It's anybody's guess if this is the conclusion of the Arc the Lad series. If it is it's going out with a bang that would rival that of a small firecracker. It's already losing momentum in Japan where it was very popular but Sony has now seen fit to do away with the online servers. Will the same happen here in North America? How the hell do I know? I don't even know what I'm having for supper tonight.

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness is a continuation of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. The series is a RPG which up until now boasted a unique storyline with diverse gameplay elements. End of Darkness realizes that its glory days are in the past and as such was designed to include many of the same locations and characters that appeared in the last game. At least the developers had the good sense of mind to bring something new to the table, even though it looks and smells like roadkill. Hey, isn't it the thought that counts?

Actually the thought never counts when it comes to games. It's reality that matters. I do love the fact that the battle system should be in real time, but the execution of it is another story. Instead of a well developed turn-based system this hack-and-slash combat system suffers from unresponsive controls and animation sequences that continue through the routine even though you are trying to access a different command. Even when you're not already committed to a particular move there is a noticeable delay between command and execution.

It's five years later and the world appears safe and sound. Edda is the playable young exorcist that is in the process of becoming a hunter. He notices a strange young girl that just doesn't seem to belong. As he searches for clues he begins to unravel a new mystery that might shatter the peacefulness of his world and all of its kingdoms.

Edda, like most of the characters in the series, is memorable. To give you a connection to the past you will interact with dozens of your favorite characters from Twilight and see just what they're up to five years later. Fans of the series will find this irresistible. Newcomers will have little interest in these references but fans will be rewarded with other surprises. You can load data from the last game to instantly have access to certain abilities and items from the outset. It's not a huge upgrade but it's better than nothing. Both fans and novices will notice that the storyline is not as deep as the previous one. It's very basic and only serves to explain some of the make-work missions that you'll encounter.

Roaming from village to village there are fetch quests that require lots of backtracking. These missions will help to upgrade you but they do get repetitious after a few hours. You will receive cards that you can use to acquire and upgrade weapons, armors and spells. The game has a very slow start to it but picks up after a couple of hours. Don't give up until you spend at least four hours on it otherwise you're sure to miss out if you dismiss it too early.

Online play offers both co-op and Deathmatch modes which can accommodate up to eight players. The co-op mode still features hundreds of missions with plenty of backtracking but the headsets put a whole new dimension on things. Dungeon crawling has seldom been more fun. There are plenty of goodies to collect. The Deathmatch modes feature teams of four players per side. Unlike the Japanese version the game doesn't suffer from lag online.

There's not much improvement in the graphics, animation or sound. Not that Twilight suffered from any glaring technical issues. It's just too bad the combat system wasn't more fleshed out.

I can't say that this game is going to be a hit but it should keep hardcore RPG fans happy for a few weeks. It's doubtful that it will spawn any new recruits.

Preview by Gooseberry

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness takes place five years after, yet in the same world as Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. Players take the role of Edda, a young man whose youth is marked by a “boring island life”. His serenity is shattered, however, when he meets Kirika, a rude young woman, on the beach. Shortly after, Edda tries to help a hunter capture vicious criminals, but the latter gets killed. Edda notices Kirika standing nearby, and his suspicions begin to grow about the mysterious young woman. Edda who has awakened as a full-fledged exorcist becomes a hunter himself, and realizing a sense of responsibility to save the weakened world, he sets out on a remarkable journey that will ultimately pit civilization against nature.

The first real-time action-style battle system in the Arc the Lad series, Arc the Lad: End of Darkness delivers remarkable battle intensity as players perform real-time combat combos, equip items and cast magic. The series that has been highly successful in Japan returns to the US with an improved upgrade and guild system, all the while a deep storyline unfolds that brings the return of 24 favorite characters in the series, each with his or her own unique weaponry and skills.

Take your favorite single player character online in intense match mode battles with up to 8 players (playing 4-on-4), or in a team-based coop mode where teams of 4 proceed through the missions, search for rare items by defeating enemies in dungeons, and chat live. Online exclusive missions are included for a truly unique online experience.

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System: PS2
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Release: May 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review By Fenix