Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning - Xbox One X
Kingdoms of Amalur original released in 2012. That was long enough ago that I don’t remember specific facets or story points of the game, I remember completing it. Seeing that the remaster was being released with new content 8 years after the game was exciting and unexpected. However, those feelings faded after the dullness of the game pervaded the inner workings. The start of Amalur is incredible. If it could keep the momentum it builds in the beginning of the game, it would be an iconic and treasured game. The strides it takes in the start set it up to be a magnanimous and truly epic experience, but sadly from there it slowly dwindles to a skeletal escapade.
It is difficult to be immediately gripped by a fantasy story in an RPG. There is a lot of required reading and story beats before you get to play. They have to set up concepts and features of the game, as well as provide motivation for your character. Amalur does this fairly quickly and I was pleased with the short and efficient introductory period. After you gain access to the world, it immediately opens up. This is a blessing and a curse. Wanting to become stronger and gain access to more skills, I took every quest that came my way and darted across the new, open landscape. The map design is wondrous. The world feels really well constructed. I found myself getting sidetracked by how beautiful my surroundings were, and how I felt like I was actually in a real forest, or a real environment. The rivers and lakes blended seamlessly into moss covered trees, before leading you into a winding cavern to lead to a set of old ruins, covered over in grass and ferns. Light would stream through tops of trees in one area, but fog and darkness shroud a section further away. It was a joy to bounce around, finding quests out in the open. Some were run-of-the-mill, but there were quite a few that were engaging and interesting, like a village overrun by spiders, with a subterfuge twist of the spiders being sent by a sort of “spider queen” because a person in the village wanted to kill the leader of the town and take his spot. Another quest had an inarticulate man approach you, only to find out he had been cursed with a human body and was actually a wolf. Unfortunately, the standard fetch quests outnumbered these interesting ones by a large margin, and I immediately became overwhelmed with a large list of mostly mundane and droll tasks that I simply did not care about.
There were loads of weapon types that suggested repeatability and diverse build structures. However, there were clearly superior options that made venturing into other builds, classes, or skill trees pointless. As the grind to level up got higher, it would take more time and energy put in to get little return in the way of new abilities, weapons, or interesting rewards. It is not even worth discussing all of the options because so many of them lack use. There is a fate mechanic that has you building a meter to utilize a special skill. Basically it slows time and makes you hit harder, allowing you to dispatch several enemies at once, with increased XP gain. It also ends with one of several flourishing kill moves. Again, a nice touch that gets dull fast.
The skills and abilities were neat, but I quickly found a very strong build and didn’t want to stray from it. The imbalance kept me from wanting to venture into other skill trees and weapon types, even though they were abundant and interesting. The way magic works was interesting. Staves and wands simply shot out a magic attack when you used melee. All weapon types, including magic weapons, had combos. It was fun at first, but like everything else in the game, the idea lacked depth and ultimately fell short. Using a cool combo in an action RPG like this is a welcome change, until you’ve used the same 3 hit combo ad nauseam. I started off putting points into blacksmithing and potion making thinking it would be fun, but I had so much gold and found such good equipment out adventuring that they were pointless. I was never met with a challenging enemy. Luckily, they have a great respec system, and I utilized it three times to find the abilities that suited me best. Unluckily, it made the game even more of a breeze.
After I had logged tens of hours smashing quests and moving all across the land, I became severely bored. The wonder and realism of the world turned into burned out, endless, flat fields. The stagnant and repetitive quests combined with the simplicity of the encounters had me running past enemies to get to the focal point and then run back to where I needed to go. It was at this moment the epiphany happened and I had to put the controller down due to boredom.
It went from feeling like a real adventure with a diverse and powerful hero to a running simulator. The movement wasn’t engaging enough to keep me playing so I simply stopped. I had wanted to continue desperately, but there was nothing keeping me playing. This problem isn’t unique to Amalur, but in spite of themselves they perfected it. The motivation dwindled and I was left with a game that had a dozen good ideas and not one of them refined successfully.
I have no idea if the added content is any good. I gave up long before I had desire to access it. Amalur is not without a good base of content. The content is basic, minimal, and not fleshed out, but it is there, and it has promise. If you don’t look too deeply into it, and are the type to enjoy an RPG simply because of its abundance of things, you would probably enjoy Amalur to completion. If you need something to get you from beat to beat, skip over it. I wish I had more to say but my appetite for reviewing the game vanished with my eagerness to continue playing. The game is not done well, but for all the right reasons. There is clearly heart and care put into the game, but the scope of the ambition for it far exceeds the implementation. The Re-Reckoning offered a chance to enhance the game after 8 years, but instead retreads all the missteps and shortcomings of the original.