Factor 5 and Sony bring the world voracious dragons and medieval conflict into a challenging battle for the sky. "Rise from Lair" in Japan or just "Lair" for the rest of us, finally arrives to be prodded at from media critics. Tilting our way through hours of gameplay this giant beast won’t go down easy. It is time to climb on the scales of the PS3 long awaited dragon slayer, Lair.
Game critics have been swooped up in a little bit of nit picking controversy concerning the overall consensus of game reviews for Lair. The origin of the complaints are coming from the Sony camp claiming it’s not important for critics to get Lair, it’s the general gamer who needs to love this game. This statement is true, but common all game critics can’t be that bad. The controversy comes down to opinion and since we’re all in this for the good of the game, lets see what’s inside this game pressed Blu-Ray disc.
Bringing up the above point, I’m really not looking forward to passing on another negative mark towards Lair, but it might be out of my control. Lair isn’t a total bust, but it also isn’t the epitome of gaming gold like Factor 5 was leading us to believe. Like other criticisms it comes down to the controls and basic game mechanics. Lair doesn’t feel much different from any standard flying games, just take out the dragons and slap in some planes. In battle you’ll have to deal with sea snakes, menacing rival dragon riders and other hostile enemies as you tilt the Sixaxis controller around in a panic to survive wave after wave. Lair tries hard and for the most part succeeds in its presentation, storyline, and game ideas; it’s the other area of the actual game construction that can’t keep up with its other respectable assets.
The big deal with Lair is the controls which on one level work, and on the other level becomes frustrating and annoying. In Lair you get to use the under utilized PS3 tilt controls of the Sixaxis controller. Learning to move around using the Sixaxis and perform some special moves like the 180 degrees spin come easy and are taut to the player early on. In basic cruising Lair feels good with the controls easing into your hand feeling intuitive and smooth. Performing jerky movements are the hardest part to get down with Lair and sometimes you’ll have it and then other times the Sixaxis is unresponsive. Nerveless, the controls seem to work until the battle starts and you have to use the motion controls to win battles in the air against ground and air based enemies. This is when the frustration sets in and Lair little problems become big problems. Locking on to enemies and doing battle with overcrowded enemies in the sky is chaos and basically comes down to luck.
Lair can be one confusing game during battles and the constant shifting, turning and attacking gets jumbled up and rarely becomes fun. Even when you start to get the controls nailed, Lair still feels a little unbalanced and glitchy which goes beyond the novelty of the PS3 controller. Lairs problems are deeper then the Sixaxis which falls over to gameplay issues of bad targeting mechanics, game objectives, and overall feeling of the game battles. Lair wants is a little too ambitious and confuses itself and the gamer with clutter. Swooping around trying to get the right target locked on, defending yourself and attacking all with the tilt controls of the PS3 can be a little overwhelming especially in the scale Lair wants to perceived. The entire time I spent with Lair didn’t ever seem to click which was a shame because besides the game mechanics I was enjoying the games premise and storyline.
For particulars Lair is a world of kingdoms divided by the threat of volcanoes that are destroying the land. This causes two kingdoms, the Mokai and Asylians to wage war against other to claim each others valuable resources. Your put in control of a dragon rider named Rohn. As Rohn you will fight for your kingdom defending it with your life, as well as strategically attacking at destroying their forces. This is woven through a dramic filter with supporting characters and an epic feeling of struggle and war. If you manage to stick with Lair the story is rewarding as it unfolds, Factor 5 also gives players other rewards like metal ratings (gold, silver, bronze) and online leader boards to gauging your performance on the battle field.
I find it surprising that Lair failed to make the mark that Factor 5 wanted to achieve, especially when they had a created two excellent flying games for the gamecube, Rouge Squadron II and III. While painfully testing myself during the game I found it strange that the best moments was when I had to land and use my dragon to crush the enemies’ forces on the ground. Lair is all about the air combat and when that doesn’t work your in trouble. If Lair is more intuitive then I discovered then maybe my gaming skills are slipping. I know Sony wants us reviewers to “open your mind and hands for something different” and that’s what I did. This doesn’t mean Lair is automatically golden. Lair seems like a huge undertaking that couldn’t materialize in the end, and this becomes a little disappointing for everyone, the gamer, the developer and the publishers hopes. In the future I would still like to see something taken and remixed from Lair because it’s a winning formula that could have been much more.
Lair supporting 1080 progressive scan is impressive, cinematic, and sonically impactful. If you could forget all the other areas that pull Lair down you would have a true champion if was up to the graphics and sound. Sure some issues come up that deal with framerate chugging and background textures looking dulled, overall Lair looks great and sounds even better sporting 7.1 surround sound. I was impressed with the quality of the audio score, this meaning the composed soundtrack. The voice work, sound effects are quality, but the John Debney composed soundtrack is the highlight.
After researching Debney, I now understand why the soundtrack is so exceptional. Debney is an Oscar nominated composer who has done a range of Hollywood movies including the nominated Passion of the Christ, and television scores for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation. If you have a chance to look him up and check out some of his compositions. It’s cool to see him lending his talent to the gaming industry, trust me on this one, it helped boost up Lairs production level and portray a since of importance to the setting, storyline and gameplay.
Back to the graphics, Lair has moments that are stunning with large environments that seem to span miles, a rich and detailed world, and some creative creature designs. Lair epic feeling and grand visual style seems like it was designed to be more of a visual movie masterpiece then a game. If you watching someone play Lair you might be enjoying the experience a little more than the player.
Lair potential never materializes into a cohesive gameplay experience. What could have been ultra cool, flying battling dragons becomes cold. Lair has a few moments that shine and then the clouds of the controls and cluttered battles cover up the promising sky. Lair is one of those games that will have to be played to understand because the game sounds too awesome to not be good. If you’re hell bent on flying with Lair, rent it first, and see if you have the dexterity, patience and will to live through the medieval battle field in Lair.
Gameplay:5, Graphics/Sound:8, Innovation:6, Mojo: 5 Final: 6 / 10