I hope this letter finds you well. I am sorry things had to end the way they did, but you broke my heart. When I first laid eyes on you I was smitten. Now I can barely stand to look at you. Where did things go wrong, my Lair?
I remember the day that Lair was announced and the first screen shots were released. The game's release date was scheduled for the Playstation 3's launch window and it looked like Sony would have its first true system seller. It was the first Playstation 3 game that caught my eye and part of the reason I pondered plunking down a small fortune for the piano black console. Since the game was being developed by the same bright minds that gave us Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, I thought it was a no brainer. In the end, Lair was delayed and missed the critical launch window for the Playstation 3. When the game finally hit stores in late August of 2007, expectations were still through the roof. Sony needed to justify the cost of their next generation machine and many thought this would be the title to do it. Unfortunately after spending a lot of time with Lair, I am left disappointed and frustrated. The game is passable in some regards but pretty horrible in others.
The story in Lair is completely forgettable. You have two opposing tribes that represent good and evil. One tribe loves dragons and peace, while the other tribe loves machines and war. You can guess which side you are on and how most of the game will pan out. It would have been nice to see some twists and turns and maybe some more back story to help build the setting of the game, but I can forgive a bland story if the game play itself is impressive and fun. Unfortunately, Lair is neither impressive or fun.
By now you may have heard that the controls in Lair are a little cumbersome. I can tell you first hand, the controls in Lair kill the game experience. Your dragon is controlled entirely by the motion of the Sixaxis controller. In order to fly around the levels you simply tilt the controller up, down, left, and right. It sounds like a good idea on paper, but in the game things don’t quite match up. Thrusting the Sixaxis controller down performs a speed burst and pulling the Sixaxis controller back performs a quick180 turn. Again, this sounds fine, but most of the time these controls simply do not work. Sometimes you thrust the controller down for a speed burst and you suddenly turn around and fly in the opposite direction. It is moments like these when you see the shortcomings of the control scheme and also debate whether or not to plant your Sixaxis in a nearby wall. This becomes especially frustrating when you have a time limit to complete a mission and your tool of destruction is working against you. Worst of all you cannot switch the controls over to the analog sticks, so you are forced to make do with the faulty setup.
When the first trailer and screens for Lair came out, the graphics looked jaw dropping. The cut scenes in the game turned out really well, but when the game is in motion it is a whole different beast. Sometimes the dragons look highly detailed and beautiful, while other times they turn into a pixilated mess. Similarly, the bland environments seem to be a mixture of good and bad. From above ships and castles look good, but when you happen to dive down for a closer look these same elements look like they may be from a Playstation 2 game. The game runs in a native resolution of 1080p, but without the right amount of polish, you will rarely notice. If you are looking for a game to showcase your new HDTV, you may want to check out another title.
If you are still reading this, you may be asking yourself if I found any aspects of Lair to be enjoyable. Well, the answer is yes, but the only part I really liked was the sound. The sound effects and soundtrack are both pretty good. The sound has a very Lord of the Rings feel to it. It is epic and fits the game very nicely. It’s too bad the rest of the game cannot deliver the same sort of quality.
I am a firm believer that a game can become greater than the sum of all its parts. It doesn’t take perfect art direction, amazing game play, and stunning graphics to get a triple-A title. Of course that doesn’t hurt, but few games ever get it all right. A game can also end up being worse than the sum of its parts. Lair is a good example of this. Because Lair’s most important element, the control scheme, is terrible, you end up with a game worthy of the bargain bin. The graphics are mixed, the story is bland, and the controls will give you a headache. The game does show potential, but until the control issues are ironed out, I wouldn’t give Lair a second glance.
A game can also end up being worse than the sum of its parts. Lair is a good example of this. Because Lair’s most important element, the control scheme, is terrible, you end up with a game worthy of the bargain bin. The graphics are mixed, the story is bland, and the controls will give you a headache. The game does show potential, but until the control issues are ironed out, I wouldn’t give Lair a second glance.
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