By Patrick Aguda / September 2nd, 2020
The combat in this game is quite enjoyable. You perform regular attacks by pressing the square button, evade and perform aerial attacks by pressing the cross button, and press the circle button to guard attacks. If you input a direction at the same time as a guard, you can also parry attacks. In addition to regular attacks, you can perform powerful Sword Skills to help decimate your foes. In order to utilize these skills, you hold the R1 button and choose from the palette of skills you set. Using Sword Skills requires the use of SP, and there are 3 bars in the SP Gauge, each bar equaling 100 SP. This gauge replenishes over time, and also recovers much quicker while using regular attacks. You can unlock more Sword Skills by utilizing skill points in the Skill Tree of a certain weapon. Skill Points can be obtained by leveling up, killing certain enemies, and also by completing quests given by monuments throughout the empire. These quests are hunting quests, and can be redone. Note, that not all monument quests give skill points. There are multiple weapons to choose from such as One-Handed Swords, Bows, Dual Blades, Katanas, Maces etc. I ended up using Dual Blades most of the time. With the right timing, you can chain together Sword Skills with a Skill Connect and cause even more damage to enemies. If your party members use a sword skill after yours connects, a Chain Burst occurs. Chain Bursts have 3 levels (4 once you unlock a special skill). Each level causes more and more damage to your enemies and gives you a chance to put them in a Hazard state. When your foe is in this state, they’re stunned and take more damage. From there, there are three other states: Broken, Fatalized and Downed. You can put the enemy in those states by pressing the cross button or using certain sword skills. When the enemies are Broken and Fatalized, you can juggle them using regular attacks and Sword Skills. When they’re in a Downed state, it’s similar to the Hazard state, but they take more damage. It’s fun to take advantage of these weakened states and brutalize foes.
If you parry or evade attacks at the right time, you can fill up your Arts gauge. You can see the current capacity of your Arts gauge by pressing the triangle button. Once the gauge is full, you can perform three different options: Finishing Arts, Super Arts, and Ally Skills. Finishing Arts involve a special cutscene where the character attacks the enemy with a unique skill. Enemies are immediately put into a Hazard state after this, so you can take advantage of this and really put a hurt on your foes. Super Arts slow down time and allows you to utilize Sword Skills without consuming SP, so you can beat on enemies with multiple skills in a row. Just know that there is a cooldown time while doing this, so you can’t use skills like Starburst Stream multiple times in a row. Ally Skills requires there to be 3 or 4 members in the party. Each member of the party hits the enemy with a special skill, each time hitting them with a higher level Chain Burst. The final attack features Kirito and their partner which causes a level 3 Chain Burst. I tend to use this option whenever possible, as I found this did the most damage in the shortest amount of time. My problem with this option is that it doesn’t always work. When you use it on stationary enemies like a Clamp, it won’t activate cause the enemy has to be launched in the air for it to work. The Ally Skill will also cancel out if the enemy dies before it completes, so it feels like a waste when that occurs. Ally Skills are fantastic when they hit, but when they don’t activate it’s pretty devastating as you have to build the Arts gauge up all over again.
You can also utilize abilities known as Sacred Arts which have a variety of different effects. These Sacred Arts can be used for attacks, healing, to increase movement speed and even to help platform in certain areas. The elements I used most were Light, Wind and Metal. Light is used for healing, Wind is used to increase your jump distance and Metal can be used to create platforms you can climb on. There are 3 levels of Sacred Arts for each element, and you unlock higher levels by finding certain monuments scattered across the Human Empire. There are still some Elements I haven’t fully upgraded.
Your party can consist of four characters: Kirito and 3 other members of your choosing. Each character has their own EX Skill. The EX Skill that’s set determines what support abilities the party member has. The three general roles are Attacker, Defender, and Supporter. After these are more specialized roles such as Tank, Healer, Berserker, Scout etc. In order to unlock these classes you need to find certain statues while exploring the world around you. I found the most useful setup was to always have a Healer and Defender / Tank in the party. The third party member can be whatever you want after that. I liked that you could change a party member’s EX Skill to fit your needs. For example, I changed Leafa to a Tank and Sinon to a Supporter. They were both originally Attackers.
