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Review: Lair

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Lair Box Art

These last few days I had the chance to check out Lair for the PS3. Even though it’s received notoriously bad reviews, I started up my PS3 with the intent of playing an enjoyable and challenging game. Unfortunately, I found that there was a fine line between challenging and frustrating. Not only does Lair cross that line, but it kicks it in the junk as it passes.

There are so many things that prevent this game from becoming a gem. It’s rather sad, actually. I mean, come on… Who doesn’t love dragons? But for some reason the creators of Lair decided to make some decisions that don’t make a lot of sense. Seriously, “What the Hell?” was the most common phrase I uttered while playing.

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First off, you start the game on the ground and not riding your dragon. You hit triangle to mount the dragon, fly upwards, and start a minor training mission. Do you really have to make us mount the dragon at the beginning? From what I can tell, you fly your dragon the entire game. Why even have the option of being unmounted if you aren’t going to do anything?! It doesn’t add much realism to the game and pretty much taunts us with something that could have added more to the game, but didn’t get developed far enough.

Next, the controls aren’t what they should be. You fly your dragon by tilting the controller in the direction you wish to go. Normally this would be fine with me, but it conflicts with some of the other controls. In order to perform the speed boost forward, you have to jerk the controller downwards. So, when you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you’ll end up doing your speed boost towards the ground and/or water. But you’ll find that only slightly irritating after you try to do a quick 180 flip backwards. You have to jerk the controller upwards to do it and the game will either respond like you are only tilting the controller up or perform a speed boost. Lovely. So instead of heading in the direction you need to go, you’ll more than likely be farther away from your goal. Why they didn’t make these moves activate on a button press is beyond me.

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What further highlights the crappy controls are the mission objectives. I found myself failing the mission several times in a row. Not because I died but because I couldn’t actually do what they wanted me to do in time. If it’s not a protection mission, then it’s killing certain enemies before they do too much damage. Time based missions drive me insane and are nothing more than poor attempts to increase the difficulty level, in my opinion. Even in my frustration, I can handle 1 or 2 of these missions in a game, but to have them back to back several times in a row is just inexcusable to me.

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That being said, it’s not like this game is total junk. It has some moments that show us what this game could have been: Awesome. The amount of action going on at once can be impressive. A variety of enemies, as well as allies, can occupy a single mission and really gives you the sense of war. Really, it’s just a step below Lord of the Rings in terms of epic wars. Not only that, but there are certain things that can just make your day. If you target an enemy rhino, you can actually rip it’s head off and throw it at other enemies! At times, I’ll land in the middle of a massive group of ground troops and encircle the area in flames just to make myself feel better. And I do. I really do.

The visuals in this game are incredible. The models are well detailed, facial animations are great, and environments are breathtaking. Plus, the boss fight with the leviathan-like dragon will impress any graphics enthusiast.

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The sound seemed to be fairly well done all around. Voice acting was decent, sound effects were excellent. The only part that failed for me was the repetitious reminders of your objectives and when something bad happens. I was never told something I didn’t already know and it only added to the annoyance factor of the game.

So, in the end, what do we have here? A tragic story. Not of 2 waring societies, but of a game that didn’t live up to it’s potential. Poor (and sometimes unresponsive) controls, linear gameplay, and a high level of frustration ruined what could have been an excellent game. Here’s hoping this can be fixed for Lair 2.

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