|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Factor 5||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 30, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Lair was a promising idea from developers Factor 5. Unfortunately, the game isn't good and not worth your time or money. I could probably end the review at that except for the fact that a lot of time, hard work, and capital investment went into the title. Therefore, I'll give it its fair shake.
The story centers around the struggle between two peoples, the Asylians and the Morkai. They were once one and the same, but due to fundamental differences they became two distinct cultures. You begin the game as Rohn, a crack, but inexperienced, dragon rider in the Asylian army. Your people are culturally advanced, but shun the use of powered engines. I won't spoil the rest of the story in case you think I'm crazy and go out and buy the game anyway. Suffice it to say that you will participate in large scale battles and specific missions that test your mettle as a dragon rider. It sounds like a pretty good premise, right? I'll admit it's not bad. Sadly, the premise is as good as gets. In fact, the epic setting is what will sucker gamers into purchasing the poorly crafted title. I don't blame them; who wouldn't want to ride a dragon around and wreak havoc on invading armies? However, there are two glaring flaws that undermine both the story and the gameplay. They include the shallow nature of the dragons and the horrendous control issues.
The dragons in the title are a dime a dozen. Make that a penny a score. All the mystique and intrigue surrounding dragons is completely lost in this game. Dragons are nothing more than mindless mounts, every bit as common and mundane as horses are on a medieval battlefield. This really hurts the epic feel of the title. I've got a feeling that the developers aren't fantasy nerds (if that's possible!). The dragons in this game are about as cool as Eragon. Give us Smaug!
Even if the dragons were fewer and cooler, the control scheme is totally unmanageable. You'll clumsily fly around using the meager motion controls of the Sixaxis. Note to developers: The PS3 ain't the Wii! This game would have been decent if the analog controls were an option. Unfortunately, they are not, so you will have to futz around with the motion controls and the automatic targeting system all game long. I tried on several occasions not to use the auto-targeting. Alas, it was impossible to get a decent bead on the enemies due to the poor controls. As a result, you will have to target your way from dragon to dragon in a mindless and unchallenging pasting of your victims. Additionally, there is no sense of speed and agility. There is nothing to keep your interest here. You might as well be flying a biplane. In fact, this game feels and controls like a mediocre WWI flight simulator rather than a heroic journey atop an amazing and lethal beast.
The graphics are very nice, but not jaw dropping. In fact, ground fodder, I mean ground units, are nearly indistinguishable one from another. The backgrounds and textures are all incredibly rendered, but the foreground seems to be lacking somewhat. The overall impression of the visuals is that of being immensely pretty when taken on the whole, if not amazing. The musical score is another matter. The orchestral soundtrack is beautiful and does well to set what should have been the tone of the game. I thought the voice acting was rather poor. The actors sound sufficiently talented, but the dialogue employed was amateurish at best. As a result, the actors sound stiff and uninterested because the words simply do not flow together well. All in all, the setting is the least of the game's worries. If the gameplay would have been as fun and interesting as the sights and sounds are breathtaking, this would have been a great game. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
There is a decent amount of extra content right out of the box. There are no online modes, however. A lack of online play does not really hinder gameplay though. I'm not sure how multiplayer content would help to make it better. Conceivably, if the gameplay was fun, you could have some kind of dragon on dragon battles both in the air and on the ground. As I said before though, I don't think online play was necessary. I did like the "making of" videos and artwork. I would encourage other PS3 titles to also include a behind the scenes look into the creative inspiration and monumental effort that goes into the development process. Believe it or not, I think it helps to endear the consumer to the product, and unlockable extras make for meaningful gameplay and a sense of accomplishment.
In conclusion, this is not the game it was supposed to be. I know the developers would love to have a second chance. I hope Lair will serve as warning and a lesson to other developers to avoid the same pitfalls. Gameplay and storyline trump graphics and sounds everyday of the week. Unfortunately, the story is predictable and the gameplay is tedious. Lair is a classic example of form over function. What a major let down. I thought my PS3 was moving up in my gaming world, unhappily it remains media center dressing, not much better than a Blue Ray capable paper weight.
CCC Freelance Writer