I’ll always praise 2012’s Kingdoms of Amalur for being ahead of the curve. What was unleashed so many years ago in a very different gaming industry was a breath of fresh air at the time. It took the idea of fantasy, stripped it of the boring gameplay that too many a genre entry had focused on, and fine-tuned it into a rollicking explosion of swords and sorcery.
But like I said, that was eight years ago. Times have changed, an entire console generation has shaped the gaming landscape and games have come along with ideas that have reshaped genres. Can a proper remaster of Kingdoms of Amalur stand the test of time as a fondly remembered cult classic when compared to its peers. No, it cannot, but it also doesn’t mean that you can’t appreciate it for just how much it got right in the grand scheme of things.
I think it’s worth mentioning just what we said about the original game in 2012, which I dug up from the old Lazygamer archives. Everyone’s favourite Wookie and now SA Gamer big cheese Garth Holden had this much to say about the game back then:
Don’t get me wrong, this game is a lot of fun. Sadly, the overall experience of the game is let down by a mediocre main story and disappointing and cliché ending. Without spoiling anything, the last 10 minutes with make you cringe and wonder what the design team was thinking, when they included all of their exposition in a badly delivered sequence. An amazingly fun game, but the RPG gong of this title just points out how hollow it actually is.
He’s bang on the money. Kingdoms of Amalur may have had a mountain of exposition to sit through at any given turn, but its real strength was its amazing combat at the time, world-building and elements which made it feel alive. The catch here, is that everything that Kingdoms of Amalur excelled at, haven’t just been met and improved on in the near-decade since its release, it has left the original game choking on dated dust.
There’s no getting around just how far behind Kingdoms of Amalur has been left behind, like an atheist in a Christian apocalypse. Its gameplay is still solid for its time, but the subtle blend of skill and timing a player would need to feel like a dragon-slaying god has been surpassed by dozens of other action games since then and hardly feels worthy of mastering its intricacies over the dozens of hours required to do so.
It’s user interface is particularly dated and about as out of touch as your grandfather on civil rights issues. Kingdom’s of Amalur’s menus and inventories are an ungodly mess of impractical management, drenched in annoying scrolling and a constant need to wade into that much due to the RPG nature of the game. There’s absolutely nothing modern about the current design and user interface offered, further hammering in the dated nails into Kingdom of Amalur’s coffin.
Graphically, the game feels like a bare minimum effort as well. On Xbox One X, you’d be hard-pressed to say that the game wasn’t being run through the backwards compatibility emulation software, its textures barely updated, its performance notably laggy and it’s characters still looking like Sims 2 creations.
If you can look past those glaring issues though, there’s still a lot of game to explore here. The fantasy world of Amalur was nothing short of ambitious at the time, and even now it’s amazing to see just how massive the scope of this project truly was. A storyline that was surprisingly flexible in the options presented to players, side-quests that would have taken you a decade to finish them all and a story full of fantasy author R.A. Salvatore’s flavour all made for an engaging world.
There’s even a better endgame now, with Re-Reckoning’s team having crafted a more challenging drive to revisit old locations and grind for more powerful gear that is held hostage by some absolute bastard monsters. Throw in the previously released DLC campaigns and an upcoming new chapter, and there’s still a joy to be found from this fantasy relic of a bygone era.
Last Updated: September 22, 2020