Review by katastrophie
"Are you a Lord of Arcana?"
Square-enix comes into the fray of multiplayer focused grinders with Lord of Arcana, a fantasy action rpg hoping to be as successful as the other games in it's category. Will it succeed?
You were once a Lord of Arcana but you've lost your power, so now you must regain your strength. That's pretty much it, it's not really interesting but it's nice they tried to put some effort in it if only a little.
As you start up your copy of LoA you're prompted with the character creation menu. Here you can make a male or female, alter you hair, face, and accessories using pre-made options. When you've done all of that you can choose a weapon to begin with and then you're off on your adventure.
The game first pits you into an overpowered version of yourself, at level 45, with powerful equipment and abilities. This stage acts as the tutorial stage and guides you along, teaching you how to fight, use items, and the battle mechanics. At the end of the stage you fight a boss, kill it and then your power is stripped from you. Now this is where the real game starts. You end up in the main town where you can buy or craft weapons and items, equip weapons or abilities, store items or choose quests to go on.
The town has a few NPCs littered around that tell you various tips to help you get started. Other NPCs have their own personality and have funny conversations. The interesting part about the town is that every time you complete a boss battle the the NPCs will move around and have different dialogue, so they have some life in them.
Questing is how you progress in LoA. Quest objectives can be gathering items and delivering them, killing a certain amount of enemies or killing a boss monster. If you are successful with your quest you are rewarded with money, items, and guild points which increase your guild rank. Guild ranks are needed to access higher level quests, the higher the rank the more quests you can partake. Once you complete certain quests and gain the appropriate guild rank you are able to take a special quest, which is basically a boss quest. Once you finish the boss quest you can gain access to the next chapter of new quests. After that you keep repeating the process till you finish the game. This process doesn't feel tedious since the quests are quite varied and you'll end up exploring new areas fairly quickly.
Lord of Arcana is an action game so you have full control of your character in and out of battle. After you pick a quest and are out in the wastes you will see enemies on the map minding their own business, until you come a long. To initiate the battle you must hit the enemy or run up close to it. If you hit it with your weapon or run up from behind the monster you'll get an advantage which grants you a boost in attack, but if you get hit by the enemy you get a disadvantage in which your defense is lowered for the duration of the battle. Getting the advantage helps out tremendously, an enemy that takes you two minutes to kill might fall in less than a minute but consequently if you get a disadvantage you might find yourself in trouble.
When you attack an enemy or it attacks you a battle starts. Here you are placed in a giant circle with you an the enemy/ies. To escape the battle you have to run to the edge of the circle and an escape meter will start to rise, once the bar is full you can escape, and try to get the advantage of the enemy. In combat you are able to use your abilities or "battle artes" by pressing triangle, you can also dodge, block and use magic. You can also lock onto the enemy by holding L but you must keep it held or else the lock on will go away. This can get annoying since you end up holding L for the duration of the fight and some fights can get long. When you hit the enemy you feel like you are doing damage, it has an impact to each hit you deliver along with the occasional squirting of blood. Blocking and dodging is how you'll survive a fight because the enemies hit hard and they don't hold back. If you're getting pummeled you can use items to help you out. Pressing select brings up the usable item screen, from there you can pick whatever you need, a potion, defense enhancer etc. If you die you get 2 more chances, you can increase the number of chances by having items called sacrifice charms in your inventory, these automatically revive you when you fall in battle. You can only hold 3 sacrifice charms, so in total you can be revived 5 times. But of course you don't want to die that's why timing strikes and looking at enemy patterns come into play so you know when to attack and retreat and repeat the process till it's dead. As an enemy nears death and while you are locked on the camera will tilt to an angle, if you keep hitting the enemy a prompt will come up for you to press circle doing so will let your character do a finisher. Finishers are different on every enemy type, it's exciting to see what the finisher is on a new enemy, but it can get dull after seeing a goblin being swung around and slammed to the ground for the hundredth time. Finishing a monster makes the kill seem much more gratifying and fits well into the game. You can also do finishers on bosses but it is a bit different. When the boss is weak you'll enter a melee dual in which a scene shows you doing devastating attacks on the boss. During the melee dual button prompts will come up similar to games like god of war when doing kills. It's exciting to watch the first time but after that you'll just want to skip it. As you level up your weapons you gain access to more attacks and battle artes, so fighting doesn't get overly boring. Magic and summons also adds more variety to the combat. You can shoot a fireball or summon Bahamut to wipe everything off the face of the planet, up to you.
