Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had a comically turbulent path to its initial 2012 release. It started out as an original IP crafted by the team at Big Huge Games for THQ, under the capable design hands of Ken Rolston, the lead designer of Oblivion and Morrowind…a couple of famous games you might have heard of.
Then, Kurt Schilling’s 38 Studios entered the picture. Kurt had spent years crafting a world for an MMO that we’ve only ever known as “Copernicus,” and he’d spent millions of dollars borrowed from the state of Rhode Island in the process. 38 Studios needed to put a face to all the work they’d done, but their MMO wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
So they bought Big Huge Games. And spent a few years grafting all of Copernicus’s lore into their title, now called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This epic single player RPG would now set up the world, lore, story, and characters for the upcoming MMO.
Both the lore and the Reckoning game design were exceptional. The writing team was headed by R.A. Salvatore, who has written more successful fantasy novels than almost anyone else in the world. And the game development team took the foundation of the Elder Scrolls titles and pushed the framework to the next level. Not only was there a living world that you could wander around lost in, talking to everyone about everything…there was an expansive class-based dynamic action combat system which still holds up six years later.
The music in the game was written by Grant Kirkhope, most famous for his contributions to classic Rare titles. But the Reckoning soundtrack was so good it’s one of only two I’ve ever purchased my own copy of (the other being Metal Gear Solid 2). It’s available on streaming services if you want to give it a go.
EA picked up the publishing rights to Reckoning and released it across PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. All three versions performed the way that a blockbuster game should, technology wise.
Sales-wise…the game sold just well enough to not totally lose money. But it wasn’t nearly enough to save the massive budget-leaking nightmare that 38 Studios had become. So 38 and Big Huge Games both melted down, and Curt Schilling had some…issues with the government of Rhode Island.
I’ve long hoped that someone would pick up the rights to the game and bring it back. I’ve put over 100 hours into the game across its different versions, and I think that it’s easily the equal of Skyrim, The Witcher, Fable, and other big names in the genre. It has a more cartoon-y art-style and incredibly detailed lore that allow it to stand out in a crowded field, plus that glorious combat system.
Well. My weird forgotten IP dreams have finally come true. This week, THQNordic announced that they’ve purchased the rights to the franchise. And along with that, the pile of assets and code that was formerly Copernicus.
Will they release a new version of Reckoning? This seems very likely. The PS4, Xbox One, and Switch would be a perfect home for a port of the PC release…which is the easiest way to play the game today. I don’t even think the game would need any real graphical overhaul, its assets were sharp and ahead of their time.
Will THQNordic fund a second Amalur game? Or finally release Copernicus? That’s much harder to say and seems like a huge risk. Copernicus might succeed as a free-to-play game in today’s market, but even then, who knows how much actual development work that would take. The footage that leaked out of the project showed something that felt largely complete, so maybe the plan is to put in a final round of polish and take on other contemporary releases like Warframe, Torchlight Frontiers, and Black Desert Remastered, but it’s hard to say.
The big RPG genre can always use more titles. I was elated when Ubisoft essentially turned Assassin’s Creed into a Witcher clone, and I’m elated that Amalur is getting a second chance at an audience. Hopefully my hunch about a remastered release is right.
If you’ve ever enjoyed Fable, Skyrim, or any action RPG in general, and you like a good pile of elves and fantasy lore, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was made exactly for you.