|RELEASE DATE:||February 7/9/10, 2012 (Original NA/AU/EU Releases); September 8, 2020 (Remaster, WW Release)|
|PLATFORM:||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC/Steam (Original); PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam/Epic Games Store (Re-Reckoning)|
|PUBLISHER:||EA Games (Original, 2012); THQ Nordic (Remaster, 2020)|
|DEVELOPER:||38 Studios + Big Huge Games (Original, 2012); Kaiko Games (Remaster, 2020)|
In the original release, one of the late-game quests, “Silence Falls”, has a game-breaking bug in it. As in: You cannot continue playing the main quest if you happen to get it.
It’s a quest that requires you to destroy three obelisks in the world. You can *start* destroying them *before* you get the quest – this is intentional.
There’s even dialogue to suggest you’ve already started the process.
The issue, though, was that if you started to do it, *then* started the quest without destroying all of the crystals that surround the obelisk – you would be unable to destroy any of the others, thus unable to proceed with the quest – and the main story.
This bug was never fixed in the original game – EA never patched it, and the studio behind the game closed down not long after the game came out (The name Curt Schilling ring any bells?).
It sucked. Although you could go back to an earlier save *before* you progressed it – but if you didn’t have a save from before then, you were SOL.
However: I decided to test if Re-Reckoning actually fixed it or not. There were a few other quirks with the game that Kaiko fixed, but some still remain.
This, though – this was a well-known issue.
And guess what? They fixed it. I made 2 separate saves to try 2 different approaches – one with having an obelisk completely destroyed, the other with leaving crystals untouched.
Both progress normally after starting the quest properly. I’m *really* glad to see that, and it lends itself to the thought I had: that this remaster is more under-the-hood than a new coat of paint.
Kingdoms of Amalur, despite all the big names attached to it, isn’t the most unique RPG around. Even back when it first came out – its story/plot was a bit generic.
Maybe a bit of a unique twist in that your character starts the game out being revived in the Well of Souls after having died in some battle somewhere, allowing them to have literally no fate what-so-ever, but it’s not that far removed from “You were a prisoner in the cells of a prison in Cyrodill and are now the one true savior of the land.”
It is quite literally just an explanation for why your created character can do the things they can do – replace it with any other high fantasy origin story, and nothing really changes.
This is not a bad thing, mind you – just don’t go into the world of Amalur expecting mind-bending plot twists or never-before-seen storytelling.
The overall story is really well done, it’s just a story that’s been done to death already. “Your fate is your own, shape it how you see fit!”.
As it stands – Re-Reckoning changes nothing about the overall plot for now. It’s exactly the same as it was in 2012. That said, there is an additional expansion planned for this version of the game, but for now, it’s unclear just what the Fatesworn DLC will really add to the overall story.
Re-Reckoning also includes all of the original game’s DLC, but again, this remains unchanged in any way. It’s not a case like, say, Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut where the Missing Link DLC was folded back into the main game in the place it was supposed to be originally. The Legend of Dead Kel and The Teeth of Naros are pretty much accessible right from the start of the game.
It would have been nice to see the DLCs integrated a little more, but it’s fine.
This is probably where the game is the most unique. The art style and the music kind of make Amlaur feel like a violent, more adult-oriented Saturday morning cartoon.
It doesn’t feel as “serious” as something like The Witcher or even its more contemporary alternatives, like Oblivion or Skyrim. It’s a very fun, colorful world with lush, weird plant-life that feels almost alien, and somewhat silly, cartoony character designs with somewhat exaggerated proportions – especially in their faces.
Plants that bloom and grow in reaction to your character approaching. Plants that glow and light up dark caves and corridors in vibrant blues, greens, and purples. Faces that are much more simple and expressive than realistic ones. Large eyes and the like – but not anime-esque.
The world of Amalur is very pleasant to look at, even though Re-Reckoning doesn’t really do much to make it look much better.
That’s not to say the game looks worse! It doesn’t! However, it looks like what you would expect the original game to look like running on a more high-end PC at the time it came out.
A smoother framerate, some better lighting, and sharper textures.
About the same jump as Red Faction Guerilla: Re-Mars-Tered, really. Armor seems to be a bit more reflective, maybe a bit more foliage in some places – things like that.
Amalur is one of those games where the team made a wise choice in going for a more stylized visual approach, instead of targeting realism. It helps the game to still look pretty good even 8 years later.
