Guest Author - James Shea
A dragon-based flying game, similar to Drakengard or Panzer Dragoon, "Lair" was touted as the cutting-edge hit for the PS3. Does it measure up?
The story begins in ancient times - a peaceful civilization is wracked by a disaster (a giant eruption of volcanoes). The survivors split into two groups: the peaceful and knowledgable Asylians in the bountiful mountains, and the technological Mokai on the desolate plains. The Mokai attack the Asylians, hoping to take some of their food so their people don't starve to death. After a few battles, it is the hope of both sides that they can come to an agreement, but the Diviner, the spiritual leader of the Asylians, wishes to continue the conflict. Almost from the get-go, Lair has a hamhanded approach to the story - even before the religious leader is shown to be aggressive and bloodthirsty (which occurs pretty early on) the characters make blatant, out-of-character anti-religious statements. The story has some convoluted twists - the assassination of the peace-wanting leaders of each nation in the same meeting by an open agent of the zealotous religious leader leads each side to believe that the other was responsible, despite the fact that a member of each side witnessed the meeting and survived (but, for whatever reason, didn't tell anyone). The story is basically there to justify "red army fights blue army".
The gameplay is probably the worst part of the game. The dragon you ride can breathe fire (either as a stream or as individual blasts) and is "steered" using the motion sensor. However, the controls do not handle particularly well and tend to be overly sensitive - or not enough. The flight is awkward, and the lock-on system only works if the enemy is a short distance directly in front of you (thus making it annoying and useless in a dogfight). Specialized combat sequences include mid-air melees (involving proper button input at close range and a side-swipe subgame when you get close to enemy dragons) and ground attacks (either strafing from the air or landing on the ground and wading into the battle). The controls on almost all of these are clunky and ineffectual, making combat and flight frustrating beyond the limits of fun.
The graphics are a mixed bag: on the one hand, the designs and style are fantastic (viewable through unlockable concept art, most of which is only barely noticeable in the game such as soldiers' armor), but on the other hand the overuse of lighting and bloom makes the backgrounds almost impossible to see most of the time. Sure, it's great when you have fantastic vistas, architecture, and costumes (all with a vague hint of a "Shadow of the Colossus" style), but the combination of the over-exposure to light and the awkward, jerky controls means that nobody will be able to enjoy them. As mentioned, there is a concept art gallery, and the game might be worth playing through just to unlock all of it. In-game, however, it doesn't really seem to matter.
The sound is good, but has such a feeling of being overdone in almost every single way; the music and voice acting both seem so awkwardly familiar, with the same tones and the same musical style as seen in so many other games. It's not bad, but it's just incredibly familiar sounding - in a bad way.
As a whole, this game has one thing going for it: the art. That might be enough in some areas, but since this is supposed to be a game, not a gallery, it doesn't seem particularly forgivable.
This game gets a 4/10.