the perfect little portable console that has allowed me to re-discover all of these action-RPGs that I missed from that era (Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Souls, etc.)

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (which was released on the portable system back in March this year) is my newest acquisition.

What Drove Me Into Amalur…

You guys (NER readers) did. I read a few positive comments about the game on our FB page, and I decided to search information about the game online. Kingdoms of Amalur was a western action-RPG (my favorite genre these days), and it had scored an 81 rating on Metacritic back in 2012. Given the context in which it was released (right after Skyrim, and Dark Souls), that 81 felt like a 90.

The game had a troubled past with its developer filing for bankruptcy and shutting down soon after its original release. However, when one looked at ‘important’ areas of development, such as artwork, and lore, you had some true ‘A-listers’ that worked on Kingdoms of Amalur.

Most important to me (within the artists that worked in the game) was R.A. Salvatore’s participation. Salvatore, reportedly, provided 10,000 years of lore for this fantasy universe. While I don’t consider myself a “Hardcore” fan of his work, I have read about 7-8 of his books, and found them to be, for the most part, excellent fantasy literature.

So, at the end of the day, I was sold. I bought the game for the Switch, and immediately found myself hooked with the game’s interesting premise…

Quests Galore, and Decent Writing

You can pick your character class, race, gender, etc. before embarking on a quest as a ‘fate-less’  hero/heroine. In terms of customization the game pales in comparison to Skyrim, but Amalur was designed as a smaller, more action focused experience that offers immediate thrills on a surface (unlike Skyrim which is a deep, and complex multilayered beast) level.

The story isn’t deep, but you can tell that an elaborate lore to this world exists, it never feels as well thought out, or as ‘historic’ (within its world) as The Elder Scroll’s own lore, but for a stand alone game developed by a studio destined for oblivion (no pun intended), Kingdoms of Amalur is quite impressive in that regard.

If we compare it to its closest competitors on the Switch (and of its era), Amalur provides a good story, lore, and above average, if  interesting quests. This is particularly true when compared to Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma, which was a good game in its own way, but felt bland at times.

Amalur’s world and its characters did not quite capture me in the way that Fable 2’s did, but I was having too much fun following different quest lines and killing everything in my path to really care much about the game’s story line and its lack of depth.

Basically, Kingdoms of Amalur offers some hefty quest lines (even some of its side-quests are larger than expected undertakings), and many run of the mill quests to extend its playtime. The game never touches The Witcher 3’s excellence in world building, storyline, and character development, but it is a far more engrossing experience than Dragon’s Dogma was for me.

There are choices to be made throughout the game’s story. These choices can result in dire consequences to villages, guilds, and even companion characters. In that sense, Amalur does offer a good amount of freedom in letting you carve your own path, and this kept me on my toes during my play-through.

The fact that you can choose who to kill and save at different times during the quest, also plays into the main ‘storyline’, as the game’s protagonist is not bound by the threads of fate. Fans of the Elder Scrolls, and Fable will find much to like here, Amalur’s world is never as rich in lore as Skyrim’s, but the quality of the quests’ writing is of similar ilk.

I have to add that there are some key in-game engine cutscenes at certain plot points that add some epic flair to the proceedings, Kingdoms of Amalur makes an effort to tell a good story with in the relative freedom afforded to the player in the game, and it does a good job at that task.

Simplicity Can Be a Good Thing

Every time that I have played an action-RPG that lets me decide which ‘Class’ path I wanted to take, I usually pick the ‘Warrior’ class route. Hacking and Slashing is more satisfying to me than spell casting. Heck, even in Ocarina of Time back in my early teens, I kept Link mostly confined to Sword (and bow and arrow) use, as I rarely used any of his spells.

Luckily, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning offers three pathways for character progression (it reminded me in terms of simplicity to Fable 2, more than it did Skyrim, or Oblivion, for that matter): Might (Warrior), Sorcery, and Finesse (Stealth).

The first character growth path that I picked was Might. Because Kingdoms of  Amalur is a such a large game (world size) filled with quests, and monsters to kill, maximizing these class paths is not impossible.