That said – most of the changes in this remastering are under the hood rather than surface-level improvements. Things like level balancing and the like.
Now, Re-Reckoning hasn’t actually rebuilt the core game or anything. The main combat/leveling/etc. is all exactly the same – although the improved framerate certainly works to make the game feel a lot better.
That said – there are some pretty notable under-the-hood changes to be aware of. Primarily – the change in the way the game handles level locking. Originally – areas in the game had level ranges (IE: An area could have enemies that range from Level 2 to Level 12.), that’s pretty normal.
What wasn’t normal, was that those areas would also lock to whatever level you were when you entered them. So, if you were Level 2, enemies would then cap out at Level 2 – even though the actual max level was 12.
What that could lead to, is enemies ending up being way weaker than they were actually intended to be by the time you had to face them. You could go through the entire map, making enemies lock at low levels, and then progress the story as normal, leveling up and substantially outclassing every area.
That is now gone. Level ranges still exist (As they should), but they no longer cap at your level – only once you pass the maximum level for that area.
There has also been a change to the way loot is handled, but this one is less noticeable. Supposedly, gear that you find in chests and on enemies is better tuned to your character, but I’ve still got a lot of drops that are pretty much useless to me. It feels like the drops are more based on your stats/points you’ve put into the various disciplines rather than being based on what you, the player, favor. I’ve gotten so many drops for Staves/Sceptres even though I prefer to use Longswords and Faeblades/Daggers.
They did also fix the level locking problem for gear, though. It no longer locks upon simply entering a zone, and now waits until you actually open a chest to calculate the level it should be (Up to a max for the zone, I believe.)
If you enjoyed it before, you’ll still enjoy it now – maybe more so, now that zones can offer a more consistent challenge while still allowing you to out-level them. Though games of this ilk have advanced considerably in the 8 years since the original came out, Amalur is still an enjoyable time. It was always a fairly simplistic game, even back then. Most of its depth lied in how you actually chose to build your character and the abilities you decided to roll with – you could choose to focus on 1 of 3 main forms of combat or any combination of the 3.
Might is essentially your warrior/tank class. Longswords, Greatswords, and Hammers. Heavy armor. Abilities that focus on offense and increasing your defense/health. Deal massive damage and minimize how much you get hurt.
Finesse is the rogue or archer. Daggers, longbows, and Faeblades. Quick attacks, light armor and a lot of stealthy, trap-based abilities, as well as stealth-kills with daggers & faeblades.
Lastly is Sorcery – the mage. A focus on mana, staves, scepters, and one of the more unique weapons in the game – chakrams. It’s also a class that has a lot of magic-based abilities like constructing a familiar to fight with you or launching an ice or lightning blast to damage enemies as well as a healing ability.
As you level up, you gain 3 points that you can spend to increase your abilities as well as a single point per level to increase your base skills (Things like Persuasion, Blacksmithing, Stealth, etc.) As you increase said abilities, you unlock various “Destinies” that relate to your chosen discipline. These Destinies grant special bonuses and can be changed at pretty much any time.
For instance, the very first Might-based Destiny you can get, called “Brawler”, requires 1 point in your Might abilities, and will give you +15% Melee Attack damage and +20% Block efficacy (Your block will negate 20% more damage) – at 109 points, you unlock “Warlord”, the final Might Destiny, which gives +30% Melee damage/Block efficacy, +20% Stun duration, +20% Chance to stun and an ability called “Last Stand” which will automatically resurrect you upon death with 20% of your health – but that health will continually drain until you kill an enemy.
Personally, I prefer to play the Jack-of-All-Trades line of Destinies, which requires points in all 3 disciplines at equal amounts. It fits my playstyle the best.
You can also unlock certain “Twists of Fate” by completing various questlines (Usually the guild stories as well as key moments in the main story) – these are additional bonuses that are always active once you gain them.
This is, honestly, the most unique part of the whole game – the freedom you actually have to play the way you want to. Being allowed to change your chosen Destiny – like you would your armor or a weapon – at any given time is a nice touch. I wish more RPGs had systems like this.
It’s also a breeze to re-spec your character. Simply go to one of the many characters the game calls “Fateweavers” and you can refund all of the points you’ve put into both your main skills and your abilities for a fee that increases the more you do it (And it’s not a huge amount, either – which is nice.).
