September 17, 2007

Filled with religious zealotry and political intrigue, Lair places you in the role of a dragon rider named Rohan who must protect his native Asylia from the invading Mokai. From navigating a sky full of enemy dragons and other bizarre monsters to plowing through opposing armies on the ground, an epic battle rests squarely on your shoulders as you fight past the secrets and blood to find peace for your homeland.

It is hard to review Lair without comparing it to Factor 5’s earlier masterpiece Rogue Squadron; both games share the same inspiration and depth of design while making it accessible to the common gamer. Mission objectives and medal rewards help focus you in each area and level replay constantly challenges you to come back and do better. Add to Rogue a grander feel and stunning graphics, and you have Lair.

Graphics easily set this game apart with stunning detail-laden areas that breathe life in beautiful High-Definition 1080p. Attention to shading and environmental effects abound, whether your eye is drawn to the whipping of the waves or the way the setting sun colors the city, Lair just begs to be visually adored as a work of art. Even the subtle transition from flying above the armies to landing in their midst provokes a sort of awe at the intricacies successfully created.

Levels are separate instances of zones with specific missions and objectives, whether it is protecting a fleet of barges, attacking an enemy outpost or turning the tide of a battle, your score is based on the carnage you inflict; the greater the damage, the greater the rewards which are unlocked. Everything from combos to making-of production movies can be acquired this way, but the real drive is completing a sub-set of tasks to get medals for bragging rights. While it doesn’t sound like much, it earns a lot of replay points in my book as I constantly go back to enjoyable levels to best myself and perfect my score.

The layering doesn’t stop there. In battlegrounds your actions control the morale of your army; the more objectives you complete the more you tilt the scales of war, and there is nothing more addictive than landing a dragon amongst a vulnerable squadron of enemies as you literally plow, swipe and burn your way through their ranks ensuring victory. Dragon to dragon fighting in the sky brings several fighting options as you can ram, shoot fire balls or occasionally get locked in a claw-to-claw match with the enemy as you both plummet towards the ground. Unfortunately, it sounds a lot cooler than it is to actually control.

Ultimately, the game almost falls apart with the mechanics utilized, never capturing the excitement of flight, but rather being bogged down in frustratingly lethargic responses. The use of the SIXAXIS takes the controller beyond anything currently available to the PS3 using the motion sensing technology to control so many aspects of your dragons flight and combat. I purposely held off on updating my Firmware to test the difference the 1.92 update would make, and while there was an increased temperance of sensitivity of motion, the overall mechanics remained slow to reaction. Steering proved the best use of the controller as you accurately move to your target, but other maneuvers seem silly as you slide the controller to the side only to have a pause before your dragon responds by ramming the dragon next to them. Banking in particular was slow and annoying as you constantly find yourself in constricted areas banking around a target you just can’t reach. There were brilliant times that I was caught in the fray and I felt a part of this epic battle, and others where I seemed to be miles away from the action and my slow flying mount would take forever to get back in to the thick of it as my allies were being brutally massacred. Faster flying would have improved a lot of the lethargy and maneuvering issues I experienced.

The targeting flip-flops from being unfair to your enemies to being unfair to you. In the air and on the ground it became an easy kill cheat for some enemies or on the other end of the spectrum a pain in the ass to lock on to a specific object. Much of the time I spent fighting the targeting system, I was missing vital objectives, making it a constant source of agony. The God Of War-inspired timed button mashing sequences were welcome diversions from the rote fighting, but even these became a little tired after some time, especially the dragon versus dragon death drops which almost felt like a high budget paper-rock-scissors match.

While this game may not have lived up to the months of hype it received before its release, it still shows a lot of the potential the PS3 system has to offer. Because of this and multiple other factors, the redeeming qualities out-weigh the negative detractors so it will be a game I keep and play for some time. As enjoyable as it is though, it unfortunately doesn’t perfect all the elements necessary in order to be the next A

Score: 3/5

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