Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris Features the Most Immersive Battles of the Series
The latest entry in the Sword Art Online series, Alicization Lycoris, could end up being one of the best yet.
Over the years, Sword Art Online titles have fallen into a niche category of RPG gameplay that focuses heavily on taking on missions and traversing dungeons in the SAO universe. While Bandai Namco could have continued to deliver these types of experiences to the player, again and again, their determination to bring SAO to more fans seems to be the fuel for the upcoming entry, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris.
During a preview event, I was able to go hands-on Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris to get a feel for the updated battle mechanics and systems. Given that the series is all about immersing fictional characters in a virtual world, the game attempts to engage the player as much as possible by giving them a more significant role in how the battles play out.
If you’re familiar with SAO games, battles are kept rather straightforward with unique skills available to a substantial roster of characters. However, Alicization Lycoris seems to take this a step further by opening up a range of abilities to each character without filling up the HUD with small images that replicate a traditional MMORPG. This newly cleaned up screen space makes battles more action-oriented as it puts a focus on the fight at hand, which is crucial for executing dodges and counter-attacks.
To double down on the immersive nature of the game, players now need to charge specific attacks and spells before execution. With the press of the R2 button, players access a Sacred Arts ring where they can choose a magic ability. This will begin a charge of the ability, and by pressing R2 again, they’ll unleash the Art.
This charge mechanic for skills gives battle a layer of strategy that the series hasn’t seen before. In older titles, you might have figured that buffing characters before significant fights is enough to get through most of them, but that just doesn’t fly here.
Depending on the character, players have access to weapon and combat skills, tied to R1 plus a face or directional button, respectively. Aside from simple melee attacks, weapon skills can be used to break enemy guards or launch staggered opponents. Understanding what the skills do is necessary to get the most out of them. The game takes full advantage of every button on the controller but does have multiple layers of customization to fit your playstyle.
During my time with the game, I was only able to play as Kirito and Medina, who are both Sword users. I’m interested to see how characters who play support roles feel, as in previous titles I generally didn’t think they were fun to control. Still, the characters I did play felt responsive and fast. I would do things like charge a heat blast and use it at the end of a lengthy combo in hopes of staggering my opponent.
Environments and character design have also been improved. Running through a jungle-themed dungeon and taking a few moments to explore my surroundings felt unlike any SAO game I’ve played before. I became used to the copy and paste layouts of dungeons that the series used in the past, but this is a massive step for the action RPG and it makes a difference during gameplay.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is shaping up to be more than I ever expected of an SAO title. As a fan of the series, I was left wanting to play more and continue the adventure. The focus on immersive battles and environments pays off to make this game appealing to the general action RPG fanbase. Hopefully, the other playable characters are diverse enough to fit different playstyles, and the story holds up because this could very well be what raises the bar for the SAO series
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam on May 22, 2020
Azario Lopez is the Founder of Noisy Pixel a collective of dedicated gamers and writers from across the gaming industry aiming to cover the niche market. You can check out more coverage over at Noisy Pixel’s website and YouTube page.