Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris on PlayStation 4
One would think adapting an anime about an online fantasy game into an actual game would be a recipe for success, especially in the case of Sword Art Online‘s latest cour, Alicization. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, a potentially decent game bogged down by bland and clunky design only fans will have the patience to put up with.
To its credit, the game’s premise follows the plot of the show beat for beat and holds the same potential for success. Protagonist Kirito awakens in the virtual game world of Underworld with no memory of how he got there or how to escape.
He also has memories of living in the world in years prior. Key among these are memories of time spent alongside Alice and Eugeo, two of the world’s AI who he supposedly spent his childhood days with until the former was kidnapped by the world’s rulers.
Desperate to uncover the reason for these strange occurrences – and curious as to whether the world’s rulers may know of a way to return him to the real world – he finds and allies himself with Eugeo, setting out to find Alice and other allies in order to solve the mysteries surrounding him, his memories, and his being in this world.
From there, players are able to explore Underworld as they make their way through the story, taking part in the usual action-RPG fare. Quests can be completed, monsters can be fought, and new party members and abilities can be unlocked to spice up combat.
It’s all presented well enough too, with a 3D spin on the show’s art style that’s a solid and eye-catching aesthetic for an anime game. The music bolsters this, with some decent tracks that fit the mood of almost any environment or epic confrontation.
Unfortunately, this is all for naught once players actually play the game. In execution, the design and mechanics of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris’ gameplay hold it back in most every regard, tanking the whole experience in the process.
The game’s controls carry a constant lack of weight to them, and feel like they register player inputs long after they’ve been made. Something as simple as making Kirito move can be infuriating, as he’ll keep moving past the point where you try to position or move him as if he were constantly on an icy surface.
This can be a nightmare during combat, where the positioning of a character is vital in preventing them from taking too much damage or landing certain attacks. More often then not, a character taking damage will be the result of this delay instead of any action on the player’s part.
The combat as a whole, meanwhile, suffers a myriad of other input issues. Though the game goes for an action-heavy appearance with mechanics like dodging, guarding and special attacks to utilize, the gameplay drifts more towards turn-based while in motion.
Guarding against an incoming enemy ability, or queuing up an attack special or otherwise, will lock players into that action for what feels like an eternity. Not only that, but enemies can pummel players during this time, seemingly operating according to different gameplay rules. This throws the sense of timing needed for the combat mechanics out the window, and can make even a simple combat encounter infuriating.
It is possible to work around these flaws, and when the stars align one can even see what kind of combat system the developers were going for. Even then though, players will come up against the combat’s biggest issue: It’s mind-numbingly boring.
Almost every encounter feels the same, whether players are facing the first tutorial enemies or the final boss. They may look different, and offer a decent aesthetic that ties into the series, but at their core there’s no notable change between them.
A lot of this is due to the aforementioned lack of weight to the controls. No matter how flashy the player’s attacks are or what kind of enemy they find themselves up against, every attack feels like whiffing through the air, falling into the same floaty-ness as the basic character movement.
It serves to turn even the biggest, most bombastic encounter into a bland slog; and, since combat makes up the bulk of the title’s gameplay, it drags out the points in-between story segments to a painful degree.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is, at best, a passable anime game. It has the bones of a decent action adventure title, and offers a decent retelling of its source material’s story, but it’s mechanically bogged down to the point of tedium and exhaustion. Aside from fans of the series, there aren’t many this game could be recommended to unless they’re looking for a flawed and boring ordeal.
- Decent retelling of the Sword Art Online: Alicization anime’s story
- Pleasing graphics and music
- Floaty controls
- Lack of weight to combat
- Boring, repetitive gameplay
July 9, 2020
Bandai Namco Entertainment, Aquria
Bandai Namco Entertainment
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC