GAMES - Review
15:00 - 4th August 2013, by Matt Kamen

Lord of Arcana

Capcom's Monster Hunter is huge in Japan - so popular that it's been attributed to keeping the PSP afloat, and so successful that Capcom's execs surely swim in a money pit, Scrooge McDuck-style. Why is this relevant to Lord of Arcana? Well, Square Enix's offering is curiously similar to Monster Hunter. Really similar, in fact.
Initially, the comparison might seem churlish - you start off wearing enough armour to make Lancelot jealous, unleashing powerful magic and summoning Bahamut, Squeenix's token game-hopping dragon. However, this is just Arcana pulling a now-common bait-and-switch - a taste of higher level abilities at the start of a game, then slamming you down to level one with bog-standard equipment, weapons and skills.

Here's where we start seeing the Monster Hunter comparisons come in force. You begin in the hub town of Porto Carillo, an idyllic community that's typically awash with monsters assailling the gates. Joining the local hunter's guild, you take on quests to kill certain targets or quantities thereof, harvest their innards and start levelling up. This in turn allows you to slaughter tougher monsters, rinse (in monster blood, most like) and repeat. And by repeat, we mean re-take quests several times to stat grind and survive tougher foes. Eventually, Arcana quests come into play, which drive the story forward - fabled king returned to rule, kill some dudes, yadda yadda generica - and unlock more powerful abilities.

It woudn't be quite so bad if there was an impressive world to explore during your monster murderfest, but the field areas in Arcana are only entered via Guild Quests, and consist of clusters of even tinier areas, all of which take a few seconds to load when travelling between them. Take our advice - install the game to your memory stick and save hours of your life in loading times!

Though you can customise your appearance to a considerable degree, your first batch of equipment makes you look like a hipster warrior librarian about to go and plunder Carnaby Street. Annoyingly, you can only alter your equipment at the Guild in towns, and not until you've made new armour and weapons at the blacksmith's.

Another annoyance is the controls, which are just that little bit.... 'off'. Interactions switch between the circle and X buttons, and the camera doesn't automatically follow you - it can only be adjusted with left/right on the D-Pad, though your thumb will be busy controlling movement, so you're forced to stop just to look around. There are lots of small but clunky oversights such as those. Thankfully, in battle it improves - combo attacks are easily chained with square, triangle executes heavy attacks and circle casts your current spell. Later, summons are called with triangle and circle together.

Lord of Arcana certainly has its charms - satisfyingly visceral gore that splatters the screen, a heavy metal soundtrack, and fantastic visuals - but overall, it doesn't engage players on the same level Monster Hunter manages to, and we'd be surprised if many felt any real compulsion to cultivate the weapons and goals that the game asks of you.

Enjoyable combat and deep customisation options can't cure Lord of Arcana of a bad case of Metooitis - it's just doesn't feel like an original or innovative game in any sense. All the same, this is fun in short bursts and comes with a nice collector's edition, so we're sure it'll find its fans.
SCORE: 3/5
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