Some pieces of armor require a certain level of proficiency within each class before they can be equipped which  forced me to learns skills out side of my ‘class’ choice, but you can finish the game sticking to a single class if you wish to do so.

There are other secondary skills which are not governed by Class, such as Lock picking, Blacksmithing, and Persuasion.  Mastering these skills can provide considerable aid in the quest, but it is not necessary to utilize many of these secondary skills in order to succeed.

Kingdom of Amalur is not a difficult game. As long as you undertake side quests periodically, your avatar will grow exponentially more powerful, as these quests usually lead to powerful armor, and weapons (and to gaining precious levels), which in turn can make the whole thing an easy affair on the game’s normal mode.

Run into a difficult boss battle? Leave the area, tackle other quests, and then comeback a few hours later in order to try your luck again. I tackled a few of the DLC quests included in this Remaster before I resumed my progress in the main quests, and it made my play-through a much easier experience.

Rolling, mashing buttons, and healing potions are the key to success if your equipment is up to par, and you are utilizing the Might class as your primary class, as opposed to the other two classes.

Many will complain that this system is too “mindless” in order to be fun, but I digress.  If I want meticulous precision, and timing excellence in my combat I have Dark Souls (and Soulsborne series) for that. I went into Kingoms of Amalur looking for a mid level challenge, a big fantasy world, with a decent story and an entertaining set of quests, and the game provided just that.

Amalur’s lack of “extreme difficultly” is actually a blessing, because other wise, the game suffers from sluggish controls during fights, and the lack of enemy targeting can make some battles a frustrating affair. Had Kingdoms of Amalur been a more difficult game, the lack of targeting would have really hurt the game’s final scores.

I found myself (quite often) missing strikes (especially with the Hammer), mainly because my character was striking at an opponent that wasn’t standing where the strike was being directed at. In order to strike you have to point the avatar into the general direction of an enemy.

This system is very imprecise, to say the least.  Ocarina of Time introduced the targeting system that literally every action-RPGs has used since, and it is shame that 14 years later Kingdoms of Amalur omitted this standard feature from its combat.

The omission of the targeting system is strange considering the rest of the game is well designed. Its large, but enclosed world reminded me that in scope this game is more Fable, than Elder Scrolls. The fast-travel feature is useful, but a horse to ride would have been another welcomed addition (you have to discover areas on foot before being able to access them through this feature).

Still, the game’s large dungeons are well designed, usually providing a quick exit once your are through with them, and most of these mazes are full of rewards and chests to unlock. The game’s maps are easy to follow and well labeled. I don’t think that I ever found myself lost in any of these ruins and caves (save for one exception).

All in all, Kingdoms of Amalur’s gameplay seems geared towards quick completion of quests, rather than the free roaming freedom seen in other games (though you can choose to roam the land at your leisure), and it works.

There is enough content here for a 60-100 hour play-through, and the game gets progressively easier the longer that you play, making the final (epic) stretches perhaps a tad easier than they should have been.

Outstanding Score, Decent Visuals

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur does lots of things well, and a few things very well, but it does nothing outstandingly great, save for its musical score which is excellent. Some of the best Fantasy music that you will ever hear is present within the game’s amazing score.

The game’s visuals on the other hand, while perfectly fine on Switch, are a class below Skyrim’s, and lack some of the magic present in the Xbox 360’s Fable entries. It is strange, because some areas certainly look amazing in terms of artwork, but most of Amalur’s locales have a slight generic feel, though the game never sinks as low in this department as Dragon’s Dogma (whose art style was as generic as fantasy artwork could get).

On the Switch, however, given the prevalence of Xbox 360/PS3 ports the game’s visuals do not look out of place. Kingdoms of Amalur is a 2012 game and it looks like such. The scope of the world is impressive, it is larger than any Fable game or pre-Breath of the Wild Zelda title, and it (its size) certainly lends the game a sense of importance within the sea of action-RPGs that populate the gaming world today.

You Cant Go Wrong If…

You already own The Witcher 3, Skyrim, and BotW. I would highly recommend Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning to anyone looking for another big time adventure in a similar vein to the former games, but with some of Fable’s charm (and decision making) thrown in for good measure.

