PLATFORM: PC, PS4 (REVIEWED), XBOX ONE | RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8TH
Set in a world that falls somewhere between Fable's cartoonish irreverence and Skyrim's seriousness, Kingdoms of Amalur was originally released in 2012 to a decent amount of critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the timing of its arrival (just a few short months after Skyrim) and some well-publicised behind the scenes shenanigans meant that its public reception didn't meet expectations and the game has languished in the vaults ever since...
The high fantasy story, written by R. A. Salvatore (Chewbacca-killing author of Vector Prime, the first of the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order books) and with art direction from Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, follows an unnamed human, brought back to life to find themselves embroiled in a vicious war between a corrupt power-hungry leader and an immortal race of Amalurians. Considering the complete story spans 10,000 years' worth of lore, that's as good a summary as we can give if we want to have any time left to talk about the game itself! Throwing in all of the previously-released DLC, you're looking at a minimum of 50-60 hours to experience the entire saga, particularly for those who want to seek out all of the side quests and secrets.
Coming from a time when RPGs had been as well-refined as possible before becoming burdened with overbearing nonsense like survival meters and stamina bars that we see far too much of today, KoA includes pretty much everything you'd expect from the genre and successfully manages to make it all straightforward and satisfying. Minor (but essential) features like trading, lockpicking, looting and crafting are easy to get the hang of, and your abilities in these and other similar areas are upgradeable through a dedicated skill tree along with other more substantial upgrades based around three distinct classes (sorcery, might and finesse) that can be either specialised in or merged together to create the perfect character to fit your own playstyle. Experience points are handed out at a fairly brisk pace so you always feel like your character is constantly improving, and the ability to choose your upgrades from various classes means you really feel the benefit every time you level up. The fast-paced arcade-style combat is handled beautifully too, with a huge variety of weapons, simple but flashy two-button combos and a powerful “Reckoning mode” which allows you to slow the passing of time and take down multiple enemies in one go.
Re-Reckoning brings the original game up to date nicely in terms of graphics, adding more texture and detail to everything from the environments and enemies to clothing, weapons and items. There's been a very welcome gameplay tweak as well - one issue with the 2012 release was that enemies in each area were locked to specific skill levels regardless of your own character's progress within the game. This left players feeling far too overpowered at times, but Re-Reckoning addresses this by constantly adjusting enemies' stats to your own level, making the entire adventure feel much more balanced.
If you're already familiar with KoA, chances are you'll be more than happy to have an excuse to return to the Faelands. Enhanced visuals and the promise of new content just around the corner easily make this a worthwhile purchase. Newcomers should maybe keep in mind that this is, indeed, an eight year old game - it might not be massively deep or nuanced, but everything it does is done extremely well. It's not every day that such a wonderful "forgotten" game like this gets a second chance. If it passed you by the first time around, don't let it happen again!