Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris (PlayStation 4) Review

By Luke Hemming 13.07.2020

Review for Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris  on PlayStation 4

Sword Art Online has always had a nasty habit on enticing this reviewer into pumping hours into whichever release that hits consoles by riding the wave of popularity. With such a loyal and large fanbase, it could be easy to roll out sub-standard titles and still rake in the cash. Thankfully with the latest iteration of the Sword Art Online series, by building on the gradual improvements made as the series progressed, an enjoyable, easier to follow experience is waiting to be had here, with Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris.

Based around the thirds season of SAO, Alicization [i]Lycoris tells the old as time tale of protagonist Kirito awakening to find himself in a virtual world devoid of any previous memories he had. Glimpses of his past show a childhood friendship with blonde Boy Scout Eugeo, as well as his younger sister Alice. Anybody familiar with the third season will be happy to know the first portion of the game follows the arc quite faithfully, looking at the plight of Eugeo looking to save his sister and restore her memories, while Kirito aims to battle antagonist The Administrator and regain contact with the real world.

If a replay of the series by the numbers doesn't appeal however, as the story progresses it does branch off into its own narrative, so even somebody with an encyclopaedic knowledge of SAO will find something new to enjoy. It is these fans however that Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is made for. If any previous titles have been played then you know exactly what to expect from the majority of the title. This isn't a bad thing by any means if that typical JRPG style is an attractive prospect, but newcomers could lose interest quickly if not fully informed.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris  on PlayStation 4

The opening tutorial is a great and enticing introduction to combat, with a one on one duel explaining all the basic necessities for combat. Again, any player with previous knowledge will be familiar with the standard attack buttons and add on of specialist sword arts with a press of the R1 button. Partners on the battle field can also be given orders with L1. Basic enemies can be vanquished with a basic understanding of these concepts, however, it's mastering of these techniques that unlock the major combos and damage needed for bosses and higher level enemies.

Spells can also be charged and cast at will. Really getting to grips with the intricacies of the combat produces a great deal of gratification, but reviewing on tutorials will be needed to really unlock the potential of Kirito and Co. Speaking of tutorials, prepare yourself to get familiar with a pop up screen. Throughout the first few hours, pop-up windows will constantly appear to provide what feels on occasion unnecessary information. In truth, all of it is vital, but can feel overwhelming, almost as overwhelming as the urge to skip the tutorial windows entirely. Its these accessibility decisions that provide the main gripes with Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris with the first chapter itself being the biggest culprit.

Chapter one is such a crawl that newcomers are sure to be put off by the repetitive trip to the open segments of 'Underworld,' then a lengthy chat, visual novel-style, about past missions events, as well as flirting with whichever girl happens to cross Kiritos path in the quad. Bread and butter for stalwarts, utterly confusing and dragging for anyone else. If anything is to be taken from this review and the ramblings of this reviewer, though… it's stick with it. Once that first chapter is completed, some of the more interesting features are unlocked to play with.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris  on PlayStation 4

The first feature is the character creation, simple and not particularly in depth, but a nice little touch that adds that little bit of personalisation - as cool as the character design for Kirito has always been, he could always benefit from a smirking grin and green hair. After creation is complete the next chapter continues as expected with more of the same: read visual novel, jump on carriage and kill whatever monster was mentioned in one of the many lines that have been read. It's then that Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris pulls its biggest surprise out of the bag, and drops in a really enjoyable online multiplayer with such a nonchalant attitude that anyone who has experience in past titles would start to question their own sanity. Surely, with no fanfare it must have been added in the past? With one pop up explaining the basics it could be missed entirely.

Multiplayer that actually contributes to the game in a positive way is something that has been requested since the first game in the series, and with its inclusion, it really does add more of an immersive element. With a game based entirely around an anime set in a virtual world, why shouldn't there be an online element? It also then falls into place why you have the option to customise your character down to the username. Simply put, the online element needs work. A rather simple system is in place where you either jump into another player's lobby, or create your own based on a number of parameters. To avoid spoiling plot, you can only select a quest you currently have in your list, and up to three players can join. Quests based on levelling can also be chosen if you just fancy a run around without too much thinking. At the time of writing, this reviewer did manage to connect with a few adventurers and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of investigating the open world and ridding it of some beasties. Connection is rough at the moment, and does suffer from slowdown, although long time developer Aquria has promised that a patch will be released soon to ensure a more fluid experience.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris  on PlayStation 4

Waiting for a patch for a more stable internet collection really does feel like it will be worth the wait. No more dungeon crawling is required, with a large expanse of open world available to plough through at your own pace. Farmhouses and rivers litter the horizon, and all points of interest are noted on a non-intrusive mini-map that can be turned on with a quick tap of a directional button. These can range from basic fetch and kill quests, to mini bosses waiting to be taken down. With such large areas the inclusion of fast travel is also a life saver, and further encourages exploring every nook and cranny, as it becomes so easy to hop back and turn in a quest. Is the world a wonder of graphical prowess? No. But with plenty to do and see it really doesn't need to be.

With so many previous titles focused on grey walled dungeons and uninteresting areas, seeing the sun through a wooded glade is a blessing. Hopefully in the patch Aquira will also spend some time looking at the control of Kirito and Co. Currently he feels like Mario sliding across and ice field in his 64 days. If multiplayer isn't a priority in a play-through all team roles can be filled with the usual cast of SAO veterans. The likes of Asuna, Lisbeth and Leafa can all be found wandering the hub world and recruited at any time. The more time spent with them, the higher their basic stats are raised along with their 'affinity' stat. Level 2 unlocks hand holding at all times, level 3 hugging. This is a Sword Art Online game, so level 4 is exactly what is expected - Kirito doesn't have a tent for nothing…

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

If a lot of this review feels negative, it's only because with just a little more care and focus on pacing, this could have been the first Sword Art Online to capture the imagination of a widespread fanbase. Multiplayer is a really positive experience, and it becomes very easy to sink hours into just exploration and small side quests, with no attention being paid to the main story. Pick up and play is a feeling so rarely found in JRPG titles that it feels like a really positive step towards what should be seen as the new normal. What is baffling, then, is hiding such a great feature, along with all the other main parts of Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris behind 12+ hours of repetitive story. The honest truth is that players with a passing interest aren't going to put the hours in to get past the initial chapter, and in doing so, are going to miss out on an enjoyable experience with a lot to offer for both casual players and hardcore fans. Stick with it.

Developer

Aquria

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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