Lord of Arcana
Square Enix released a new action JRPG last week known as Lord of Arcana. It gives players the chance to create their own character and hunt numerous monsters as they try to unlock the mysterious power of the eight Arcana stones. Only with this power can our hero bring peace back to the kingdom of Horodyn. This will prove to be an arduous task, however, especially if you aren't a fan of this specific genre...
Quest, Grind, Repeat
The game begins with a very detailed character creation screen. You can choose between a male or female human and customize over a dozen features from hair to eyebrow placement to voice. Then it's off to a trial dungeon that puts the player at Level 45 and lets them have a taste of the future as well as go through a basic controls tutorial.
The controls in Lord of Arcana aren't bad, but I noticed right away that I was having to fight the camera by manually resetting and adjusting it an awful lot. I think the camera is zoomed in too much to begin with, but it needs too much attention and that gets distracting, especially in battle. While there is a targeting lock-on button (LT, same as camera reset) for enemies, it doesn't work all that well and you still have to press L and R on the d-pad a lot to bring the camera into the proper view.
I can deal with a constantly poor camera system, as annoying as that is, so long as the game offers plenty of other reason to keep playing. For Lord of Arcana, your mileage may vary, but in single player I quickly found the grind, quest, repeat gameplay to be boring and a chore. It doesn't help that the characters and story feel so generic.
So the goal is to free up the power of eight arcana stones so that you can defeat a looming evil and free Horodyn from its grip. The town caters to the Slayers Guild, which is made up of warriors who go out into the surrounding forests and deserts to hunt monsters. After a trial, you become a Slayer, and so the shops and NPCs open up to you. There's a blacksmith, alchemist, storage handler, and other locations that will sell you new gear, buy your loot, and improve existing items.
The town is also where quests are made available. I thought the amount of detail players are given for each quest was nice. You will get an idea of the difficulty thanks to a five star rating system and a nice text description of where you are going and what your goal is. After completing so many quests, which are segmented into chapters, you can then go on a main quest to face a Master Guardian who stands in your way of netting the power of the stones.
Better With Friends?
It won't take long to realize that this is a game that was meant for multiplayer co-op. And indeed, Lord of Arcana does support cooperative play with up to three other players, but you have connect via Ad Hoc mode, i.e., in a local environment. I don't know about you, but it's hard enough to find someone with a PSP these days much less the same game, so I wasn't able to test out the multiplayer. I don't think playing with friends would have fixed all of the game's issues, but it would have made it far more tolerable and certainly improved on the fun factor at least a little. As it stands, the single player experience is just a chore. The enemies all have tremendous HP, even the weakest of goblins, and especially the bosses which require far too long to defeat. Some quests are quite long and the only save spot is back in town. Should you die on a quest, you're faced with starting the entire thing over. Couple that with the grinding nature and, at least for me who isn't a fan of this specific Monster Hunter-esque genre, it gets discouraging.
But Lord of Arcana isn't all bad to be sure. If you can get into it, there's an awful lot to do and many hours of play to be had. Yeah the story isn't that interesting and there are some significant balance issues in single player, but it's workable if you enjoy this type of JRPG. I can only presume the experience would be much more engaging and satisfying with additional players too, which makes it a shame that internet play wasn't included.
To the summary...
Lord of Arcana
Lord of Arcana is one of those games that you probably either love or hate. If you like this specific JRPG genre, you should definitely give it a look. But if you don't, there isn't anything about Lord of Arcana that will change your mind.