|Dev: Access Games|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: January 25th, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by James Trujillo
Watch out. Here comes the new game from the makers of the ironic cult hit Deadly Premonition. However, this time Access Games takes a step away from consoles to bring forth a new handheld experience. Lord of Arcana is an exclusive title for the PlayStation Portable, and is already garnering multiple comparisons to the beloved Monster Hunter franchise. But what makes this one set itself apart?
Well, for starters, Lord of Arcana is far more brutal than any other in the genre thus far. The design looks grim and beastly, with creature concepts by renowned artists such as Testuya Nomura, Todd McFarlane, and Yoshitaka Amano. Yet, from what we've seen so far in our brief look at the game, the artistic design takes a huge hit. It makes use of low-resolution textures and a monotone color scheme. It's a shame, because it certainly doesn't feel up to par with publisher Square Enix's high graphical standards.
Square Enix also boasts of their emphasis on high-quality storytelling. Yet, if you were one of the few who experienced Deadly Premonition and it's laughable Twin Peaks-like plot, you may be a bit skeptic with what this game has to offer. The concept sounds typical. You play a hero with amnesia trying to recollect his past in the world of Horodyn. The Arcana stone, which has the power to restore peace to the land, is being sought after by warriors known only as Slayers. However, only someone with immense power can wield the stone and reveal their destiny as the new Lord of Arcana.
It's an action role-playing game at its core, but stresses the importance of its multiplayer gameplay. The game features four-player cooperative play through the PSP's ad-hoc capabilities, and everything you do is cross-compatible through single-player and multiplayer. The only real difference is that missions adjust in difficulty depending on how many players are present. The rep from Square Enix who showed off the demo mentioned there was no online support for the game, specifically because they wanted to establish a strong offline community. It seems like a bit of a misstep to not enable online support, as this game would suit it perfectly; but I can understand their reasoning. I assume this would be akin to the nature of LAN parties that were so popular in the PC gaming community, or early console favorites like Halo, and would be a great spirit to rekindle in the western gaming public. In Japan, their ad-hoc gaming sensibilities are what keep games like this so popular in the eastern market.
The game also showed off plenty of customization methods when it comes to your character. From hairstyles and tattoos, and even your own personal weapon variant with thousands of possible combinations, you can make your hero as unique as you can imagine. There are also five different weapon types to choose from: a one-handed sword, a two-handed sword, a mace, a polearm, and a ranged weapon called a firebrand. Each armament has its own pros or cons depending on your play style, like attack speed or strength, and luckily you get to try out each one before you make a final decision.
When it's finally time to start annihilating monsters, everything begins at a central hub village area. Here you can pick up quests from the guild, upgrade weapons and armor at local shops, or change your load out entirely if you want to take a different tactical approach. This is also the same place you meet other players in the multiplayer setting, and it's up to the group leader to initiate any particular quest. Once you begin, you're dropped into a dungeon that appears to be a limited free-roaming area. Combat and exploration are separate from one another, and if you've played any number of Japanese role-playing games before then you know what I mean.
Players roam the catacombs until encountering an enemy in their path, and are then taken to an arena setting to do battle in real-time. It seems a bit unintuitive when this happens, considering the real-time fighting would have worked just as well in the dungeon setting, although with a bit less room to do battle. When you eventually clear your way and reach the final boss area, you'll have to pass through a portal that can only be described as the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Yes, it looks that similar.
Boss battles focus on aiming attacks at an enemy's various weak spots. The strategy appears a bit different in these battles, but the hack and slash method is still the same. There are also random quick time events that trigger to give you a chance at dealing massive damage. However, if you mess up in these sequences, you take a hit and only have a moment to recover before trying again.
The campaign is said to be roughly forty hours in length, but will also have loads of additional content unlocked after you beat the game. Plans for future downloadable content are also in the works; these will add plenty more missions to the experience. Still, the game has a ton to work from without truly seeing what the multiplayer portion has to offer. If you're a fan of the Monster Hunter series or action-RPGs in general, this may be something to keep an eye on. Lord of Arcana will be available on North American shores at retailers, and for digital download on the PlayStation Store, on January 25th, 2010.
CCC Freelance Writer