By Chase Streetman
Cost: $1.79 and 8 hours
Dragons are pretty cool. Everyone’s thought “I wish I could ride a dragon” at one point or another, and this classic fantasy is what the developers at Factor 5 were banking on when they released Lair. When the game released in 2007 it was met with a lukewarm reception.
Seven years later and selling at 3% of the original price, is it worth your time and money?
Lair was the first game to genuinely force players to use the Dualshock 3’s Sixaxis motion controls. This has widely been considered a huge mistake, as the controls are not as responsive as an air-combat simulator needs.
The game is made up of a series of missions requiring the player to destroy various air and ground forces atop the back of various dragons. In the smaller, air-to-ground conflicts, this can actually be rather fun. The feeling of swooping low and fast over a horde of enemy troops and breathing fire is exactly as cool as it sounds.
The game falls apart, however, when you’re required to destroy specific targets in large crowds of enemies. This is due to imprecise controls and grossly inaccurate lock-on system. Far too often I would be looking directly at an enemy, press the lock on button, and the camera would suddenly whip around, targeting an arbitrary enemy dragon in the corner of the screen.
Since release, there has been a patch allowing for traditional stick controls, but the primary control scheme is still based around the Sixaxis.
Dragon-on-dragon combat is a muddled affair. You’re either grappling another dragon mid-air and mashing face buttons in hopes that the game will decide that you’ve won or zooming onto another dragon’s back swinging your arms around in hopes that the Sixaxis recognizes some form of movement and flings the other dragon and rider to the ground.
Lair really shows its age graphically, but in a very strange way. The game is beautiful, but only when everything is perfectly still. It’s like the game was made specifically for screenshots. When everything starts moving, like they do when you’re actually playing the game, it falls apart. The texture pop-in is just obnoxious and enemies who are far away have lowered frame-rate that really draws your eye.
The one exception to the game being less beautiful in motion is in the pre-rendered cutscenes. These cutscenes are beautifully animated, with realistic looking characters and above-par voice acting.
All of the flaws make me wish that the game was just entirely bad, so it would be easy to write the game off, but Lair really succeeds in two important areas: music and story.
The story seems almost aggressively stereotypical to start, but it quickly becomes clear that there is more at play than it initially seemed.
The music is suitably epic for a game about people riding dragons. An orchestral score sounds behind each of the major battles and cinematics that fosters a much more powerful investment in every moment.
Lair is absolutely worth your time for the story and its occasionally epic moments, especially given that it will only run you two dollars.
Having muddled through the less epic moments, I would recommend grabbing a friend and taking turns being the one who actually has to play the game.
Images: Front Towards Gamer, 99 Lives