Sword Art Online:Alicization Lycoris is the latest action RPG based on the immensely popular Sword Art Online series. It is published by Bandai Namco and developed by Aquaria, the team behind 2016s, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realisation. It released on July 10th after a delay that changed its May 2020 release date.
Special thanks to Twitter:@Shaun20130 for taking on and producing this review.
The story starts off following the established story of the Alicization arc. It begins with Kirito waking up in a new world called the underworld. He befriends a boy called Eugeo, and they set off on a quest to find Alice, a childhood friend of Eugeos that was taken away years before the start of the story. The story has an extremely slow start but once it starts to ramp up around 8-10 hours in it quickly becomes one of the better stories in the series. After the first chapter, however, the game diverges from the established story in favour of an original story.
This original story begins just as the gameplay opens up more making it flow much better than the earlier hours of the game which can occasionally feel like a wall of dialogue in parts until it begins to ramp up.
The game takes place in a large open world which allows for a range of different environments to explore. There is a wide range of different locations from forests and fields to more vibrant areas such as jungles and deserts. Unfortunately, these environments are hindered by some low-quality textures. Despite this, each area of the game has a distinct look and colour palette giving the game the feel of an expansive world. The visuals thrive in the combat which is extremely vibrant and a visual treat when you are able to execute flashy attacks and combos.
For the more important story beats, the game replaces the dialogue usually featured in the story with beautifully animated cutscenes which really capture the feel of the anime and it’s a shame this style of cutscene isn’t used more in the game.
The games soundtrack fits well with the world, with each area having its own theme which captures the feel of each area. For example, in a bustling town, the music is more upbeat while in a field area it is much more peaceful. The game also has its own anime-style opening theme which is fantastic and easily gets stuck in your head for days.
The combat is where the game truly shines. It is extremely intuitive yet as you put more time into it it becomes very deep. While you can simply press buttons and do basic combos, this does next to no damage so you’re forced to do much more intricate moves such as chaining skills with your party members to inflict huge amounts of damage.
Once you get to grips with the combat it feels very rewarding and it the highlight of the game. However, the gameplay is interrupted with cutscenes almost constantly, while the story of the game is good it feels like it disrupts the flow of gameplay. The affinity system from the other games in the series returns for this installment, allowing you to spend time with party members to unlock extra scenes with the characters. This is sure to appeal to fans of the series and players that generally enjoy the characters in the game.
Unfortunately, the game is plagued by some framerate issues. The game targets 30fps but struggles to reach this, particularly in built-up areas and the larger, more open sections. This sadly can make the combat a struggle at times which is a shame as the combat is the most fun aspect of the game. Fortunately, this issue isn’t as prevalent in smaller or indoor areas, where the best fights of the game take place and the developers have promised an upcoming patch to address these issues.
The quest variety is also fairly limited for the first chapter of the game, it essentially consists of going to an area to kill a monster then returning for more story. However, after the first chapter, the game opens up significantly with many more systems being unlocked and more variety in the quests. More playable characters become available at this point, allowing for more weapon types to be used.
The game also features an online multiplayer like the games that came before it. This consists of a basic quest system where you will tackle stronger monsters or fetch quests with up to 3 other players online using Kirito or any of the other members of the cast. I didn’t spend much time with this mode due to focusing on the main narrative and when I did I was met with being kicked from sessions randomly and failing to connect rooms. Hopefully, these are just teething issues and will be sorted out soon.
While not available at the time of writing, the game will feature the SAO Shop, which allows you to spend virtual currency on cosmetic items.
Overall the game is a fun action RPG with engaging storytelling and some fun mechanics. However, it is hindered by some technical issues which hopefully will be fixed in the coming weeks. Despite these issues, the game is definitely one of the better entries in the Sword Art Online series of games and has plenty to love for fans of the series.
Despite some technical issues and a slow start, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is a fantastic entry in the series which fans of the series should enjoy.