Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris
After months and months of anticipation, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, the latest entry in the Sword Art Online video game series, finally arrived. I got the chance to check the game out, and here are my thoughts on the game and what you need to know if you're looking to pick the game up yourself. Keep reading to find out more!
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is the newest game in the Sword Art Online series (the previous release was Fatal Bullet, released in 2018). The graphics, compared to Lost Song and Re: Hollow Fragment look amazing, there is a definite upgrade between those games and Alicization Lycoris. The graphics look comparable to the anime, in fact, and it makes playing through the game a delight in that regard.
The battle mechanics of the game are fairly straightforward, at least if you’re straight up fighting with no special attacks. The fighting is freestyle, no turn-based combat, you can simply run up and start attacking an enemy. And by the time you reach regular combat, you’ll have at least one other member (Eugeo) in your party that you can freely switch with for either strategic reasons or just because you want to. Implementing Sword Skills or “Sacred Arts” appears to be simple, but in the midst of combat pressing the button to pull up the Sword Skills menu doesn’t always bring up the right result, especially if you do so in the midst of an enemy attack. It’s not always clear if you have enough “Skill points” to use a Sword Skill, and as a result I’ve mostly avoided using them during combat.
One thing that is done well in combat is the HUD that shows you your party’s health and that of the enemy. It’s easy to see how you’re doing, which is important because these enemies are quite difficult to kill for their level. If you approach a creature that’s your level, thinking they’ll be an easy kill, think again: I approached a level 10 giant bat (while also level 10) and was quickly running for my life. Thankfully Alicization Lycoris allows you to run away from a regular fight, causing the fight to end if you can get far enough away. It should be noted that special boss fights do not permit you to run away.
Speaking of combat issues, there’s a glaring issue that needs to be pointed out. During one fight fairly early in the game, I realized Kirito was still equipped with a wooden sword and thus doing little damage. When I went to the menu to change weapons, I found I couldn’t, apparently it’s not allowed during a boss fight. And there’s one other thing I discovered during combat that surprised me greatly. Thus far, it appears that Kirito cannot be killed during combat, and I’m not sure what to make of this. I first discovered this during the opening fight in the game, but I didn’t think it counted because I figured win or lose you’d unlock the opening credits and start the game. But then in a fight in a cave, I noticed again the “immortal” designation received when Kirito was struck. Assuming this is true (I’ve been too scared to test the theory), wouldn’t this ruin the point of watching your health bar?
Interestingly, Alicization Lycoris, unlike previous games in the Sword Art Online series, appears to be a fairly straightforward play through of the Alicization arc, right down to much of the dialogue between the main characters. This is a big change from previous entries, as earlier games are either set in an alternate reality or a side narrative completely separated from the main plot of the anime. For those who might not be familiar with the Sword Art Online anime, the Alicization arc (still ongoing as of July 2020), sees Kirito trapped in an unusual VR world known as the Underworld after a deadly attack in the real world renders his body catatonic. Unlike previous VR worlds in the SAO series, the Underworld is filled with people generated by actual souls introduced into the Underworld system (they’re essentially virtual Artificial Intelligences). With most of Kirito’s memories blocked, he has to work his way through the Underworld to find a way to contact the real world, but the task is far from easy as he eventually comes under the scrutiny of Administrator, the nigh-omnipotent ruler of the Human Empire portion of the Underworld.
It’s cool to see the anime’s story play out in the game, but there is a chance of hampering enjoyment of the story if you like playing games without knowing the game’s plot in advance. The addition of Medina as an original character is what keeps Alicization Lycoris from being a 100% accurate play through of the anime’s story (she’s original to the game). Thus far, her presence appears to be having a subtle influence on the story’s plot compared to the anime, as her presence has already changed an otherwise recognizable scene in the story. I like the character, even if she does fit the
There are other issues with the game as well, particularly with side quests. While the main quests are readily laid out and flow into one another (as you’d expect with an RPG), if you want to engage in a side quest (and there are many to choose from), well, that’s somewhat problematic. Even though I was able to select a side quest and tag it as an official “subquest”, I was unable to change the map to direct me to the side quest’s objective (as you can with the main quest), leaving me floundering around on the map for what felt like an eternity looking for what I needed to do.
There’s also an issue with loading screens, namely that there’s too many of them. I understand that even the best games will have to pause every now and again to load a new portion of the game. But during my playthrough of the game, it felt like every other action generated a brief and annoying black loading screen that took me out of the flow of the story. It should be emphasized that these aren’t LONG loading screens, it’s the sheer number of them that’s the problem.
Yet another problem with Alicization Lycoris, and it seems with the Sword Art Online series as a whole is the sheer amount of dialogue. Yes, I know this is an RPG and dialogue scenes are to be expected. However, the way the Sword Art Online games run their dialogue scenes drives me crazy, and I was hoping Alicization Lycoris would buck the trend. The problem is, once a chain of dialogue scenes starts, they can run on and on and ON for a very long time, and once you’re locked in you can’t pause or stop. Gameplay can literally consist of: a long dialogue scene, running to a new location, another long dialogue scene, repeat.
In conclusion, despite its issues, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is an enjoyable game. If you've been enjoying the Alicization arc for the past year, you will love the chance to play through the story yourself. It's true, the game does have some issues, but they're not deal breakers. I would happily recommend this game to anyone wanting to check it out, with the proviso that you will need a lot of patience to get through the dialogue portions.