The most interesting aspect of the combat is the Record system. With this system, your party members learn what to do in order to complement your play style. For example, I like using Chain Bursts, so whenever I used a Sword Skill, I would press the L1 button and switch to a party member and have them use a Sword Skill. After doing these actions enough times, the party member would record a tactic like “Never Miss a Chain Opportunity.” So now, whenever I would use a Sword Skill, I wouldn’t have to order the party member to use a skill anymore, as they would perform the action themselves. Once my party members learned what to do during fights, battles became a breeze. Note that if you switch party members, the tactics one character learned wouldn’t transfer to another character, so you’d have to teach the new character what to do all over again. This Record system has a lot of potential, and I think if you had enough time and patience, you could realistically teach your party members how to win fights by themselves. There’s a lot of depth to this system if you’re willing to really work with it.
There is also a Duel System in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris. These are usually one-on-one duels between Kirito and other characters like Alice. These duels have modified mechanics such as forced lock-on. The enemy will mostly guard your attacks and you will have to find openings to damage them. While these duels seemed cool at first, they can get annoying because you can’t run during duels. So you’d try to chase down an opponent but they’d backflip away and you could only slowly plod toward them. You can dash at them by pressing the cross button, but doing so would cost SP you could be using for Sword Skills. So Duels are a hit and miss for me. The idea of it is great, the execution could use some work.
While I really enjoyed the combat in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, I felt fights were too easy at times, especially the boss fights. Before in Hollow Realization, you’d need to devise plans and watch out for certain attacks if you wanted to win. In Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, you could easily win so long as your Tank and Healer did their jobs and everyone used their Sword Skills when needed. The most difficulty I had was when certain party formations were forced on you, where sometimes a Tank and Healer were not available. There were also some boss fights that were immune to attacks until you put them in a Hazard state. There’s a lot to love about the combat in Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris, and I think Aquria did a great job with it.
The game’s graphics and art design are hit and miss. The character designs are great, especially for characters like Asuna, Sinon, Leafa, Silica and Medina. Their outfits are eye catching and memorable. However there is an awful lot of clipping, like hair going through clothing and arms. This is especially true for characters with long hair like Asuna and Administrator. It’s a minor issue, but one that bothers me still. The weapon designs in the game look great. I enjoyed how the recreated weapons from the light novel such as the Night Sky Blade, Blue Rose Sword and Osmanthus Blade. The weapons look memorable and are pleasing to the eye. The character models are done well, weapons look great and the environments you travel through look good. Some of my favorite parts of the game involve entering a new area and seeing previews of the new environment you’re going to explore. The normal enemy designs are forgettable. You’ve got giant lizards, giant bats, walking mushrooms, big birds etc. However, boss enemies like Commander Gunther and Kayode Norlangarth look very good and unique. I wish normal enemies had as much care put into their designs as the story bosses have.
It feels like the developers paid more attention to character models and the overall environment as certain other aspects feel neglected. The biggest example of this are torches. The flames the torches emit look something you’d see in a last generation game. I would hope they’d put a little more effort into the small things like that. It isn’t a Sword Art Online game without event CGs, and like previous games, this one is filled with them. You usually see event CGs during certain parts of the main story, and during Bond Events. These CGs are well drawn and pleasing to the eye. Seeing these are like rewards for actually doing Bond Events or getting to certain points in the story. I do wish there were more CGs with other characters interacting with each other and not just with Kirito, but they still look good. I think the game looks nice, but it does have some issues.
Next, we have to talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t any groundbreaking composed tracks, I believe they are all implemented well. The tracks that play during tense moments like an enemy attacking or very emotional scenes during the story really help to convey the urgency and the feelings of the scenes well. My personal favorite tracks are the game’s main theme, the arrangements of the main theme, and “Scar/let”, the game’s theme song, which is performed by ReoNa. “Scar/let” is definitely the standout song in the game, and when it finally plays in the story it’s a great moment. The sound effects in the game are well-done too. It’s very satisfying hearing the sound of your weapon hitting the enemy or a Sacred Art blasting a foe. I think the music and sound design were done well in this game, not groundbreaking, but done well.
Action RPGAquriaBandai Namco EntertainmentPS4PS4 reviewReviewSword Art OnlineSword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris