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Lair Review

3 September 2007

Dragon’s seem scary. At least, they seemed that way according to mythical stories of fire breathing giants, known only for their plight and destruction upon the different human civilizations of the middle ages. The dragons in Lair, however, are different. Looking pleasing with stunning visuals and some clever uses of the Sixaxis controller, Lair sets the mark for the best dragon oriented game of all time and underscores an important factor of realism that past games failed to achieve. So, get on your dragon and let’s take a ride together in the kingdom of Asylia.

Lair is a game where the story is nothing short of fantastic. The world was once peaceful, and everyone was united. But soon the peace was taken away when volcanoes began to erupt, threatening the lands of the Mokai. The Asylian civilization was protected from the hazardous lava spews by mountains, endangering the Mokai instead, a culture that primarily advocated change through new theologies that seated on the natural disaster in respects to their two facets: envy and war. It was commonly thought that the group that controlled the skies would be the world’s owners. The Asylians, as a response to this threat, mounted their dragons and sorted all their soldiers together in a brawny defense to protect their land from invasions.

Lair makes you battle large mantas, huge wasps, and dozens of diverse dragons in brilliant 1080p resolution, which requires you to use Sixaxis controls to navigate your creature through the skies. With Lair, players will be asked to take a stand in Ayslian leadership and make decisions based on what they discover--- even if such decisions mean turning a blind eye to one’s own homeland.

The firs scene slowly takes you into a stunning cathedral dome. You can smell the sweat from the anxious sky guard's---some new, and coal from the fire's ashes. "We will not falter!" The priestly figure is giving a sermon to prepare us for the oncoming Mokai. This is where we were introduced to Rohn, Lair's main character. Rohn is a dragon-riding knight serving the kingdom of Asylia, which falls under attack of the Mokai, and it’s up to you to save it.

The scene cuts, and you run outside to mount your dragon. There is a slight sense of nervous excitement---one that would make the plague seems jolly. Everyone is a bit scared---the entire Aslyian civilization depends on you and the other guards. Suddenly swooping above the skies, you are looking down on the battlefield. As you smell ash and smoke coming from the residue of fire from another dragon, the first thing you must do is get used to the control. To flap the wings--and fly forward--you tap the X button, and tilting the Sixaxis controls steering, and one thing to note is the sticks are used for camera control. To shoot flames at enemies, you tap the square button. In the first level, we have to destroy the catapults firing from the Mokai ships that are attacking our main base.

The Sixaxis controls are a wonderful method for controlling flight. The controls lagged once, but generally speaking, there are no noticeable issues. Sixaxis determines how your dragon will manoeuvre: tilting up will cause the dragon to shoot up, tilting it down will cause you to dive, tilting left and right will allow you to bank in that direction. A sort of a Sixaxis jerk allows for a 180-degree turn, but that only works some of the time or responds a bit too slowly. Other commands, used with the Sixaxis control scheme, are L2 and R2 to hover, and the X button to perform ranged attacks in addition to grapple. Across the game, an onscreen prompt appears appropriately and will have you delve into an attack. Follow the button prompts and you can claw, and send out a fireball at close range. At specific points in the game, when you feel the moment is right, Rohn will dive from the back of his mount, land on another dragon, stab the rider and then kill the dragon and dive off like James Bond of Dragons, all to be swooped up in by his own dragon.

For the main controller aspect, we were introduced to lock-on. At the start of the game, the lock-on scheme is introduced via an objective to capture “toro’s.” By using L1 and L2, we were able to lock on to any toro in our general direction quite easily---though the game chooses which one is nearer to your proximity. Don’t be fooled by anyone saying the lock-on requires rotation of the indicator to optimize the location of the selected target. Instead, all lock on requires is a simple adaptation to the Sixaxis flight controls, which don’t take much effort to get comfortable with. In addition, good hand-eye coordination is required. If you don’t have good hand-eye coordination, then blaming troubles on the lock-on system and the Sixaxis only control scheme is not a fair evaluation of this game. With L1 and L2 pressed, even formidable dragons can appear into view, and the player can fly with any selected one. While flying alongside, you can bash the controller to the side to bash into your locked target, but he can do the same to you…and worse. Luckily, if you die, there is no “continue game?” screen. It just continues and auto saves unless you switch off your PS3. A final results screen gave us a medal and ranking based on how many enemies we killed, how many allies were lost, and numerous other details.

