I like to go off the beaten path when reviewing games. I’m the sort who actively combs the new release calendar curious about the releases that never had the marketing muscle of the Call of Duty: Black Ops’s and the Bulletstorms of gaming. When you turn over rocks sometimes you stumble across hitherto unnoticed gems like Ninjatown or de Blob. Other times you simply come across dead spiders and quickly put the rocks back down, which brings us to Lord of Arcana. I certainly hope Lord of Arcana enjoys its brief time in the spotlight because this mercilessly dull and tiresome game will be long forgotten when it fades from the recent release listings.
Lord of Arcana starts off with a traditional if forgettable character creation system: name, gender, hair style, voice, and so forth. Your mighty hero is then thrust into a series of climactic battles. Your finely honed swordplay, immense magical prowess and unmatched valor allow you to destroy opponent after opponent before you culminate in a titanic final battle where finally…you immediately get teleported to a new area with all of your powers taken away. Apparently you have just sacrificed your past life including weapons and skills to prove yourself as a successor to an ancient king.
Why we wanted to exchange our devastating weaponry and magic skills for hours of repetitive MMO quests and bland, stale combat is left unanswered, or why it was necessary at all. You would think being a great warrior capable of vanquishing giant dragons would be a good mark on the résumé of a prospective king, or maybe the land of Horodyn has a horrible human resources department. I can’t help but shake the niggling feeling that Lord of Arcana was somehow making fun of me, as if to say ‘This is the awesome type of game that you won’t be playing – have fun with our boring, repetitive grind machine!’ It’s a sour opening that sets the tone perfectly for the rest of Lord of Arcana.
The game opts for something of a Monster Hunter experience, phasing out a plot in terms for more of a fetch quest and dungeon crawling experience but when you start off by doing a poor imitation of a game with limited niche appeal you’ve already dropped the ball. The game is so insubstantial that the few attempts there are at diversifying the formula like cinematic kills just seem thrown in as an afterthought.Your only coherent objective is to get stronger in order to obtain the power of Arcana, which you do by killing the same four or five shamelessly copy/pasted enemies fifty billion times. It’s the usual single player MMO setup: sometimes you have to kill twenty furrylegs, sometimes you need to pick up twelve furryleg tufts of hair, occasionally you need to kill the alpha furrylegs scaled up in size.
While this type of game holds appeal to a particular audience, Lord of Arcana is to dungeon crawler collector games what Haze was to first person shooters. Like Haze, Lord of Arcana is at the bottom of its class in everything and has a dunce cap placed firmly on its head. Combat is functional but painfully dull, objectives are generic and repetitive even by MMO standards, and the world of Horodyn is full of copied scenery.This type of game isn’t my personal cup of tea, but a game like Monster Hunter Tri represented the genre fairly well and I actually wound up enjoying it a little. When playing Lord of Arcana I just wanted to go to sleep.
Your only reward for doing any of this is getting to fight incrementally stronger furrylegs, although the copied models and endlessly repeated dark forests do nothing to add to the experience. You also get the usual gear upgrades which seemed to increase my character’s effectiveness in battle by a tenth of a percent, and there are five different types of weapons which all somehow feel virtually identical despite the differences in range and attack. In a nutshell, there’s only one thing a stat-building game needs to get right and Lord of Arcana gets it wrong.
It might not be so bad if the combat was at least tolerable, but fighting is so threadbare that it gets boring before you even hit level two. Combat takes place in a fixed arena unfolds in real-time with the ability to attack, dodge, roll, and so on, but the speed and pacing of combat is glacial. Your character moves and attacks with the fluidity of a chronic smoker and monster AI indicates there’s a glaring lack of natural selection in Horodyn. Most of my encounters just walked around absentmindedly and waved massive signs around indicating their attack telegraph patterns. It turns into a dance routine: attack, attack, dodge, step, repeat, over and over again.
Bosses aren’t any better. The designs are basically humanoid half-giants themed after a particular element with names ripped directly from H.P. Lovecraft and every single one of them boils down to the same scenario: attack, run as the very slowly telegraphed attack comes down, attack again, repeat for another ten minutes because boss health meters are obscene. I’m not sure why a game like this felt it needed to pad out gameplay since even if these bosses each died in one hit you would spend hours of time doing the utterly asinine quests. On top of that, some of the bosses have very cheap attacks, namely one grating ability that shrinks you down to the size of a mouse, essentially making you helpless. It doesn’t add any challenge or strategy to the fights; it’s just flat out unfair.
There is nothing fun about Lord of Arcana, even if you’re a fan of games of a similar stripe like Monster Hunter. It takes the elements of an average single player MMO and waters them down so thoroughly that you’re left with a hopeless puddle that has no identity or redeeming qualities. The music and visuals are fairly nice and technically the game runs fairly well, but by this point in the review that feels like saying at least Haze is much easier to tolerate when you swap it for BioShock.
The game is functional and scenery looks fairly nice, but it's bland and completely unmemorable.
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It’s been a while since I’ve seen combat this dull. This is compounded by the fact that it’s all you do.
Music is bland, sound effects are fuzzy, and battle cries are forgettable, resulting in all around subpar sound package.
There’s plenty to do assuming you don’t mind the same four or five uninteresting tasks a million times.
Lord of Arcana isn’t completely broken, but it’s just a flop. No ambition, no uniqueness, and little if any appeal even to its target audience.