An overwhelming majority of the gaming press would have you believe that Lair is one of the worst games released for the PlayStation 3 - it achieved a Metacritic rating of just 54/100 and even spawned a number of piss-taking Penny Arcade comics. After spending a good week with the game, we’ve got a surprisingly different impression - and a bone to pick with the fickle hive mind that is the gaming media.
Read on for the full review.
The Mokai and the Asylians have lived side by side peacefully for years, however when volcanos threaten to wipe the Mokai off the map, they set out to take a piece of Asylia, which is shielded from the imminent natural disaster by a massive mountain range. It’s a story of war and betrayal that would’ve been well suited to Hollywood had Factor 5 not overlooked the inclusion of a love interest for the protagonist, Rohn, a member of Asylia’s elite, dragon-riding air guard.
Given your character is a dragon rider, you’re probably not surprised to find out that a majority of the game takes place in the air. Lair nails it here - controlling a giant dragon soaring through the sky just feels right using the motion controls of the Sixaxis. You can’t turn on a dime, nor would you expect to be able to command a massive living creature to do so.
All good, right? Well, it was until the developers made a controversial design choice - removing the option to control the dragon using the left analog stick. For those who have been raised on dual analogs, and think all games would be better if they were more like Halo, this really didn’t go down too well - and played a huge part in the 54/100 Metacritic score. Rest assured if you have a little patience and don’t expect to pass each level on your first attempt, there is a far better game here than many would have you believe.
You can take out enemy dragons a number of ways - blast away with fireballs from a distance, lock on for a twisting dogfight, or take the melee route - a close-up dragon fight with biting, clawing and flame breathing, or a finishing move - an awe-inspiring God of War-like cinematic sequence that sees Rohn performing all kinds of death-defying feats to eliminate the enemy dragon rider. There’s a heap of different sequences, so repeat viewings are well spaced out, and not a single one failed to make my jaw drop - the best bit is that they don’t require super-human timing of the commands to complete successfully.
Ground targets are a little different. While many can be taken out with fire, certain key targets require a unique approach - like buildings that require bombs dropped on them, and giant beasts that you have to trip up AT-AT-style. Certain other targets need to be latched on to and torn apart - this requires shaking the Sixaxis controller furiously, and given you are tearing the head off a rhino or ripping the lodestone from a bridge, I can’t help but think something more finessed, like a gesture command, would have made far more sense than waving the controller like crazy, which tends to break the immersion and cheapen the experience.
You can perform a 180 maneuver by quickly moving the controller up, and a dash by doing the opposite. This is where things got too hard for a lot of the dual-analog generation. Try quickly moving a controller upwards, and you’ll notice the first thing you’re likely to do is after you’ve completed the motion is move it back down again - meaning without a bit of practice, you’re likely to perform a dash forward instead of a 180 - and this is frustrating even if you’re not struggling with the rest of the control scheme. Provided you can handle games that don’t offer instant gratification, this will be no big deal - by the end of my second session with the game, I was reliably performing the 180 maneuver at least nine times out of ten, and by the time I had beaten it, more like twenty nine out of thirty.