Reckon you should just play it on PC
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an interesting game to play in 2021. There’s really nothing like it around these days. Big fantasy RPGs are few and far between, and even more sparse at any level below AAA. KOA’s history is almost more interesting than the game itself. Look up 38 Studios and the loan they took from the state of Rhode Island if you want a laugh.
On its surface, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-reckoning is fantasy 101. You are the Chosen One and you’re tasked with sorting out some cataclysmic admin. On your way, you’ll be recruited by factions, quest givers and seemingly every single person in the game, all of whom will give you some distracting side quest.
The main quest is fine, but it often feels like off-cuts from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which makes sense when you discover that Ken Rolston, lead designer on Oblivion worked on this game. In the early hours, you’re battered with so many fantasy terms and new characters that when they start turning up dead I literally had to second guess myself if I’d even met them yet.
I decided to say yes to life and accept every quest I was offered, which ended up having me wander hither and yon, finding places I almost certainly shouldn’t have been yet, but I enjoyed the Baby’s Day Out approach of just escaping fights with enemies much tougher than I.
While I enjoyed a lot of the vocal performances, aside from some Scottish accents that had my blood boiling, the story is far too quick to throw 10 novels of lore at you before you’ve equipped your first set of armour. My eyes glazed over as every 5 minutes a new massively important piece of exposition was thrown at you like a brick through a window. It’s hard to ignore, but you’re not sure what the point was.
As a vehicle to go from location to location slashing people, it’s totally serviceable. The combat in KOA:RR (as no-one is calling it) really appeals to my penchant for mindless hacking and slashing. There’s a large array of artillery, especially in this version which gives you a mountain of special weapons and armour from the start, but they never feel too different from each other.
The only real depth in the combat comes from matching elemental weakness with your weapons type, again – fantasy 101. There’s an array of spells to cast, including an extremely fun Scorpionesqe whip that’ll drag enemies over to you.
Once your big flashing purple bar has filled you can unleash your Reckoning attack, which slows the action down and lets you kick the shit out of your foes with little recourse. Upon whittling them down to their last breath you can then perform an opulent finishing move that is not only always satisfying to watch, incredibly degrading for the respected troll chief whose head you’ve just dribbled like Michael Jordan.
So far, this is basically the experience you’ll have on the PC, PS4 or Xbox One version, so why play it on the Switch? Well if you’re a fan of framerates so inconsistent you’ll feel like you’re standing on a speedboat in the middle of the North Sea, then KOA:RR is the game for you.
When you’re frolicking through the vast fields of Amalur, the game looks and performs great, the art style translates perfectly on Switch, it’s a bit Fable mixed with a bit of Darksiders, but it’s extremely charming. Sure, it still looks like an Xbox 360 game, but I think it gets away with that more on the Switch than it did when it was released for the beefier platforms.
However, when the combat kicks in and you’re dealing with more than three enemies, the performance takes a nosedive. During one early section in a cave, a section that was bathed in shards of light from cracks in the ceiling above caused the frame rate to get so bad, that when I tried to capture the moment for posterity, it broke the Nintendo Switch capture software. That’s really a benchmark in bad performance.
It’s a real shame, because in moments where it holds itself together, the combat is fun, fast and responsive, I rarely ever took a hit. However, when the performance goes, your inputs start to feel like they’re being delivered by carrier pigeon. One section in which I had to defeat a boss, which was preceded by an unskippable, long-ass dialogue tree, gave me flashbacks to going through Blighttown on the PS3 version of Dark Souls. It makes you want to frisbee the Switch out of the nearest window.
I’m glad I played Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-reckoning on Nintendo Switch, because it made me check how much it was on PC. It’s a tenner. If you were already a fan of this game from the original release, you probably already bought Re-reckoning. If you’re looking for a great action RPG, you’ll find one here, but you’ll also find technical problems that distract at almost every turn.