Lords of… *loading*.
So, let me ask you, dear GR reader, a question: Do you like pointless grindfests? Can you appreciate exploring the same dungeon multiple times – by force, not by choice – to collect roses and fight multiple incarnations of the same monster over and over again?
[image1]Usually early on in a review, I talk about the story or the characters, but both seem to be absent here. I suppose the whole point is that you are the chosen one and you are responsible for taking back control of the arcana, but there isn't anything more than that. Fight, defeat guardians, repeat… that's all there is to it. I could really be quoting from Nick's preview for the game, as everything was covered there thoroughly enough. But just to be more specific, the whole game is based around quests. Pick up a quest, take down the bounty, and beef up your equipment to take down the next quest. And every quest has a timer… typically a half-hour is given, but I have yet to find it necessary to take that long.
I've only played a short amount of Monster Hunter, so I don't know how this compares in the long run, but as a quest-based "adventure" the game feels bland and too straightforward. There isn't much diversity in the missions, mostly just "collect this" and "kill that". While these missions are a good starting point, it doesn't evolve much from button-mash attacking and defending.
After missions, you can upgrade your weapons and armor and all that, even create new weapons from the five weapon types, but some just feel absolutely useless. Bastard swords and great axes feel exactly the same in play: big, slow, powerful, but useless against anything and anyone that can attack within what feels like a minute it takes to swing. It's not just a notable difference in the weapons; it's a huge "you're completely defenseless against a lot of enemies" problem.
[image2]Oh, and speaking of waiting, every time you create, enhance, or even equip, you're forced to wait sometimes a full minute before you can even return to the menu screen. In a word: boring. Waiting for a new questing area, but unless you install to your memory card, good luck doing anything fast in LoA. Loading weapons, items, enemies, areas, areas within areas – half the time spent "playing" is waiting for the game to hand control back to the player.
It's a good thing the game is sorta pretty, so it's not a complete waste. The visuals reminds me a lot of Crisis Core's, both in fluidity and in detail. Faces and clothing are clean and clear, which shows Square-Enix ability to make beautiful characters on any hardware they work on. Even the bad guys are drawn with some bright colors and clean faces, which is good because you find yourself fighting the same figures repeatedly. Even the bosses are available to fight again, and some of them are damn pretty… especially when they start spouting blood when they're injured.
This is a pretty odd game because it's easy to sink a lot of time into, even if you don't want to. For a portable game, it's a time sink that shouldn't be because there's really nothing to it but the pure grind. If you have friends, it can be a fun distraction by playing ad hoc with up to three friends on a single mission. But with as long as some of the missions can be, I can't see anyone playing very often with anyone else. Still, issues aside, if you live for the grind, more power to ya… but you're not going to have too much company here.