No messing with finite items. No need to find one, specific character in one, specific location. The game even gives you some basic clothes after you refund your points so you aren’t completely naked. How thoughtful!
I also like the way gear is actually handled. There are no real requirements to any gear outside of armor – and the only requirements are discipline-based. IE: A character specced heavily in Might won’t be wearing Finesse or Sorcery armor/robes (And vice/versa). Weapons, however – only have level requirements, so as long as you’re a high enough level, you can use any weapon you want.
As I said – this is a very open, free-form game when it comes to how you can play. You’re never really locked into any decisions outside of dialogue choices for quests. Don’t like heavy armor and a big hammer? Switch to Finesse and try out daggers with a bow and light armor. Or Sorcery to try out a scepter/staff or Chakrams and robes/light clothing.
That’s about where the uniqueness ends, though – as the rest of the game is a fairly standard action RPG. In fact, it feels a lot like an Elder Scrolls game (Mainly due to Ken Rolston – of Morrowind and Oblivion – being one of the lead designers on the title.) – it shares a lot of mechanical overlap with those games, especially Oblivion.
Reagents/Alchemy ingredients being somewhat luck-based, going to prison resulting in a loss of experience if you serve out your sentence – even the game’s Guilds are a near mirror image of things like the Thieves Guild or the Companions.
However – this is a much more simple game in comparison to Elder Scrolls. There are no odd wrinkles in leveling – you simply earn XP and level up. No resting in bed, or having to continually use a certain skill to make it better. Just put points where you want them and off you go.
Put points into Alchemy to learn new recipes and have an easier time collecting ingredients. Go for Blacksmithing if you want to craft your own armor & weapons (And make your repair kits work better). Want to get some better rewards or talk your way out of some bad situations? Put points into Persuasion.
You know this song and dance if you’ve played pretty much any Western RPG in the last 30 years. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.
Not every game needs to reinvent the wheel to be enjoyable. You don’t need to constantly try something new – like Final Fantasy has done with pretty much every entry since IX. As long as you do the simple thing well (And, you know…don’t release at a time where a contemporary juggernaut will also cannibalize and overshadow your popularity (A problem EA seems to have a lot [*cough*Titanfall 2*cough*]), you’ll be fine.
Now this is the part that’s hard to really nail down.
Personally, I love going back and doing other playthroughs with new character builds and trying to make different decisions. But that’s something that isn’t for everyone. Plus, due to how open the game’s core is – it isn’t really necessary, as there aren’t a ton of quests that really have branching outcomes or anything.
There are a few, but I wouldn’t say there are enough to really warrant more than one character – outside of just wanting to see how the different racial bonuses might effect your playstyle (One of the only unchangeable things there are when it comes to creating your character – coupled with the birth star bonus and your character’s base face. You can change your hair, makeup, and accessories, but the actual structure of your face is set once you start the game proper.)
That being said – this is a pretty massive game, so even if you don’t want to play it more than once, there’s plenty to actually do in a single playthrough that more than makes up for it. I’ve got about 60+ hours on my current PS4 playthrough, and I’ve barely even scratched the main story.
As you can see from that screen of the map – there was plenty to do in the first 12-13 hours just in that opening area.
Now – for those of you like me, who played the original game to death? Re-Reckoning might not be worth it. If you never played the story DLCs (Like I didn’t), it’s a great way to do so, because the game overall runs and looks better than its previous-gen counterpart. But if you have, Re-Reckoning doesn’t really offer much in the way of “new” that would make it really worth it unless you just loved the original and want to play it again at a higher resolution and better framerate on your PS4/XB1.
But if you’ve never played Amalur before – Re-Reckoning is the perfect way to do so now.
All in all, Re-Reckoning doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart from the original game. It looks better, runs better (And by extension, ends up playing better), and offers a definitive way to play the original game, but other than the DLC slated to come out sometime next year, it doesn’t really add anything new to the game.
That’s not a bad thing – Red Faction Guerrilla: Re-Mars-tered didn’t exactly reinvent the original game either – Re-Reckoning is still a fun time. Sometimes all you really want or need, is a simple story, with simple mechanics and just a lot to play around with. That’s what Amalur offers.
Room for improvement? Sure – and I hope this remastering does well enough to spark interest in a sequel. Fingers crossed the Fatesworn DLC can match or even surpass the quality of the original game.
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