Game Reviews

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Review

Kirito enters yet another virtual world.

by Dean James
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris

Sword Art Online debuted more than a decade ago now as a series of light novels that was then adapted into a very popular anime series. Compared to many other anime series though, the release schedule has been rather slow for the series over the years. That has not stopped Bandai Namco from releasing multiple games in that time though, with the latest being Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris.

The very idea of Sword Art Online seems perfectly suited for a video game, as the setup of the series is that Kirito is always diving into different online game worlds. However, developers have struggled to do anything more than mediocre with the property game wise over the years. The majority of these games were developed by Aquria, who has returned yet again for this entry that does try something new.

Each of the previous Sword Art Online games have taken place in alternate timelines based on the existing stories, with one even letting you create a character that tagged along Kirito on his adventure. Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris tries something different by actually being faithful to the story of the Alicization arc from the beginning, where Kirito wakes up in a field with no memory of how he got there.

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It turns out that this new area is known as “Underworld,” but it feels like nothing Kirito has ever experienced. This time, the NPC characters actually act and could pass for human and don’t know they are just part of a virtual world. This leads Kirito to play along when he meets a new companion named Eugeo, with some unique twists along the way for those that haven’t experienced the anime. The previous alternate timeline idea never really seemed to work all that way and getting to experience the anime’s story in the game is great to see.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is far from your one to one adaptation though, as things will start to change the more you play through the game. The first part of the game follows the anime story just as it was, but then it actually begins to fork off into its own original story from there forward. This could be a controversial decision for those that wanted to experience the anime story in game form, but it’s definitely handled much better than the previous games story wise. Having the story branch off also gives those that do not just want a rehash of the anime storyline a reason to take a look at the game too.

One of the bigger issues in this game though is the pacing, especially in the early going. There is way too much dialogue that goes on and on and is hard to skip through quickly. You can skip completely past some scenes, but even trying to read and press to go to the next line takes forever for those wanting to actually read what is going on in the story. This is combined by the usage of a visual novel style setup for most of the dialogue and the game’s long load times, which will have you dying to get out there and finally fight more enemies.

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While the earlier Aquria developed Sword Art Online games felt very limited and almost more like dungeon crawlers at times, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris has an open world for you to explore. This world is full of different locales for you to explore that take you from different towns, to caves, and beyond, though sometimes it can feel like areas are lacking in the number of enemies compared to others. Found throughout the open world are little spires that not only allow you to save at them, but also give you access to a new fast travel point that you can access from the world map. This comes in very handy when wanting to go between places in the open world, so it was very important to have that included.

Besides the main story quests, the game also offers the player a bevy of different sidequests throughout the game. These are split into what are called quests and requests, which differ depending on what you are doing. There are also relics you will find on the map that will give you a specific task to complete to get a reward. Adding the additional quests helps to add some extra content for you to take on outside of the main story, which is always a good thing in an RPG.

The open world itself works quite well in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, but where the game really messes up is with the controls and movement when traversing that world. For some reason that is entirely baffling, you feel like you are running on skates the entire time you are walking around on the map. You typically feel like you have control of your character in games, but you certainly do not here at all. The slippery controls are almost as if you were playing in an ice world in a game, with the character continuing to move forward for another second every single time you stop. It’s almost as if you were playing an online game with an insane amount of input lag, which should never happen in a single player game performance wise. I’ve played many different games in my life, but I cannot remember one that has movement that feels this off to the point this could turn someone off this game completely very early on.

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Thankfully the combat system is much more what you would expect in a game like this, where you control one of your party members at a time that you can switch between in battle. Pressing Square or X will attack with a regular or strong attack respectively, which you can string together in combos against enemies. Circle can then be used to block as well, which comes in very handy in this game. By holding down R1 and pressing the respective face buttons, you can use equipped skills for your character. Pressing Triangle will also slow down time and let you select your Super Arts or Finish Arts to use. There are also duel options as well, which have you squaring off one-on-one with someone rather than running around, which is pretty neat when you can do it.

Speaking of skills, you have access to a skill tree as well in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris that is split into three different paths, Attack, Defense, and Buffer. These are then also split between Combat Skills and Passive Skills, with each character also having what is called an EX Skill being equipped as well. There are also Sword Skills available for you to unlock as well in a separate part of the tree you have to access by pressing Triangle. This is kind of weird that it is separated like this, which some people may actually miss out on entirely if they aren’t paying close enough attention due to the over abundance of tutorials you may eventually just start skipping past.

While the combat system itself is pretty solid all around besides the abysmal movement system, the game also really struggles at times with its camera. You are able to lock onto enemies by pressing down on the right analog stick, which can help you get attacks in on them. However, this does not mean that it will also turn the camera in the correct way and let you see what is happening. As a result, a lot of battle ends up being a lot of hack and slash where you have no idea what is going on, especially when you’re fighting multiple enemies. It also doesn’t help that the target switching system leaves a lot to be desired as well, making it hard to judge who the target will actually move to when you press it.

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Taking place in an online game itself with different characters, online multiplayer of some sort makes a lot of sense for Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris introduces this feature during the game, where you can actually play with others online. This is a cool feature to have included that makes the game feel a little more like the MMORPGs that the series itself showcases.

Sword Art Online has not had the best history when it comes to game adaptations and Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris definitely does not break that trend. The game does go against the past by actually following the anime’s story for part of the game, before breaking off into some interesting new territory that makes that part approachable to fans and newcomers alike. However, while ambitious in some areas, the terrible pacing and slippery movement of your characters makes Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris one you might rather avoid entirely.

The Verdict

People have been waiting for years to finally get what could be considered a really good Sword Art Online game, but the fourth time is certainly not the charm for developer Aquria with probably the most disappointing attempt yet due to the overall squandered potential in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris.

- This article was updated on:July 10th, 2020

"meh"
meh

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Developed By: Aquria
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • US Release Date: July 10, 2020
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "People have been waiting for years to finally get what could be considered a really good Sword Art Online game, but the fourth time is certainly not the charm for developer Aquria with probably the most disappointing attempt yet due to the overall squandered potential in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris."
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