Lair - updated hands-on

So was the river raid level, which gave us our first real taste of ground combat. Divvied up into objective-oriented stages, the raid first tasked us with landing in an open field and barbecuing about 80 enemy ground troops, all of whom seemed helpless to do anything about us massacring them. Then, we had to defend some great lumbering beast that was pulling a few barges full of… something. Supplies? It wasn't really clear. It also didn't matter. All we knew was we had to fly ahead and take out a bunch of catapults on the ground, all of which were being "protected" by largely decorative ground troops, who just had to sit and watch as we burned their big wooden toys.

Once the barges were safe, we had to sail into a full-on battle between the Asylian and Mokai armies, taking out a few giant, gleaming trebuchets on the way in. Note that when we say "armies," we really mean armies, as in dozens of orderly marching units, each consisting of a few dozen soldiers and a banner carrier on horseback, stretching across a vast, open plain. It was an impressive feat - or it will be, when the game is finished and no longer goes all slow and herky-jerky from trying to animate so many large characters at once. Nevertheless, we're looking forward to seeing it again when Lair is more polished.

In the meantime, we were tasked with killing nearly 2,000 of the little buggers, which takes a lot longer than you might think. And while bugs were keeping them from their full effectiveness, our own army was there to help out, and here's where things will get a little more complicated. See, winning quickly in full-scale won't be just a matter of wading in and messing some guys the hell up, although that'll play a big role. The better you do, and the more guys you take out, the more it'll boost your army's morale and lower the enemy's. That means your guys will fight harder and shoulder more of the kill-quota burden, and the game won't end up feeling like a weird State of Emergency ripoff in which your dragon has to repetitively smash the same six dozen guys to death.

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.