Geoff Girardin

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Has Always Deserved Your Respect

Every resident of Rhode Island paid for a copy whether they played it or not.

Geoff Girardin

There are many ways to look back at the development of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and the subsequent closure of 38 Studios. One could say that it’s the classic tale of a fledgling studio reaching beyond their means. Or it was the too-passionate management that pushed too hard. Some could see it as a warning of working with large publishers that demand too much. But what isn’t hard to interpret is the quality of the final product, and the abrupt end of a series that should have been massive.

Initially, Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios set out to create a large-scale MMORPG titled Project Copernicus, based off of an original story created by noted author R. A. Salvatore. This title never saw the light of day but their introduction to the world, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, was intended to be the stepping stone to build interest in and a fanbase for the eventual MMO.

But even without the larger game taking over, Amalur was a solid release. The lore from Salvatore was interesting, the gameplay was fast and flexible, and the art direction was gorgeous. There were a number of weapons to choose from, different upgrades in the skill tree to augment your combat, and an interesting premise that involved elves, racism, and destiny.

Geoff Girardin

The developers took everything two steps further when they released two downloadable expansions which each added 15% more play area in addition to quests and items. The Legend of Dead Kel added a large island and a number of nautical and pirate-themed quests and loot (My personal favorite is the war hammer made from the spine of a sea monster), and Teeth of Naros had you in a floating city of giants, trying to defeat the mad king.

The studio relocated from Massachusetts to Rhode Island on the condition of a $75 million loan from the state to encourage job growth. Unfortunately, not even the likes of Salvatore, composer Grant Kirkhope, or artist Todd MacFarlane could keep things together. The company declared bankruptcy two months after releasing the second expansion for Amalur.

This launched a massive investigation by the Rhode Island Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the FBI. In the end, the state was forced to charge taxpayers to cover the loss of $28 million (roughly $60 per taxpayer). Essentially, every taxpayer paid the price of the game.

After years of legal issues and court proceedings, THQ Nordic purchased the rights to the IP in 2018 and has tasked the studio Kaiko with remastering the title. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning will bring the title to PS4, Xbox One, and PC with all of the DLC included. And folks, it looks beautiful.

Amalur is one of my favorite games of all time, and being able to see it polished up and getting the attention it has always deserved makes me incredibly excited.

Play Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning on September 8, 2020.