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Make no mistake about it, Lord of Arcana is about one thing, and one thing only: killing stuff. Sure, there’s a storyline about becoming the best of the rest, but realistically, you’re here to plow through a dungeon, murder all living inhabitants you encounter, and face off against a boss who’s too big to fit on the screen. On the plus side, the enemies are designed by artists ranging from Todd MacFarlane to Ashley Wood to Tetsuya Nomura (google ‘em if the names don’t ring a bell). But multiplayer fans might want to wait for our review.
Above: Many of the enemies are designed by a who’s who of famous artists. Wish we’d seen more variety in our demo
The action is pretty simple. Create your own character (although the customisation options aren’t very expansive), choose your weapon (sword, mace, bigger sword, pole arm or fire lance) and you’ll be dumped in dungeon full of nasty beasties.
You’re free to explore a full 3D world, and before long, you’ll spot various monsters wandering about the place. Engaging them will take you to a new battle screen – similar to Final Fantasies of old. Except browner.
Battles are fairly uncomplicated. You’ll be attacked by goblins, skeletons and trolls, but as long as you block regularly (X) and attack with your sword (square), you’ll be fine. If you feel like spicing things up, throw out a few magic spells with circle. And if you’ve managed to fill your Mana Gauge, then you can perform an ULTIMATE SPELL, which involves summoning whatever guardian you have equipped, like a giant rampaging Pokemon.
Once you’ve explored every part of whatever the particular landscape you’ve been dumped in (dungeons mostly, with the odd desert and lava locale), you’ll square off against a boss, which tends to be an oversized dragon with handily destructible parts. Hit it enough times, and you’ll enter a Melee Duel, which is really just a fancy phrase for a QTE finisher.
And that’s about it. In between dungeons, you can rest up at villages and buy new equipment at stores, but before long, it’s back to collecting X amount of goblin shards, or killing Y amount of skeletons. It’s a simple formula, but one that has worked for dozens of Action RPGs over the years.
Unfortunately, we have some concerns with Arcana’s multiplayer mode. For starters, 4 player co-op is only possible using the PSP’s ad-hoc technology, meaning no online scrapping. This is a massive handicap for us geographically distributed Western gamers, who rarely have “everyone sit in the same room and play PSP” parties.
Furthermore, if you find one of your friends mid-battle, you can’t join in the fight. This means that unless you keep a tight leash on your mate’s exploration, you’ll spend great periods of time waiting for their battles to end, so you can join in and carry on.
This can be especially fatal because if one player uses up all of his or her lives, it’s game over for everyone. This happened several times during our play through, often while our character was stood around outside the battle, and our pal lay on the floor, desperate for a co-op revive. It’s worryingly short sighted.
If the devs have a chance to fix some of the roadblocks in multiplayer mode, Arcana could be a neat little title. But given Lord of Arcana’s February release date, we’re trying to be realistic and not get our hopes up too high.
Jan 4, 2011