Image: Lair
Sony
Who wouldn't want to ride a dragon as it soared mightily through the air, breathing fire upon enemies and generally inspiring awe and fear in the flightless masses gathered below? Alas, fanciful dreams of flight and fight crash and burned on the cold, cruel rocks of reality.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 9/12/2007 2:35:06 PM ET 2007-09-12T18:35:06
REVIEW

Sigh. I should have known better than to get my hopes up.

After all, I've been wowed and wooed by glossy, glowing game promotions before — those wily marketing devices that breathlessly promise (enter name of soon-to-be released game here) will be the latest and greatest thing since sliced, you know, whatever.

But experience has showed that pretty screenshots and hyperbole-filled advertising campaigns do not a good game make.

Still, I admit, the advance buzz buzzing about the fantasy-based games "Lair" and "Two Worlds" got my inner geek girl going.

"Set to become the pinnacle of its genre, 'Two Worlds' promises to be the most dynamic and complex free-roaming RPG available," gushed one press release.

"Gamers will experience the fight of their lives alongside a voracious dragon in 'Lair'," vowed another piece of promotional parchment. "Players literally grab the mighty dragon reins with precision motion controls and seamlessly perform aerial and ground attacks."

Literally grab a mighty dragon by the reins? You don't say! And just like that, I was hooked. I couldn't wait to soar the skies astride my very own pet dragon, crisping enemies with mighty fireballs. Likewise, I yearned to roam a medieval world with sword in hand, battling advancing hordes of various evil and unattractive-looking creatures. I was ready to get my fantasy on all right.

Alas, my fanciful dreams of flight and fight have crashed and burned on the cold, cruel rocks of reality. Two games. Two disappointments. Too bad for me.

But it doesn't have to be too bad for you. Read. Learn. And beware: The evils of hype and hyperbole know no bounds.

"Two Worlds" is two too many
Verily I implore thee good friends, thinkest ye carefully before spending thine hard-won gold on the fantasy role-playing game that goes by the name "Two Worlds."

Nay, 'twas a sad day indeed when I discovered that this merrily anticipated title did suffer so dearly from some of the most dreadful Old English dialog man hast ever laid ears upon and from voice acting so overwrought it dost nearly make me weep.

Two Worlds
SouthPeak Interactive
'Twas a sad day indeed when I discovered that "Two Worlds" did suffer from some of the most dreadful Old English dialog man hast ever laid ears upon.

Aye, SouthPeak Interactive's new title for the Xbox 360 and PC 'tis blessed with a vast, open world to explore, a multitude of missions to set off upon, and a free-flowing story in much the vein of that most excellent game "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion." Indeed, the comparisons to "Oblivion" were what stirred my interest in the first place (to be sure, that fine game 'twas one of my favorites from the year of our lord 2006.)

Alas, as sprawling a realm as "Two Worlds" is, it is one afflicted with the most mediocre of graphics as well as visuals that frequently stutter and chug their way across the screen. And behold the story! This tale of a heroic bounty hunter and his fair sister offers nothing but the hackneyed hallmarks of a standard fantasy yarn — something or somesuch about Orcs, a Dark Brotherhood, and "a powerful force churning silently, weaving a secret plot of fear and destruction."

But one cares not for story when the gameplay is so verily vexed. Aye, make note that the combat grows tedious with the greatest of speed (thou whilst find thyself yanking repeatedly on thine right trigger to perform the most uninspired of melee attacks) and the map system and quest log are cumbersome and confusing to be sure.

Me thinks they did misspeak when they promised "Two Worlds" would be "the pinnacle of its genre." Indeed, "Two Worlds" is such an unpolished and unsatisfying place to be one yearns to bid farewell to the fantasy and return with the utmost swiftness to reality.

And speaking of flights from fantasy…

'Lair' crashes and burns
Given the opportunity, who wouldn't want to ride a dragon as it soared mightily through the air, breathing fire upon enemies and generally inspiring awe and fear in the flightless masses gathered below? Personally, I was looking forward to living out this little daydream thanks to Sony's much-anticipated PS3 title "Lair."

Sadly, who knew flying a dragon could be so tedious? Who knew it could be so aggravating?

In this aerial combat game you are the warrior Rohn and your sweet ride just happens to be a giant winged lizard with some really sharp claws and a serious case of bad(ass) breath.  Your job: Save your people — the Asylians — from the not-so-nice Mokai.

The good news: This is a real pretty game. The world is beee-utiful and beautifully delivered via high def graphics. Playing from the third-person perspective, you get a spectacularly detailed view of your winged beast as it soars over lush landscapes and fantastical cityscapes. And the cinematics are, well, downright cinematic. As you play through this epic tale of war and intrigue you really do feel like you're playing your part in a movie.

As far as actually playing the game goes, there's certainly no shortage of ways to do battle with your dragon. You can scorch your enemies with fireballs, you can engage them in mid-air dragon-on-dragon fisticuffs, you can snatch troops from the ground and toss them to their deaths, you can even land your dragon on the ground and have it singe, slash and thrash the bad guys to pieces.

Despite all this, "Lair" really does hit the ground with a pronounced thud.

The problem is, convincing the PS3's motion-sensitive SIXAXIS controller to accurately carry out your aerial maneuvers is so difficult and frustrating that it robs you of the joy of flight. Here, you tilt the controller in the direction you want your dragon to go – up, down, left, right. And executing the basics is easy enough to do. But try to do any of the more complex moves and you'll quickly find yourself cursing the dragon you rode in on.

Lair
Sony
Convincing the PS3's motion-sensitive SIXAXIS controller to accurately carry out your aerial maneuvers in "Lair" is so difficult and frustrating that it robs you of the joy of flight.

For instance, try snapping the controller upward to perform a 180 (a maneuver you really do need since tight turns are otherwise impossible) and you'll be lucky if you're able to make this move happen on the fifth try. Likewise, you'll be called upon to yank the controller sideways to ram your dragon into nearby enemy dragons. But this sideswiping action rarely seems to work as it should. Ultimately, the whole thing feels loose and inaccurate and totally unsatisfying.

Meanwhile, while it's nice that the game offers up a movie-like experience, there are times when it feels like the developers at Factor 5 forgot that this isn't a movie – it's a game. Short cut-scenes constantly interrupt the flow of the action and end up becoming a nuisance that must be endured rather than a pleasure to watch.

All in all, taking flight should be a dream come true. But when it comes to "Lair," it's best to keep your feet on the ground.

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