Kingdoms of Amalur finds a balance between the vastness of the Elder Scrolls, and the more quest/story oriented nature of Fable. I don’t think Amalur matches the greatness of Skyrim, or even of Fable’s best entry (Fable 2), but it doesn’t have to, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning stands on its own legs and provides dozens of hours of pure high fantasy entertainment.

Gameplay: 8.0

A confined ‘open world’ with solid boundaries provides hours of exploration driven by the quests themselves rather than the allure of the  game’s world. Combat is satisfying, but very imprecise, and at times clumsy, thanks to the lack of a targeting/lock on system.

Character Progression is simple and easy to attain, and it is quite a simple process to find and equip weapons, armor and accessories. The game turns into an easy fair in its later stages, and some gamers might have an issue with that, but I found Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning to be a much more satisfying experience than some of the other competing titles within the action RPG genre, overall.

Graphics: 7.0

Kingdoms of Amalur doesn’t impress here, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Some locales are truly inspired, while others look at tad generic. The world is large, but has boundaries and walls.

Pop-up abounds, but it is not as big an issue when played on portable mode. The game’s character models look nice enough, but there are better looking alternatives on the Switch (The Witcher 3). The game looks exactly like you would expect a 2021 remaster of a PS3/Xbox360 era action-RPG to look on the Nintendo Switch.

Music: 9.0

An outstanding score accompanied me all way through the main quest’s end. Musically, there is never a dull moment. Every NPC is voice acted, and thus, my barometer for the game’s acting is not that high, and yet, for a 2012 product, the acting is quite adequate.

Story: 7.5

There is a hefty amount of lore in this world (enough lore to even make a prequel or sequel to the game), and the quests themselves, for the most part, are entertaining affairs. The questing itself doesn’t deviate much from going into a ‘nearby’ dungeon, and killing everything (either accompanied by the person that sent you, or as a hired hand).

But some quests, do break this pattern. I recall searching for a missing husband in one. Searching for a Spider Queen (The Widow) terrorizing a remote village, and finding myself with a decision to make in which I had to either kill this ‘queen’ or the villagers (by siding with the queen, instead) in another quest. The game is full of these moments, and I feel that gamers who only pursue the main quest line will miss much, if not the greatest part of what makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning such an enthralling experience.

For an open world action-RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur possess one of the better ‘storylines’ (though the golden standard on Switch remains The Witcher 3) within the high fantasy genre. This is especially true when the wide wealth of side quests available is taken into consideration.

Replayability: 9.0

I have been playing Skyrim for nearly 10 years now. I mention this because I don’t expect to get back to Kingdoms of Amalur again (after finishing this review). So no, The game doesn’t have THAT type of replay value, but how many single player games out there do?

I always say that if you can get at least 50 good hours out of an open world (RPG or other wise) game, then that game was absolutely worth the money. That statement stands true for Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.

I have other games to play, so I won’t be getting back to Amalur unless there is new DLC content at some point, but that doesn’t take away from the 60+ hours that I already invested in it. If you are like me (I love Skyrim, and Fable) then you will find much to like here.

Overall: 8.0

This isn’t the best Action-RPG on the Switch. Skyrim, Dark Souls, The Witcher 3, and Breath of the Wild have a better claim to that crown. Yet, the game sits somewhere below those options as the best that the system has to offer.

In fact, Zelda (Breath of the Wild) might be too vast, and too thin on writing for many fans of Western RPGs, and Dark Souls…is well…Dark Souls. Meaning, it is not for everyone. Dark Souls’ slow pace and heavy emphasis on perfecting players’ combat skills will turn many WRPG fans away.

For gamers falling in the former two camps Kindgoms of Amalur will provide a worthy adventure. It has a little bit of Elder Scrolls mixed with a lot of Fable, and even some God of War for good measure.

If you love WRPGs, and just want a quality high fantasy epic adventure (that is not too time consuming), I can’t think of a better option than Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.

It is a shame that the original developers went under, but THQ Nordic might have something special here (with this Internal Property) if this remaster sells well enough to merit a sequel.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.