Has This Dungeon Crawler Crawled Into A Hole?
At last year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo, Warrior’s Lair (called Ruin at the time) was part of the sizzle reel to promote the PS Vita. A gameplay demo allowed several of the RPG nuts in the gaming media to test out the then-unreleased handheld with a genre close to their heart. There were high hopes at the time that this loot-based fantasy action game would be part of the Vita’s launch lineup. Instead of seeing Warrior’s Lair when the Vita hit store shelves, we were instead stuck with Dungeon Hunters: Alliance, a flawed port of the PS3 title that received a tepid review from myself.
Warrior’s Lair has now been simmering on the backburner, and while Sony assures us the project has not been scrapped, when exactly we will get our hands on it remains a mystery. January saw the game receive a new title, and the drama continued in April when it was announced that co-developer Idol Minds was kicked off the project. The circumstances behind Sony’s San Diego Studio taking complete control of development is still unknown, but one thing is for certain; the financial gains of being a launch title have passed, and now Warrior’s Lair must work extra hard to dazzle us in field about to be monopolized by the release of Diablo III.
Hope is not completely lost for this once-whistled-at title, as it still contains some features that intrigue us.
The world of Warrior’s Lair is filled with vile denizens, as most games in this sphere are, many of which lurk inside geometric dungeon corridors (most of which lack walls) where bottomless chasms abound. Choosing a hero skilled in one of the three standard disciplines; strength, agility, or sorcery (and possibly some mixture of these), you’ll singularly brave these demonic areas to restore peace and, of course, collect loot. It’s a very generic outline, but that’s because the backstory has not been divulged yet. What we do know is that the world is somehow shaped into each player’s image, which could mean that the story remains fluid and non-linear throughout.
The skill set each class comes packed with fits the style of combat we’ve come to expect from the genre. Warriors will be able to withstand more damage and barrel through groups of enemies, while assassins can deftly move in, strike, then retreat, as well as perform quick ranged attacks and launch bombs. Mage characters deal elemental damage from afar, with magical barriers that allow them to get up close and personal when needed. Since the game is primarily a single-player affair, we can expect each class to be well-rounded enough that each one can hold his/her own against hordes of enemies. The standard red health bar, blue mana bar, and yellow stamina are all present, displaying the energies we all have seen in the many other dungeon crawlers. But this particular formula remains a straightforward and accepted method of gauging replenishable stats.
The loot system will be one point of differentiation between Warrior’s Lair and other games of this type. Instead of random epic drops, the treasure to work toward will always be found at the end of the dungeon. Most of the other items dropped will be mundane equipment or materials used to craft more powerful gear. The relics you obtain after clearing a zone become furnishings in your customizable lair, with its placement in your haunt providing an offensive bonus when razing other dungeons, or defensive bonus against attacks from other players. As you progress and upgrade your lair, it essentially becomes a tower defense game, with skilled designers reaping greater rewards for repelling intruders.
Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and the PlayStation Network will provide alerts when you are being invaded, as well as notifications when a lengthy crafting process has been completed. Another unique feature is that the game can be played seamlessly on both the PS3 and PS Vita, and there has been word that the disc and cartridge for the console and handheld will be packaged together, making both versions a single purchase. Your game can then be saved to a cloud-based server on one system, and loaded to the exact spot on the other. It’s a great idea to promote the cross-platform feature, but with the social networking involved, unless you have a constant wireless connection with your PS3 as well as the 3G model of the Vita, keeping on top of your notifications could become an issue.
Warrior’s Lair was a welcome reveal at last year’s E3. While many of us have become disheartened with the development turn of events, we’re still going to keep watching for a finite release date and have our wallets ready. It didn’t make the launch window, and the smart move would be to wait until the Diablo fever dies down, so my guess is Warrior’s Lair will, at the earliest, be a dungeon romp for the 2012 holiday season.