Itâ€™s aerial combatâ€¦ on dragons! It sounds like amazing fun. Going to war with a flame-spewing monster between your legs? Yeah, thanks! A shame, really, that a game like Lair doesnâ€™t deliver as it should. You canâ€™t do dragons half-pie. Dragons were never meant to be half-pie. Dragons were meant to beâ€¦ whole-pie. And hardcore.
The dragons in Lair look pretty good, even playing on a regular TV. With hi-def, there is some truly spectacular stuff happening. But, you know, you spent a monthâ€™s rent buying the machine, itâ€™s probably too much to assume all you PS3 owners have flashy TVs, too. From their leathery wings to their deadly talons, the animals have been lovingly rendered in both the movies and the gameplay. On my Joe-Average television, however, there were one or two things that stood out as poorly wrought, such as the dragonsâ€™ entire face and neck lighting up as they spat fire, not to mention setting the characters astride them aglow in what looked to be armour-meltingly intense heat. From far above, some of the landscapes run together, but these and a couple of others are small glitches in an otherwise rather visually exciting and well-scoped game.
Rohn (you) jumps aboard his dragon after a tribe called the Mokai attacks his city. They start in knocking down towers and creating havoc in the skies above Asylia, inciting a riot with their ice dragons. Whoâ€™s going to take that lying down? Not the Asylians. Theyâ€™re soon battling tooth and talon to take the threat down. The dragons move with some pace as they attempt to out-maneuver each other, but what sticks in a gamerâ€™s craw is how the enemies can be so flamboyantly loop-the-loopy while your own dragon flies about like a piece of brick in a sock flung by a drunk soccer hooligan at the London Metropolitan Police. The controls, dominated by the PS3â€™s Sixaxis control system, are dodgy at best. Itâ€™s all rather intuitive, and I guess if Sony are trying to claw back some of Nintendoâ€™s innovative lead, they have to be, but the fact is theyâ€™re unresponsive and just donâ€™t control your dragon very well. An upward thrust of the controller should have you turn a 180 to attack whoever is burning your tail. Too often the dragon will just fly blindly on, until thereâ€™s you standing on your couch, all but hurling the thing at your ceiling while screaming obscenities.
Some of the attack modes available spice things up a bit. Apart from the obvious breathing fire and shooting fireballs, thereâ€™s mid-air takedowns (the shock and awe of which are helped by the camera slowing down so you can watch yourself get medieval on the posterior of another) and mid-airâ€¦ what would you call them? Boxing matches? Itâ€™s easy to see how simply burninating everything would get a little old, so these are nice touches. Still, the sloppy controls make some of this business pretty wearisome.
A very smart friend of mine said, when looking at the opening titles and listening to the haunting, beautiful score (best part of the game, hands down), â€śWow, someone likes Lord of the Rings.â€ť I thought, hey, you know what? They do. You might not go so far as to call the map and the strange runes marked on it a rip-off, but it is very Tolkein-esque. When you really want to get some quality killing done, you can set yourself to Rage mode, and even this looks like the world as Frodo sees it when he put on the Ring. And the training ground? Classic Mordor. But what does this all mean, really? Arenâ€™t a lot of games piggy-backing on such things? Yeahâ€¦ but does it show a lack of imagination? I would think so. Games with dragons deserve to be made by people with imagination. Lair isnâ€™t.
Buy it? No. Rent it (donâ€™t discount it completely), but be prepared, if youâ€™ve been watching it approach since 2005 when screenshots started appearing, to be a little let down. Hey, I donâ€™t know, maybe youâ€™ll like just flying around marveling at the scope of the world (it is pretty impressive) and maybe stalking along the ground chomping hundreds of soldiers in bloody slow motion is your thing. But if I got this for Christmas, Iâ€™d be writing Santa a somewhat angry letter, and asking where in the hell my puppy was.
Second Opinion by Liam O'Connor
It seems that whenever I write one of these second opinion snippets, it's because I've enjoyed a game that has been panned in our review. It's not my role to second guess or undermine the review, but to merely highlight that certain people can have fun with these games. Lair isn't a brilliant must-buy, but it's not a terrible, unplayable mess either.
Seeing as I didn't like the Rogue Squadron games and I'm a Star Wars fanatic, I went into Lair thinking I would probably hate it even more. I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually enjoy the game quite a bit. Sure, it has its issues -- the framerate can get choppy at times -- but on the whole its a well-presented game that can be a lot of fun to play.
The main problem I found I had, and I'm sure it's the case for many, is that I had trouble shaking my Pavlovian conditioning and becoming used to the motion controls. In frantic moments I often found myself defaulting to the analogue sticks, which move the camera and not the dragon. Suddenly aiming the camera at the ground, even more confused, I became frustrated and angry. However, it took me a while to realise that it was my issue, not the game's. I'm just too used to pressing buttons.
However, once I got the hang of the controls, I started having fun. The game requires long sweeping motions, and that might not sit well with certain lethargic gamers, but it works well in the context of the game. It's as if you are controlling your dragon by pulling on reins, rather than being the dragon itself.
Ultimately, I found that once I was able to shake off some of my programming that has come with 20 years of playing video games, I really enjoyed Lair. Swooping over a bridge at speed, setting fire to leigons of troops, then landing and getting my dragon to start chomping flesh and bone (all set to the most majestic orchestral score) was certainly a satisfying experience.
Lair has a high learning curve, especially for longtime gamers, and it's certainly not for everyone, but if you like the idea of Lair you should definitely check it out. Just make sure you try before you buy.