The game-within-a-game series is back with a new installment so let's dive into the virtual world of Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris.
As you may know, I love playing RPGs based on manga and anime franchises. However, I've never actually played a Sword Art Online game before although the series has always piqued my interest. Now that I've played Alicization Lycoris, I must say that I'm perplexed as to how anyone could enjoy it. Perhaps it's just a poor entry and I unluckily played it first or maybe it was made strictly for hardcore Sword Art Online fans and I'm missing something but no matter which way you slice it; I did not enjoy it and I'm sure many other RPG fans will agree. That's not to say that it doesn't have any redeeming qualities. In fact, I loved its game world a great deal. Although its graphics seem like they could run on an Xbox 360, the huge world is full of memorable locations and plenty of lovely sights such as elaborate gardens and gorgeous mountainside rivers. Simply running around and taking in the view was my favourite part of the experience.
When it comes to video games, I usually have a lot of patience. I'm willing to dedicate my time to learning how to play a game effectively and I love when all of my efforts pay off. With that in mind; whenever a game has no respect for my time and has me jump through tedious hoops in order to progress through its drawn-out campaign, my patience wears thin quite quickly and unfortunately, that's exactly what Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris does. Even after playing it for 10 or so hours, there were still tutorials popping up and training matches against NPCs. It's the most monotonous and needlessly stretched out RPG that I've ever played and I grew up in the late '80s and '90s enjoying RPGs that took forever to complete. Do you really need to read more? After all, this is only the beginning.
The combat in Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris takes a long time to learn how to play effectively because, well, the tutorials slowly trickle in throughout the first dozen hours of the campaign. When I started, I played it like it was a hack and slash game but after learning the ropes which could have been accomplished via a 5 minute tutorial mind you, I began to understand its ins and outs. For example, enemies have well-telegraphed attacks that you can parry and you can also have your teammates perform attacks with you to cause even more damage. Plus, there are various skills to deploy and you can break enemies after pounding away for a while. None of this is new or revolutionary but it is slightly satisfying once you find yourself cutting through monsters with ease instead of mindlessly hacking away.
Although combat is somewhat satisfying once you know all of its intricacies, it's still incredibly simple and repetitive stuff. On top of that, setting up your party members is extremely basic, too. Equipping them with better gear, purchasing boosts with earned points via a tree, and setting up passive and active skills simply feels trite and mind-numbing, especially considering the fact that very little strategy is required to progress through the campaign. I wish you needed to change equipment and deploy various tactics depending on the enemies that you fight but you really don't need to bother. You can adapt things to your play style but it's not necessary. Just go through the motions and you'll be fine. If you reach a tricky part then simply grind for a little while and get back to it. Easy as pie.
Before I started playing Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris, I downloaded an 18GB update so I was surprised to see how badly it performs. I played it on my Xbox One X and it suffers from ridiculous frame rate drops that frankly made me feel nauseous, stuttering character animations, poor collision detection, invisible walls, and plenty of other issues. As if that's not enough, the loading times are exceptionally long and frequent. Sometimes, you'll wait for a scene to load, read 5 lines of dialogue, and then wait for another loading screen. Also, whenever your progress is auto-saved, you have to sit there like a chump while you wait for the saving process to complete. It's 2020 and I can't remember the last game I played that prevents you from doing anything while auto-save kicks in.
I'm sure it has its niche but if you're simply an RPG fan looking for a new game to sink some time into, you can do a lot better than Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris. Its lack of respect for the player's time and unforgivable performance issues are downright ridiculous.
- + Combat is a bit fun once you learn the ropes
- + Expansive game world that contains memorable locales and pretty scenery
- - Tedious and needlessly drawn-out campaign
- - Awful performance and atrocious load times
- - Combat and party setup are mostly one-note and could use more strategic elements