SWORD ART ONLINE Alicization Lycoris – Launch Trailer
Who it Caters to
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is directly based on the Alicization arc of Sword Art Online's manga and anime. It follows the story of Kirito, who wakes up with no memories in what looks like another VRMMORPG. In this all-too-real world, however, there's no way of logging out, and it's impossible to tell who's an NPC and who could be another human player. In fact, Kirito has no memories of the real world... but he does remember some things of his past in this alternate reality!
As you can see, this game is catered to Sword Art Online fans looking for a playable version of Alicization, one of the best arcs of the SAO franchise. However, the gameplay brings nothing new to the table, and it could feel truly overwhelming if you're not familiar with the characters and story. If you enjoy super long JRPG adventures with lots of unnecessary grinding, try revealing the deepest secrets of the Underworld!
What to Expect
Alicization Lycoris is divided into different chapters, starting with Kirito's arrival to Rulid up to his training and everything that happens with Alice and the Integrity Knights. Of course, we won't spoil the details to you, but if you're currently watching the anime or you have read the manga, you already know what to expect in terms of the story.
As for the gameplay, it's your average anime-based JRPG, with a semi-open, instanced world, dozens of sidequests around the different areas of the Underworld, a somewhat complex, party-based combat system—although it's basically abusing the Square button with some occasional well-time defensive moves—that lets you join forces with Eugeo and all your favorite characters, and there's even a friendship system. Yes, there indeed are a lot of things to do in Alicization Lycoris, but are they really fun and/or well-done? More on that later!
Three of the things you have to deal with once you decide to spend tons of hours on this game are the unavoidable technical issues, the overwhelming menus, and the annoying tutorials.
While the Underworld felt all-too-real for Kirito, our experience with this game was the complete opposite. Of course, this is not a small game, but that's no excuse when it comes to how unpolished the game feels at times. We have long loading screens every time you enter a new zone, we have subpar animations, and we have trees, buildings, and monsters that take too much time to load—and most of the times, they are awkwardly rendered as you move.
Even halfway through the story, navigating the menu was a pain, especially because some sections of the game are so easy that you don't even need to change your build or use any items. In the end, the only good thing about Alicization Lycoris' visuals are the still images and cutscenes; everything else, although it's nowhere near unplayable, leaves much to be desired.
As much as we suffered the rough graphical aspects, we did enjoy the OST and the sound effects, especially when battling or during cutscenes. For obvious reasons, the epic music and the Japanese voice acting make any game feel like you're actually watching the anime, so we always enjoy that. However, there's no English voice over available, so you're pretty much forced to read all dialogues.
As we mentioned before, the story is divided into several chapters and subchapters. It all starts when Kirito wakes up amnesiac and befriends Eugeo, with the first chapter, for example, explaining what happened to their friend Alice and how both Kirito and Eugeo swore to become Integrity Knights one day. Of course, a lot of things are briefly explained, slightly changed, or just ignored, so this game could hardly be considered a viable alternative to the source material.
Your main goal once you start playing Alicization Lycoris is to convince yourself to finish the neverending tutorials. Expect lots of pop-up boxes with several pages full of text, some of them explaining trivial things as how to move or how to save your game. Other tutorials, like the one explaining the combat system, are extremely useful... yet extremely tempting to skip, too. In fact, you'll spend hours fighting monsters and other humans just spamming the Square button, maybe running away or switching to another party member if Kirito is defeated (you need to stay alive for 30 seconds for your downed allies to get up again). This is because some special skills are automatically used in your combos, but also because some mechanics are not that intuitive or user-friendly.
Other annoying parts of the first chapters are the training sessions at the North Centoria Imperial Sword Mastery Academy. Sometimes you just fight against another member of your squad, like Eugeo, Medina, or Sortiliena, but other sessions put you against generic sparrings. The boring thing is that you only need to 'survive' a couple of minutes, and even if you fail, the story goes on as if nothing happened. Like, how can you end up in the top places when you didn't even try? Oh, yeah, you're Kirito after all...
Once you get to the second chapter, you have more freedom to run around doing some sidequests—which are nothing but fetch quests and hit lists, anyways—or even fishing, crafting, or befriending people. But why would you do this? Well, just because, since it doesn't feel relevant at all. There's no depth in this game, and all NPC are easily forgettable and extremely generic. Although you're the hero of this story, you barely enjoy the journey, and the combat nor the story make anything to make you feel more powerful or important after a fight. In fact, the combat system tries so hard to feel complex that it actually is, leaving you with a strange taste in your mouth: it's indeed arduous to master your dodges, blocks, sword skills, and secret arts, as well as understanding the Hazard mechanic and how to make the best out of any situation, but why complicate yourself when auto-attacks, although bland, are more than enough?
To make it all feel like you're just doing chores, some game modes and features—like going online—are only unlocked after playing several hours, so there's no escape to the repetitive, dull gameplay. All in all, most of these features are there only to make your stay longer, so it's up to you how many hours, days, or weeks you dedicate to customizing your characters or just farming for exp and better items.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
There are a lot of technical issues and no significant gameplay elements to keep you hooked so many hours unless you’re a massive SAO fan who just wants to play the Alicization arc and slash things with Kirito’s sword. That being said, we might be biased since we know how good the whole story is and so, we forced ourselves to keep playing just to see how Alicization Lycoris adapted some specific scenes and fights. We won't blame you if you find yourself bored and uninterested in this game, though. We know how awful its pacing is!
Great soundtrack and some cool cutscenes.
The story is really good if you take your time to appreciate it.
No one who has played this game likes its annoying tutorials...
Too many features locked behind a time-wall.
The first half of the game is too repetitive and it underestimates most of its own gameplay mechanics. The second half leaves you on your own, with so much grind to do.
Honey's Final Verdict:
It would be too harsh to say Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is a bad game, but it’s far from being perfect or addictive. Anime-based games are not for anyone and so, we’re sure a lot of SAO fans will definitely like it, more so if we’re comparing it to other SAO games… the general audience, though? Hmm… it’s hard to say someone new to Sword Art Online or with an objective point of view will enjoy it, let alone forgive its most blatant mistakes.
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...