There's something comforting about loading up a licensed game of a franchise you enjoy. You know the characters, the setting, and the stories of the world and now you get to play in them. Depending on their quality though can satisfy you with more memories of that world, or leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris attempts to emulate the experience of Kirito's story through the Underworld, but does it succeed at its goal?
The story of Alicization Lyroris is a hybrid of the first season of the Alicization arc paired with an original plot. The game jumps into the story at the point where Kirito and Eugeo meet each other for the first time as teenagers. There's no context as to what Kirito is doing there or how he got there but the story keeps going. When the only characters you interact with are Kirito and the other Underworld characters this lack of context doesn't matter. As soon as Asuna and others appear, "real world" terms like fluctlights, STL machines, and the Ocean Turtle start getting thrown around you. You don't even realize how much content you're missing until 10 hours into the game and all of these "real world" terms start being used.
Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris | Poorly Paced Story
Alicization Lycoris has a strange habit of glossing over what could be entertaining gameplay moments, instead opting to have characters reacting in a visual novel style. You'll spend an hour walking through the world to get from one location to the other, but characters challenging one another to a fight, or an entire sword fighting tournament, get glossed over in a few lines of text. So much is explained to the character through these cutscene interactions that there are cutscenes that will take you 10-15 minutes to get through. It's hard to get excited for a flashy anime video game when you're required to fill in the 'flashy' for yourself. Not allowing the players to experience moments that lend themselves so well to gameplay throws off the pacing of the game entirely. The 'tell not show' story delivery doesn't work when so much content is action based, even large moments tend to fizzle when you're reading about someone else reacting to them.
In total, covering the Alicization arc of the story will take you upwards of 10 hours. It has plenty of pacing issues but has structure from the source material to keep itself moving and on track. The original storyline for the game that follows however doesn't have that structure in place and from here the game begins to deteriorate even further. The original story that follows shows that creating a longer gameplay experience was more important than crafting an interesting narrative. Strange plants, nicknamed Clamps, have appeared all over the Underworld bringing with them powerful monsters. The subsequent chapters have you destroying plant after plant after plant with little deviation. There's are a few smaller stories of the world that you experience, but get spread so few and far between by the time you get to them you'll already be tired of the gameplay loop.
Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris | So Much Customization
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris' story leaves a lot to desire, and the gameplay doesn't do much to shrug off the stretched feeling of this game. The game features plenty of customization options for your fighting style including different types of weapon, Sword Art skills, and active and passive abilities. Where combat falls flat is how rigid the combo system is. You'll execute a normal combo to regain your SP, then chain together your favorite Lv. 1, 2, and 3 Sword Art and then get back to regaining SP. Every now and then you'll pause to buff yourself and your allies or start healing but combat will boil down to just that single combo. Needless to say in a 50+ hour game this repetitive combat begins to grate.
You'll earn all kinds of flashy attacks and power-ups but at no point do you feel powerful. Enemies in Alicization Lycoris are all damage sponges, absorbing all of your special attacks and shrugging them off. The key to dealing high damage is in chaining Sword Arts with other party members. After a Sword Art hits there's a brief window that your AI can chime in creating a ridiculous damage modifier. Fighting on your own you'll be mostly getting chip damage off an enemy, this is not recommended. After many special attacks, you're able to finally feel a bit powerful, but this also exposes the issue of poor party AI. You can direct your AI party members to focus on tasks such as defending, buffing, or chaining special attacks but if you don't tell them what to do you'll see them standing around watching the battle instead of participating. Where the most efficient way to do damage is working together having AI that doesn't even participate is frustrating.
Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris | Combat's Tight Loop
There's no reward for high risk and competent play. If you try to fight creatures above your level it's not a difficult challenge that you'll face, but a slow and tedious one. Slow experience gain highlighting the games artificial lengthening. A level 32 character fighting and defeating five level 35 monsters barely gives you 1/8th of an experience bar. With no point in challenging yourself or deviating from your favorite combo, it doesn't matter how customizable your character is. There's no point in the game that makes you feel like the powerful swordfighter Kirito is meant to be.
Technically Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is also a big letdown. From the start, the game gets plagued with technical issues. In a small town, open field, or a deep cave the game is constantly underperforming. Sometimes with framerate dropping below 10. These framerate issues aren't even tied to flashy combat effects, they can come even when your party is the only ones on the screen. While the game looks good, it certainly isn't pushing any technical limitations to cause issues like this. It makes playing Alicization Lycoris a true headache to play having to watch as you stutter around the world. Other issues encountered are text over the heads of NPCs being near illegible, those same NPCs disappearing when you try to talk to them, and I even stumbled across an incorrectly textured part of the ground when traveling between objectives. There's a general lack of polish across the entire game that is disappointing to see.
Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris | Technical Performance Woes
Almost every aspect of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris underperforms. The Story has so many repetitive elements their removal could turn what is a laborious 60-hour experience into a more enjoyable 15-hour game. Gameplay and combat simplicity also suffer from this padded format with no way to speed up combat or 'get ahead', instead forcing you through the monotony of the story and grinding. The impression that comes across is Alicization Lycoris is a game designed to get played for an extended period of time. Instead of attaining this goal with engaging combat or challenging end game activities the games, minimal content has just gotten stretched out. The cherry on top of this unenjoyable experience is the performance issues removing any sense of enjoyment from this title. Even for Sword Art Online fans, this title is a tough sell and you're probably going to have a more enjoyable time reliving the story watching it, instead of playing it.
TechRaptor reviewed Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris on the Xbox One with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and Steam
- Insert Your OC Into Harem
- Artifically Lengthened Story
- Boring Shallow Combat
- "Tell Not Show" Delivery
- Technically Crippled