Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, the playfully titled remaster of the 2012 action RPG, is getting released this Tuesday. The original game, which had one less “re” in its title, had a strong enough combination of story, combat, and class customization to impress its audience. On top of that, its setting of Amalur showed a lot of promise — which makes sense, seeing as it was the brainchild of best-selling fantasy author R. A. Salvatore.
Among its fans was Reinhard Pollice, who now works as an executive producer at THQ Nordic. He considered the game to be the proverbial “lightning in a bottle” and hopes that, by remaking the game, the studio will be able to share the game’s unique take on the genre with a new generation of players.
“Great entertainment content is constantly being released; it is impossible to consume it all in a single lifetime. I was 23 when Kingdoms of Amalur first released, and I was all over it,” said Pollice. “But what about the gamer who was 7 and didn’t get to play it? Today he is 15 and may have never heard of the game if not for a remake such as this.”
Part of the reason Kingdoms of Amalur is such a cult classic is because it never got any follow-up games, keeping it from joining the likes of The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, The Witcher, or Fable as a household name. That’s not for lack of trying, however. Pollice explained developer Big Huge Games was looking into the possibility of making a sequel, but parent company 38 Studios laid off its entire staff just three months after the original game was released.
There are conflicting, inaccurate stories online about the origins of Kingdoms of Amalur’s development that involve rumblings about an MMORPG. The real story of the game’s development does indeed involve an MMORPG, but it seems an internet version of the telephone game mixed up the details.
“Initially 38 Studios set out to create the best MMORPG on the planet, and for that they worked with R. A. Salvatore on the backstory and lore,” explained Pollice. “At this time the original development at Big Huge wasn’t even in the picture.”
At the time the MMORPG was conceived, Pollice explained, Big Huge Games was owned by THQ. The studio had been working with Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston on a completely unrelated single-player RPG. Then the Great Recession hit, and THQ was forced to sell Big Huge Games. 38 Studios bought them, along with their work-in-progress RPG.
When you’ve got several years’ worth of work from a best-selling, award-winning author like Salvatore lying around, it’d be foolish not to take advantage. So, the unnamed RPG soon found itself based in the Amalur universe.
“They saw it as a great way to give the lore and world the MMORPG would have been set in more depth,” said Pollice.
But besides the literary link, the two games had practically nothing to do with each other.
“Other than the lore and universe, the MMORPG and Reckoning didn’t have that much in common,” said Pollice. “ They were even set in different stages and times of the universe.”
While the would-be “best MMORPG on the planet” ended up disappearing entirely, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning released and sold 1.22 million copies in 90 days — a number that sounds impressive, but wasn’t enough to keep the studio alive. Still, Pollice believes that the game proved its worth and that players will still love its mix of action-filled combat and freedom of character growth today.
“Kingdoms of Amalur is one of those games that was not only revolutionary at the time of its release but somehow transcendent in terms of its unique and compelling gameplay and the lore that it is wrapped in,” said Pollice. “We believe today’s RPG gamers will appreciate it as much as the players who first picked it up in 2012.”
THQ Nordic isn’t just going to be remastering the game on its own, however — the developers plan to create an expansion that builds on the original. Of course, they don’t plan to tell us any details about that expansion until later. For now, they just hope the fans embrace what they’ve made.
“We hope they will love it and be clamoring for the new expansion we’re making,” said Pollice. “Then, when they’ve played through that, we hope they’re begging for more.”