Lord of Arcana Review
As bothersome as the "warp to battle" method is, the fighting is actually pretty entertaining. Aided by the lock-on ability, the combat takes place in a 360 degree sphere around the targeted enemy. You've got access to combos, a special attack or two, a block/dodge move, some magic (depending on your weapon choice) and a finisher, which is triggered by an on-screen prompt. A longer QTE accompanies each boss monster, and both major and minor QTEs work well. A nice addition is the evolving of your fighting style as you gain levels, but from what I saw these changes are mostly cosmetic; the battles all come down to attack, block, move, attack, attack, block, finishing move. Also bothersome is when you begin the game (after you lose your powers post-intro), even the most minor of goblins have what I call an "Adventures of Bayou Billy (an old, forgotten NES game)" tolerance to pain; they barely flinch when attacked and only a severe pummeling and dozens of direct hits will bring them down (If you played Bayou Billy, you remember the enemies in that game needed to be punched in amounts that would disintegrate an actual human's face before they were knocked over). Like I said before, though, this isn't a game for someone looking for fun combat only. You'll end up fighting the same monsters over and over and, aside from weapon changes and prettier combos, the battles are the same in hour one as they are in hour 100.
The bosses in Lord of Arcana are a little more varied and interesting. Like in the Monster Hunter titles, you'll be able to target certain parts of the bosses in order to salvage certain materials. Wings, horns, feet, eyes… all is fair game and all will aid in your quest to build that next best set of armor or weapons. The bosses also have the not-publicized-enough pedigree of being designed by some of today's top fantasy artists, both Japanese and otherwise. Todd MacFarlane's boss is instantly recognizable as his work, and others also bring to mind games and designers you might not know by name, but will pick out nonetheless.
And speaking of those bosses, the game sets up your biggest fights by having you enter a temple where you'll have to select a glowing stone to start the mission. This gives the player a feeling of separation between the normal and boss missions, and it trivializes all the areas where you'll be fighting with the rank-and-file baddies. I hate to keep bringing up Monster Hunter, but that series' method works much better. Each and every mission in Capcom's games is a life-or-death situation, with normal and boss missions interspersed with one another and nothing to set them apart. And in Monster Hunter, the best items could only be carved off boss monsters, meaning you'd have to brush up your skills enough to bring them down multiple times. In Lord of Arcana, you just end up playing and replaying easier missions until you are tough enough for that next boss, and collecting items from low tier enemies becomes a boring chore with very little skill involved. That's not to say the simple grinding is a game-breaker, but slaying your 1,000th goblin doesn't hold the same feeling of amazing accomplishment that bringing down a Khezu – and seeing it get easier as you build your character – does.
The bosses' other main weakness comes in that most are just too difficult to defeat when playing alone. Ok, wait… Don't freak out over that just yet. Remember, I'm a Monster Hunter alum as well, and I know the difference between "too hard" and "maybe I just suck." Monster Hunter's most difficult beasties were usually fallible in one way or another, and practice ALWAYS made perfect (Damn you, Tigrex… damn you…). Lord of Arcana's bosses are too hard in that they were made to be tackled by multiple hunters, and going at it alone just isn't a fair fight. Practice will help with some of the larger monsters, but as you near the end of the game you'll be deadlocked without a few friends to help out.
Which brings us to Lord of Arcana's largest fault, a fault I'm not usually so quick to point out: The lack of online multiplayer. I'm no fan of multiplayer games, online or off, but this game was designed to be one you'd conquer with friends. Without true online multiplayer (there is ad-hoc, but how useful is that these days, really?), Lord of Arcana's single player campaign becomes too difficult for its own good, and a game that was obviously meant to be enjoyed as a multiplayer one leaves out the most important modern component – true online capabilities with matchmaking, friend lists, etc.
As amazing as having a lock-on option is, it just can't save Lord of Arcana from the depths of mediocrity. The "warp battles," lack of online play, a slightly boring grind system and some just plain weird design and control choices keep this one from being great. If you were looking for a successor to the Monster Hunter throne, Lord of Arcana just doesn't measure up. Maybe Gods Eater will fare better when it comes out in March. In fact, after putting in a good amount of hours, all Lord of Arcana left me with was a burning desire to pick up Monster Hunter Freedom Unite again. My wife is not pleased with this development.
Final Rating: 55%.