In the land of Horodyn, named after its first King, you are a new Slayer, on a mission to prove yourself worthy of harnessing the power of the Arcana. But for what purpose? And to what end? What powers will be bestowed upon you?
These questions and many more will be answered as you travel through the world of Horodyn. But the most important question of all would be: Is this game worth playing?
Lord of Arcana is a game about a hero, or Slayer, who has made a pact with the gods to quest for the power of Arcana and restore balance to the world. It is a third person action RPG that features a mix of real time battles and quick-time events ranging from the Coup de Grace, a quick way of finishing off a lesser enemy in a stylish manner, to the Melee Duels which are a combination of attacks that deal a large amount of damage to a single enemy.
The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Once you create a new game save, you will be able to create your "avatar" with a limited number of feature changes including skin color, hair style and color, and a selection of faces. You then also choose from a selection of weapon classes. Here's a brief description of each:
One Handed Sword – This weapon allows you to deliver blows to your opponent quickly, but it has the trade-off of also dealing the least damage. However, the two advantages are that you can carry a shield, and that it is easier to stagger your opponent, keeping them from dealing return damage.
Mace – More powerful than the swords, you have the trade off of not being able to use a shield. Attacks are slower with this weapon as well, which can leave you vulnerable to attacks in between swings.
Two Handed Sword – This is your middle of the road weapon. Attacks are a little bit slower than the One-Handed Sword, but faster than the Mace.
Polearm – A weapon that delivers a devastating amount of damage, but is also very slow.
Firelance – A ranged weapon that seems good for being in a group of other players, or in a single player game as long as there aren't many enemies. But if you get a decent number of monsters on the field, you might have trouble.
Battles are initiated by contacting enemies that you run across during quests and missions. You have the ability to catch an enemy off guard and initiate an Ambush attack. This gives you an additional attack boost to your character that deals more damage. However, if an enemy sneaks up on you, this will initiate a Surprise attack in which your defense will be reduced.
You have your basic attack that you can chain into combos by repeatedly hitting the square button. There are also heavier melee attacks, spells, and as you progress further in the game, guardian summons. One summon that you are introduced to early in the game is actually Bahamut of Final Fantasy fame.
The biggest problem with the actual control of the game comes from the camera controls. They are handled by the directional pad on the left instead of the left and right shoulder buttons which are used to lock on to an enemy and dash respectively. For a third person game where quick, accessible camera controls, or at least the ability to lock the camera in a position behind the character at all times would be greatly welcome. Unfortunately, the game has neither of these. This can add a bit of frustration when you're dungeon crawling, or level grinding, as you'll frequently be fumbling between the analog stick and the directional buttons to navigate the map. Fortunately, this is a fairly small frustration as you have the ability to lock on to enemies while in battle which makes things much easier to handle.
Once you have completed the tutorial level you find yourself in the Arayd Temple; a shrine to the Arcana. The locals of the village; small flying creatures know as the Veddel folk inform you that you need to regain your strength if you are to be worthy of the Arcana. In order to do so, you need to register with the local guild and start picking up quests.
Once you've registered with the local guild hall, you can purchase items, have items created from loot you pick up on your quests and store your items in a local storage facility (Much like the Xunlai agents in Guild Wars). Also available is the ability to enter multiplayer instances. This allows you to team up with other players over the PlayStation Network for missions that are available from the guild. Unfortunately, the few times that I've tried to find a party, no parties could be found to link up with. So that was a little disappointing.
Another issue that arises with having multiplayer instances is the inability to pause the game. This is understandable in the multiplayer instances; however, the lack of this feature is also evident in the single player instances. While I think it's a fantastic feature to having multiplayer so closely attached to the single player experience, this is the second game that I've reviewed in recent history where basic functions like this have been sacrificed to accommodate the multiplayer experience.
Another annoyance I experienced was in the first quest you receive after your training exam. The quest involves fighting goblins and collecting five red gems. What the quest objective fails to tell you is that you need to place these gems in a container at the beginning of the level; else the gems will not count towards the objective score. Time will run out and you will fail the quest. Thinking that this was a bug, I did some Googling to find out what was actually needed in order to complete the quest.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically the game is on-par with Crisis Core, but there are a lot more dialogue-based cut scenes than I like to see in a game this modern. The movie cut scenes are top notch. Sound wise, this game is gorgeous, taking full advantage of the superior sound that comes out of the PlayStation portable.
I would have liked to have seen more cut scenes that involve voice acting as opposed to text based cut scenes, but that's more of a personal preference and it may simply have not been in their budget. The few scenes that do have voice acting are fairly well done. Dialogue is handled by the actors well, and doesn't sound like a second grader trying to read Hamlet.
This is where the cookie crumbles for me with Lord of Arcana. What little of the story that you are given in the beginning is just about enough to know and understand that there is an actual plot to the game beyond killing monsters, leveling up, and "harnessing the power of Arcana"; However, there isn't enough to keep someone like yours truly who appreciates a game for a good solid story as well as good game play and graphics.
I just think there should have been a little bit more effort taken to flesh out a solid plot. One of the things that I've enjoyed the most (and subsequently have missed in recent years) from JRPGs is the rich, involving, epic stories that come with a good game. This is something that Square-Enix is well known for, but their outsourced developers seem to be lacking.
The game isn't bad, but there are some hang-ups that can make the game somewhat annoying. The worst offenders being the poor camera controls and the lack of a pause feature in the single player game. While I can partly forgive the developers on the control scheme (the PSP really isn't best for a third or first person game), I can't forgive them for omitting some very basic, necessary functions.
As far as story is concerned, I really think it's high time that Square-Enix take a good look at their outsourced development houses and either show them what it takes to make a good, involved game, or kick them to the curb. Until then, I can only say that while this game is fun for the most part, I'd wait until it hits the bargain bin on Amazon or GameStop before I'd recommend picking it up.