In complement to the astonishing Sixaxis controls and effectual lock-on system, the control precision with Lair is spot on. If you follow the guided Sixaxis directions as previously mentioned perfectly, and you have decent hand-eye coordination, there is no specific spot you can’t steer your dragon towards. Nevertheless, the Sixaxis controls do take time to master for newcomers. Don’t expect to be playing perfectly the first two days. Controlling a dragon takes precision movement and time. It takes time to get use to the controls if you have sub par hand-eye coordination. The interesting thing about Lair is, it's not just about simply tilting the Sixaxis. You have to know when to tilt it, and you have to know exactly where to aim precisely. You can definitely fly a dragon decently within the first hour, but to master the dragon's flight---takes time. If you discover yourself turning due to a mistake, keep in mind the realistic movements that proceed. A dragon is a large creature with larger evolutionary structures than common species with wings. Therefore, it takes a larger amount of time to turn a specific direction. If you see yourself turning, and suddenly above the target, you need to start thinking realistically---even if natural science is not your thing. Instead of trying to make such sharp turns with a huge light-weight creature, the player should aim his/her distances further so that he/she may turn appropriately, and not have to blame the game’s Sixaxis only option and method for any mishap in navigation. One thing that we all know is motor learning takes time. It is critical for one to have breaks [and some sleep] for this type of learning to consolidate. Once you do master how to wield a dragon’s movements, you will find it extremely rewarding. You might go crazy and buy a dragon rider outfit and dance! A true sky guard doesn’t learn to control a dragon in a mere hour or hours. It takes time and patience.

Part of the problem with the game in earlier build was that there was a lack of concrete direction in mission objectives. Specifically, there was one scenario where you had to locate a beacon and primarily gut the inside of it. The captain would constantly badger the player about finding the beacon, when no general direction was given as to where the beacon was. Luckily, the direction in the mission objectives is much more improved in the final game. There is a direction more apparent, despite the lack of a HUD. And now, the captain no longer constantly repeats the same thing---but gives hints if need be.

Lair is definitely a linear game in that you will have to progress through the game from objective to objective. This is very much a negative and burdening aspect of the game. You can definitely vary any combat elements, but you have to complete certain challenges and have to be successful in order to advance. From the progress, you will receive medals based on completion within a specific time allotment and will be given upgrades. The game features a fanciful online component for players to compare and improve scores and has leader boards to show off the champions of the dragons. Lair is semi-linear, however, in some of its gameplay respects. Even though you have to complete certain objectives, part of what makes the gameplay and storyline so gripping is that you will be able to play in certain ways to choose a certain outcome for the basis.

Another partial downside to Lair is the replayability. This game is amazing for what it is, but in a world where $60 video games are not an easy thing to afford, Lair doesn’t have the strong replayability factor. True, you can vary your combat every single time you play it, but once you’ve played it, you will be nudged by the fact that you already know the story.

Lair can fairly be best described as one stunning book. Lair imbues a sense of excitement to anyone who plays it---and to anyone who especially love dragons. There is a vehement pacing that compels players to constantly complete an objective to find out what happens next and gives them prizes along the way. But once all that is done, you can only read this masterpiece so many numbers of times---and you will gamers!

If there is one key negative in Lair, it’s that it is sometimes hard to keep focus on the gameplay, simply due to its breathtaking visuals. Don’t be surprised if you get flamed out while you are admiring the gorgeous view and technology that Lair presents; the draw distance is stupendous, and the enormous maps are rendered down to the last detail thanks to texture streaming. The dynamic texture meshing, aside from linear texture meshing, is a feat only possible on the PlayStation 3 console. Thanks to the sheer power of the SPU’s, Lair is the first game to use dynamic texture streaming. On a more perfect note, Lair pulled it all off without a single hiccup in frame rate, making for a perfectly smooth travel. And as you can imagine for a game featuring so much fire, the effects of everything from particle to fire, are some of the best we’ve seen from any game before, and any game soon to come aside from KillZone 2. Reading about Lair is definitely not enough to experience the wondrous gameplay that it presents. It’s time to mount your dragon and take off on your own majestic journey. You’ll enjoy the ride.

-The Final Word-

Lair is definitely a stupendous game with astonishing gameplay, beautiful graphics, and a soothing soundtrack. The only thing that dents Lair from becoming all that it potentially could have been is definitely the temperate replayability that arises from the linear gameplay. Despite all these issues, the game inculcates a sense of visceral excitement to anyone who gets his/her hands on it.
  • Unparalleled graphics
  • Astonishing storyline and incredible soundtrack
  • Great Sixaxis controls and precision aiming
  • Linear gameplay makes for a slight tease
  • FMV's instead of live real-time cinematics
  • Moderate replayability
8.5
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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