Enemies can either be easy, hard or simply annoying. An enemy named Griffon not only has high hp and attack but constantly flies around making you unable to hit it until it lowers for a few seconds. They all have their patterns, so figuring them out and utilizing them can make the difference in a fight.
After you make your character you can still customize him/her by changing their face by talking to a person in town or getting cool looking armor. But in gameplay terms you can also level them up and level their weapons and armor. You level up by killing enemies and when you do all it increases is HP. To level up your weapon and magic you must use them in battle. You gain weapon proficiency as you attack and use abilities and magic proficiency when your magic hits the target. Leveling the weapon and magic proficiency grants you new and noticeably stronger abilities. You feel constantly rewarded when you level up since you notice the difference it makes.
In order to make you character a formidable combatant you must outfit him/her with the proper weapons, armor and magic. But to be able to get them you must first venture out into the world to gather items and kill enemies so they drop their materials for you to use. When you get the appropriate materials you can talk to the crafter in town and he'll make the equipment for you. You can also get rarer materials known as cores. Cores are gained from killing enemies when arcana is active. When you are exploring the area you are in you will sometimes be prompted with a message saying "You sense a presence of arcana". Unfortunately this prompt seems to be a random occurrence and picks random areas on the map, so if you need a specific enemy core your going to have to hope the enemy you want is in the arcana area. If you kill an enemy in that area upon death you'll be presented with a scene showing the enemy levitated and consumed by an aura. Two things can happen, the enemy gets destroyed or it gets refined into a core. The rate of getting a core seems to be random, sometimes you can kill 5 enemies in an arcana zone and get nothing sometimes you'll always get one. This also happens on bosses, and when you don't get a core after fighting for 10 or more minutes you feel a little crushed on the inside. But hey this is a grinder so you go out and fight it again. One problem about gathering items is that you'll get too much. You only have 16 items slots, and mostly 2 are reserved for potions and revivals, so you'll find yourself having to discard items a lot. For a person who likes to gather everything they see in sight this is a little bit disappointing, I don't want to discard my 16 ragged cloths for a silver ore, but I will. Getting cores isn't a big deal but the scene where they get levitated or "harvested" gets to be very annoying to see every time, I just want to get my core or not, I don't want to waste 10 seconds watching the corpse of the enemy get changed, especially if there are more enemies to kill.
You get 5 weapons, one-handed sword, two-handed sword, maces, axes, and the firelance. Each weapon has their own advantages and disadvantages but what it comes down to is speed vs power. For example the one-handed sword will allow you to run faster in and out of battle but will have lower attack, whereas the axe will slow you down considerably but have a much higher attack. Each weapon can gain abilities unique to them, they each have their own individual feeling. The firelance is the only projectile weapon and takes some getting use to, at higher levels it can become a more threat to enemies. When you go to create a weapon you can choose to buy one from scratch or enhance your current weapon. When you enhance your weapon it will either make a stronger version or create new weapons. These new weapons generally cost lest and use less materials than buying them from scratch. But you can't see what new weapons it will be created into unless you get the items for it, and the game doesn't tell you what items your need for them either. So you need to hope you have gotten an item that's used in it's production and then it'll show up. It's not all about weapons though you also can get armor which will increase your defensive stats, and they also make your character look pretty cool. Armors have slots on them in which you can assign orbs to put in their place. You'll start out with armors with one slot or no slots but as you venture on you'll find armors with 2 or more. Orbs are items that give you special skills, such as increased attack by 5%, increase luck, or give the ability able to see enemy weak spots. The more slots you have the more orbs you can put on, depending on what orbs you choose you can make your character much stronger so they are worth getting. There are also magic cards and summon cards to obtain. These cards grant you access to be able to cast magic and summons. Magic can range from fire, thunder, light, dark etc. Summons are gained from defeating boss monsters and they grant you their strength in battle.
