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Game Review

by Myles Gibbs,

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris

PlayStation 4

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris seems to fail in every single endeavor it set out on in development. It fails to accurately translate the anime's story. It fails to provide any sort of compelling combat experience. The multiplayer and character customizer are locked behind the first five agonizing hours of the game. The tutorial outstays its welcome, and the game plagues the player with hours of dialogue to read. It sits at a complete disconnect from any aspect of being fun. In short, this title wasted my time, and I don't doubt that it will waste yours.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris attempts to translate the most recent season of Sword Art Online into a game, beat for beat. It promised engaging fantasy-action gameplay, a riveting plot taken straight from the show, and stunning anime-quality art. It fails to deliver on any of these. Alicization Lycoris sits at such a wide disconnect from any concept of fun that I can easily consider the twenty hours I spent playing through this title among the most agonizing playthroughs of my life.

On a harsh review like this one, I'd usually start with the details that Alicization got right. However, I have yet to experience any such aspects in my playthrough. The combat wasn't egregious, but it certainly wasn't pleasant. Most enemy encounters boiled down to “mash button to win” and many aspects of combat, like blocking, dodging, or even special attacks could be completely ignored. The tougher battles felt like a MMORPG raid played in single player. Most of the tougher enemies were essentially just damage sponges. They didn't really pose a threat to killing my character, but instead forced me to stare at my screen and mash a single button for ten minutes straight. A thoroughly uninvolved experience. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of gameplay was its undue complexity. For the first five hours of the game (which co-op and character customization are locked behind), I don't think I made it 15 minutes without a paragraph of tutorial text being displayed to me. Every time these boxes of text appeared on my screen, any sort of momentum the game had managed to gather came to a halt.

Alicization doesn't win any points for its lackluster plot, either. Right at the beginning, it drops you into a sort of boss fight tutorial in which characters are spouting ideals and goals that went completely over my head. Even the tutorial suffers from the same “MMORPG-raid-esque” time waster I described before. I must've sat with that boss for at least fifteen minutes before she finally went down, and the game itself simply would not allow me to die in the fight. Right after this, the opening title sequence played - which featured the only notable piece of music the game had to offer – before dropping me into the plot-at-large, which immediately retconned everything that had happened so far with a typical case of amnesia. From there forward, the story lost all hope of drawing me in. Sword Art Online: Alicization is a classic example of how not to execute the “show, don't tell” dynamic of storytelling. After the opening sequence, the pacing of the game devolves into a pattern of consistently spending about an hour reading through or listening to purely expositional dialogue that served to either explain events that took place off screen or provide pieces of world building, mixed in with the odd battle or five-minute loading screen. Moments that actually built or developed characters were few and far between, and I had no emotional attachment to the plot whatsoever. Even after the story began to get off the ground, it was plagued by retconning or skipping over bits of the original story (a la Kingdom Hearts 3's Disney Worlds) that left me largely confused as to what was going on.

The lackluster art certainly didn't assist in my being forced to sit through dull dialogue, as stiff sprites communicated with one another in a generic fantasy wasteland. Even on a technical level, the graphics were a failure, as I noticed constant breaks in framerate and graphical glitches on the PS4 Pro that I was playing on. The character designs specifically were noticeably uninspired. Looking at them provided no sort of notion as to their personality or demeanor, and they carried little presence on the screen.

Uninspired is honestly the word I feel best describes this title. It fails to stand out from the crowd – to have any of its own personality or identity at all. Everything I found passable about it is a reference to the first season of the anime that it is derived from. The overworld felt like an empty version of Dragon's Dogma. While it was vast and heavily fantasy-inspired, it lacked a presence of denizens and beasts within it – most NPCs couldn't even be interacted with. Even the sound design was bland. Once I'd grown tired enough to mute the generic music that sat on rotation for hours, I noticed that even background sound effects were hardly present. The only sound produced on the main overworld were footsteps and the odd chirp of a bird. Between the nonexistent audio, the bland art style, uninspired writing, and dull gameplay, I was left with such a profoundly empty experience that I had to sit and examine what a complete waste of time and energy that playing this game had been.

Overall : D+
Graphics : C-
Sound/Music : C-
Gameplay : C
Presentation : D

+ Translates certain events from Sword Art Online: Alicization into fantasy/action gameplay that some fans of the anime will be sure to find enjoyment in.
Uninspired gameplay, art, music, and story make this game seem like a cash grab directed at fans of the anime. It fails on a technical and artistic level, carving out no sort of presence or identity of its own.

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