Nine months ago, the legacy of LAIR begun. Announced as a launch title for the Playstation 3, the hype around this game was tremendous. As we all know, the launch of the PS3 came and went, and LAIR was nowhere to be seen. Several months later, it resurfaced again, this time, for a July 07 release. The game was then pushed to the end of August, then September. At the last minute, it was thrown back up for release on August 31st and most of the gaming industry had no idea. Some retailers such as Wal-Mart and Circuit City didn’t release the title until September 5th. After so many delays and so much confusion around the launch, was it worth the wait? Here is our review on the most anticipated PS3 title to date.
Toros and Fire and Dragons, Oh My!
You are Rohn, an elite “Burner” for the Ascilians sworn to protect your people and obey the order. Once upon a time, the Ascilians and the Mokai were one people, believing in one god. That was until the volcanoes began to erupt, separating the people into two factions. The Mokai chose to live in the lands filled with fire and ice while the Ascilian people took to the safety of the mountains. The story starts off as the two factions come together to sign a peace treaty. This is interrupted as a mercenary of the Ascilian kills the two leaders and wages an all out war on the Mokai. Your mission is to keep your troops on top of the battle which you accomplish through wiping out troops atop your trusty steed…er…dragon and escorting convoys to safety. The concept of the game is intriguing and you find yourself drawn into the story from the moment you start the game.
Beautiful animations and a terrific storyline make this game stand out from the moment it is placed into your PS3 system, the beauty actually starts before that. The packaging of the game is gorgeous as well with awesome cover art and the all rare, full-color manual (although several words and phrases are mistyped as if converted from Chinese or something like that). Your initial flight gives you several training options to teach you how to maneuver and fight with your dragon. I highly recommend you take advantage of this as controls can be cumbersome in the game. The story line is intriguing and draws you into the world that Rohn lives.
The game is beautiful to say the least, but it does have a few drawbacks. During some intense action scenes, namely those that deal with explosions, there is a noticeable drop in frame rates. You can catch some occasional clipping and squared edges every now and again too. Other than that, the game is beautiful, with stunning landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see with no hazing whatsoever. The dragons have been detailed with the upmost care and respond with very lifelike grim in battles and sequences. The FMV’s are smooth and fast running and always leave you ready for your next mission. The games ability to draft 100’s of AI opponents on screen with no slow down is awesome to say the least. The game also features a slow-mo kill mode when you maul your enemy on ground battles that gives an added kick-assness (Yes, I have added to the english dictionary) to the title.
The musical score in the game is brilliant and is nothing more than perfection, nor is it less. Action scenes can come and go in the blink of an eye and the music keeps up the pace giving a heart pounding experience with each new battle. The sound effects are crisp and timely. I have read some other reviews on this title which state that the game suffers a few mishaps in the sound effects area, however during our 8+ hour test, we found no mishaps in our 7.1 Denon/Bose combination. The audio here is top knotch and engrosses you in the world that is LAIR.
Lair integrates full use of the SixAxis controller’s motion sensors bringing your dragon flying, fireball throwing, Toro kicking ass whoops to life. Flight controls are flawless, once you get used to the scheme however, targeting enemies and objectives become overwhelming very quickly. The targeting system in Lair works like this, you get an enemy in site, a white circle, or “spot-light” highlights your target. Then, you press R1 or L1 to lock on to the target, from there; you can shoot fireballs at it, or swoop in to attack it firsthand. If you have filled your RAGE meter, which is done by killing lots of enemies as brutally as possible, you can perform a special attack in which you engage in a God of War style attack sequence. The sequences are fun to watch but integrating the motion controls instead of button presses is tedious and often unresponsive causing the death of your character. The targeting is difficult as well since the computer chooses your nearest target for you and gives no option for toggling to other targets. This is problematic since in most missions, you have to target a certain enemy in a timely manner. For instance, in the 4th mission, you have to defend a bridge filled with enemy troops and hordes of Ice dragons. As the level progresses, the dragons drop “Toros” (a bull like creature that mauls and plows though your lines) onto the bridge. The concept is easy enough to grab the toros and throw them off the bridge, but with all the other dragons and troops looming about, it is hard to target the creature when dragons fly in your path and your character chases them instead. The overall feel of the game is great; even with its weaknesses and just flying around is fun and enchanting. Later mission will have you pulling teeth trying to target your enemies accordingly and then following through with the kill.
This game holds its own in innovation and design. Although game play can be frustrating, you can’t help but want to keep playing, even an earlier level. The boys at Factor 5 have integrated an award system as well as an online leader board into the game that will have you striving for higher scores on each level. There are three medals available on each level, gold, silver and bronze, each unlocks either a new combo move, or extra content on the disk, like the “making of” trailer and concept art. Even with all the unlockable content, this game really is a onetime play. After you complete the game, there is not a lot that will draw you back unless you feel the need to crawl up the leader boards, which seem to freeze the game up occasionally, hopefully this will be fixed in a patch in the near future.