In Lord of Arcana you can team up with up to 4 players over an adhoc connection to complete quests. These quests are the same in single player but have slight changes to them. There will be a lot more enemies online than it's single player counterpart. When you initiate a battle, there will be usually 2 enemies and when you fell one another enemy might show up, this is to balance the fact that you have teammates with you. Fighting enemies online is much more easier since you and your teammates will be constantly pummeling the enemy. Bosses get to be easier online also. When you initiate a melee dual each of the members in your party participates. So if your having a hard time killing a boss in single player grab some friends with the game or try an alternate method of online such as Xlink Kai or PS3's Adhoc Party. There are also special items that can be used to help friends, such as the fountain of life, this puts down a healing spot on the ground and whoever passes by it gains some health. You can also give some of your health to one of your teammates, but this is usually used as a last resort. When not on questing you and your teammates will meet up in the games' guild hall. Here you can trade guild cards which each other to show off your accomplishments, and pick quests to go on. You can also use a Fortune Bottle by talking to an NPC. Fortune bottles are a gamble, they can either raise arcana zone rates, or drop them. Once you use it you can't use it again till you go and come back from a quest. Raising the arcana zones rate of occurrence makes grinding for cores a lot more easier. In the guild shop there is also a coin you can buy which increases your luck, which can also increase the core drop rate. Overall the multiplayer is a fun addition and can help you out when you're in a tight spot.
The graphics in LoA are mediocre at best. The faces you get for your character are horrible, If I'd rather wear a helmet so I don't have to see my face then that's telling you something. The environments are muddy and textureless, there isn't anything that will make you stop and look at your surroundings despite there being good amount of areas. Armors and weapons are the high point, they have interesting designs and they make you look powerful. Enemies look decent, some of them have good detail such as bosses but there are noticeable boxed edges making some monsters not look so great.
A mix of orchestral and rock tunes, the music is a enjoyable but I find it fading out and myself not paying attention to it. There isn't anything that goes "wow, this is a tune". Sound effects are decent, you can hear your slash on an enemy but enemies don't sound threatening, sounds a bit low and faded.
You're just trying to restore your lost power, nothing really interesting.
+Leveling and gaining new skills adds more variety
+You notice the difference when you make a stronger piece of equipment or level up your proficiencies
+Single player isn't a cakewalk
+/- Multiplayer makes it a bit too easy
-Annoying scenes such as arcana harvesting
-Item carrying limits to 16
-Some very annoying enemies
-Having to rely on the game to randomly pick an arcana area
-Doesn't tell you what items you need for a new weapon to appear
-No infrastructure online
+Slashing and impact effects are decent
-Reused tracks on different environments
+Weapons and armor look great
-/+Monsters look decent
-Environments look dry and bland
The game gives you a lot of items and constantly rewards you with levels and new equipment. Grinding isn't too much of a tedious chore, it has a good balance.
Overall Lord of Arcana is a fun addicting game with decent multiplayer support. It's a light grinder, with fun combat and can get you addicted for a good chunk of time since it constantly rewards you as you progress. When the player feels rewarded there is a sense of accomplishment. It's not too hard and isn't too easy it's just the right difficulty so you won't want to destroy your PSP in a fit of rage, though some enemies might get to you.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/02/11
Game Release: Lord of Arcana (US, 01/25/11)
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