Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also on: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Aquria
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Even though I?ve played quite a few of the Sword Art Online games, I?d be lying if I said I?d ever picked up anything more about the series than their basic premise: teens get stuck in MMORPG, have to fight their way out. Yet, despite this lack of knowledge, I?ve generally managed to enjoy the SAO games.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris marks a whole new phase in the games: not only did I not follow the story, I didn?t enjoy the game much either.

To a certain extent, I only have myself to blame for not following the story. After all, apparently Alicization Lycoris covers an entire season of the show, and the developers have opted to retell the whole thing in long, painstaking detail. Consequently, you get to read the same story beats repeated ad nauseum, and you get lengthy explanations of every little bit of plot that leaks out. This, in turn, requires that you care about the characters and what happens to them, and…well, I didn?t.

But this would?ve been fine if the action between cutscenes was enjoyable. Unfortunately, that wasn?t the case. Everything here feels like an action RPG-by-numbers. The battles are repetitive and overlong, with lots of hacking and slashing and not much else. Characters have special moves, but they mostly amount to lots of swirling and flashing lights that happen before the characters lunge forward at the enemies.

There?s also a crazy amount of explanation here. The game starts off with the main character in the middle of some kind of boss fight. As that?s happening, everything gets spelled out for you step-by-step, even though if you?ve ever played any game like this before, you?ll know exactly what to do. Not too long after, you get into another encounter with an enemy, and the game again explains to you how everything works, as if ?press square to attack” really required that much explanation. It feels like it?s the same way for everything during the first few hours of the game: you encounter something, and the game takes several screens to explain to you what you?re seeing and doing, even though it?s all very, very obvious.

Alicization Lycoris also suffers from a severe lack of polish. It?s not uncommon to see the world around you popping in as you go, which is odd, because it?s not like this is a particularly demanding game. It was even weirder to see characters pop in and out of existence — though the weirdness turned to annoyance when I had to talk to another character who was invisible for no reason whatsoever, and I had to follow around an arrow until the character suddenly popped into being.

If I were a massive Sword Art Online fan, all of this might be forgivable. But since I?m not, and I?m just judging Alicization Lycoris based on what?s present in the game, it?s hard to see it as much more than a glitchy, boring mess that doesn?t do anything that you can?t get from other, significantly better games.

Bandai Namco provided us with a Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: D+