It really says something about the design of a game when almost a decade later, playing it again is so familiar and engaging. Booting up Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning in 2020 is a massive nostalgia hit of the best kind, but this “remaster” leaves a lot to be desired.
This re-issue of the 2012 game is billed as “Remastered with stunning visuals and refined gameplay” and that’s true to an extent. This still very much looks like a 2012 game, there’s just no getting around it, but the edges have been sanded off slightly.
At 1080p @ 60FPS this is an improvement over the PlayStation 3 experience we enjoyed years back, but this is very much far from a remake some were expecting. Everything from the little sound effects in the menus to the small bugs and problems from the original are still here.
Issues that could have been fixed – such as overlapping audio from NPCS and Lorestones – remain in Re-Reckoning. Without being too hard on developer Kaiko, it just doesn’t feel like enough time, attention or forethought was given to the presentation.
Graphics and audio aside Re-Reckoning also promises a tweaked experience that takes the gameplay from the original and tightens it up. One big area of focus here was the difficulty curve, as even on the hardest difficult the original became far too easy after you got the hang of the core systems. This was one of the main recurring problems of the original.
On top of that there’s a new Very Hard difficulty setting that we of course chose after our cakewalk playthroughs in 2012.
For the tweaks on the gameplay part it does feel like you can’t immediately leapfrog the game and outsmart it at every turn like before. There’s also ways a challenge to be had even when you begin to become overpowered, which prompts you to keep grinding and improving your character.
Unfortunately Very Hard mode is a joke. Not because it’s too challenging, but because it’s cheap. Anything stronger than a mild breeze or the flap of a gnat’s wings will kill your character. We thought this was just because we specced into a squishy spellcaster, but speaking to other players and seeing how they get along confirms that Very Hard mode should have been named “Spam Health Potions” mode instead.
If you’re a returning veteran of the original you may feel like this is the only difficulty mode for you, but it’s too frustrating to get our recommendation, especially in some of the larger battles and boss fights where you can get stunlocked into oblivion. Combine that with impossibly high damage even from low level mobs, and it’s not a good time.
These frustrations, however, pale in comparison to the ones caused by the technical problems here.
We don’t think we’ve ever played a game or run any piece of software on any machine before that crashes as much as Re-Reckoning. Died in the overworld? Hard crash. Trying to exit the game? Hard crash. Transitioning between areas? Hard crash.
In the early game where dying and reloading was more common, the game would crash every few minutes. Unlike recent PC ports of Horizon Zero Dawn and Marvel’s Avengers which simply had poor performance, Re-Reckoning ratchets things up by simply kicking you to the desktop as often as possible.
These problems aren’t just on PC either where we played. We’ve seen problems on console too such as game breaking bugs that make Re-Reckoning impossible to play and stability problems too.
The the credit of Kaiko and publisher THQ Nordic, these problems are being worked on and actively patched, but they’re unacceptable for a game from 2012 that hasn’t been substantially changed.
All of this results in a game that we’re very happy to see again, but sad that it’s in this context. Re-Reckoning smacks of a licence reuse that didn’t have enough time in the oven to cook through.
We can’t recommend people pick it up right now because of the technical problems. If they get fixed in a few months new and returning players should check it out, because it’s still a great mix of hack-n-slash combat and RPG that holds up years later.