Yo dawg, I’m playing a video game about playing a video game.
It seems like I am always reviewing a game based on an anime that I have never seen before. That, of course, never stops me from giving anything a try, and with Sword Art Online: Lost Song, I did just that. While I see this is really for the fans of the series itself, and while I can say I didn’t mind my time with the game overall, it is most certainly not a game that many will remember.
Taking place a few months after the events of the first game/season of the show, Kirito and his guild friends have started play a new MMO called ALfheim Online and a new expansion has just released for the game. His company is excited to see what the new expansion has to offer and begin adventuring the virtual reality world in hopes of conquering it.
Platforms: PS4, Vita
MSRP: $59.99 PS4/$39.99 Vita
Price I’d pay: $30
The game play is that of an action RPG. Mixing hack ‘n slash combat with stat tracking with equipment and levels works decently well for the overall feel of the game. It’s almost surreal playing this game. It looks and acts like an MMO, but that is just the shell. The actual gameplay feels much more like an open world character action game.
Players will go on story quests that lead to dungeons that then lead to more dungeons and character story arcs. The game doesn’t beat around the bush on telling the player what to actually do next. In very few instances did I ever see a point where there was no direction on what to do next to progress the story. For what seems like an open world game, it can be rather linear. There are multiple requests and smaller quests players can go on to gain some XP, along with some materials for crafting which can be found in the tavern in the main hub area. These add a little more incentive to wander around looking for monsters to kill. Many times, there is no need since the game handles monsters much like an MMO, respawning multiple ones in a single area.
While the action resembles the hack ‘n slash nature of other games, it feels a bit off. One of the reasons why is because even normal enemies take far too many hits to defeat. It tries to play like a fast action game, but when I end up having to combo a single enemy three or four times, it slogs down the action significantly. Luckily, having two AI controlled party members does help out some. Utilizing standard attacks that are mapped to square and triangle for regular and hard strikes, along with special attacks that are mapped to buttons when holding R1, can help take out a pack of enemies. Knowing when to dodge and attack is very important, because even some of the standard enemies can take a player down if they’re not carful.
Loot for the looters.
There is also a full on crafting mechanic, using materials picked up over the world. Players can upgrade and create new and improved weapons and gear for their characters. On top of that, a minimal loot-type game is here, where I would find a good amount of gear that needed to be identified before using. This allowed me to find new things to equip without having to go through the crafting route.
Navigation is actually a stand out for me. Players can take to the skies and fly around the large world of ALfheim Online, jetting around different areas and finding new locations to explore. This will also lead to some aerial combat that can be a bit tricky when not using the lock on mechanic. Even then, gauging distance from an enemy can be difficult to determine. I usually end up just using a special attack that can close the gap.
The anime look fits decently with the game, and while it wasn’t the greatest looking game in the world, flying around seeing everything was pretty nice. At the very least, the art style is working to its advantage.
After completing the first area of the new expansion (all story driven content) players can venture online for some co-op action using their created character. Granted, all story missions play out as if I was playing as Kirito. Online multiplayer has both co-op and versus duels that offer up a change of pace from the standard experience.
While I feel like I would get more out of the game if I knew who any of the characters are, they do try to explain in a small introduction who everyone is, but I still missed a lot of things, and I can’t help but feel like this is just a standard game. The combat is a bit boring and repetitive, the characters all share almost the same personality, and the areas and encounters are somewhat lackluster. I was never having a bad time with the game, but I wasn’t having anything I could really write home about. It has some redeeming qualities, but in the grand scheme of things, it stumbles more than it flies. Fans of the anime should really be the only ones that pick this up, and even then, I would say at a discounted price.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.