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PSP  header logo

Lord of Arcana

For: PSP

Master of nothing

Product: Lord of Arcana | Publisher: Square Enix | Format: PSP | Genre: Action | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Lord of Arcana PSP, thumbnail 1

While it may not have quite the same pull on western shores, the Monster Hunter series is big business in Japan.

The latest instalment - Monster Hunter Portable 3rd - sold well over 2 million units in its first week, simultaneously reviving fledgling sales of PSP hardware.

As with any great invention - motor cars, personal computers, those flip-flops with the soles made of rubbery jelly - companies other than the original manufacturer will naturally borrow the idea and run with it in order to capitalise on a lucrative new market.

Square Enix and Access Games's Lord Of Arcana is just such a borrowed idea, making very few alterations to Capcom's wildly successful Monster Hunter formula. 

After creating a custom avatar from the moderately generous character generator, you're asked to choose a starting weapon type from the six available, ranging from fast-striking short swords to powerful but slow double-handed weapons to a projectile-based Gun Lance.

Using the weapons in combat situations levels-up your proficiency with them, and deciding which type works best for your style of game experience is crucial early into the game. 

Laughter is the best medicine, slaughter is the route to all power 

After a brief but thorough tutorial that acts as the title's prologue, you arrive in Porto Carillo, a small village that is Lord of Arcana's equivalent to Monster Hunter's base camp.

Even at this extremely early stage in the game, the comparisons with MH are clear. Quests are found in two centralised Guild locations, one for multiplayer parties and one for solo runs.

The few NPCs that inhabit this area are always to be found in the same locations, making for a living space ironically devoid of life and vibrancy, spouting the same lines of written dialogue over and over, never giving any hint of character or allusions to a larger story at play.

Weapons and armour can be upgraded by a sole craftsman, who requires you to find different materials gained from foraging and scavenging from the landscape on your journey, as well as the Cores of fallen enemies.

Lord of Arcana even has its own Felyne alternatives - the Vedels – a race of floating demon characters that occasionally try their hand at comic relief.

Mission types are of the 'kill ten of these', 'gather five of these', 'take down this boss' variety firmly established by Monster Hunter's peculiar brand of ultra violence and pack rat hoarding.

Taking the fight to the enemy, however, feels faster and more compartmentalised than its inspiration. Combat is more dynamic, with a largely competent lock-on system, exaggerated light trails that swing behind your blade, dramatic camera angles when enemies near death, a handful of gorgeous magical summon attacks, and cinematic QTE moments to keep things varied.

Access Games has also clearly drawn upon more traditional JRPGs for the title's flow of play, as both player and enemies inhabit a shared world, split into a dozen or so numbered areas on the map, while combat takes place in a distinctively different circular arena.

Identity Hunter

The armour in Lord of Arcana is high-JRPG fare: glowing swords and gleaming metal. Its enemies are the standard Goblins, Skeletons, and Magma Giants. Its combat structure is instanced to the point of being solitary.

Add to this a story that is only present to facilitate the action and you're left with grind for grind's sake, a production that never distinguishes itself enough from the rest of the growing pack of Hunter-a-likes.

Substantial numbers of items, missions, and a solid local multiplayer suite completes the back-of-the-box checklist. Without online multiplayer it's easy to see the appeal quickly fading, as getting enough players in one room for a run is difficult.

Using the Adhoc Party that the PlayStation 3 offers is a neat work around, yet the community of players, from my experience at least, seems averse to helping out the new guy. When you are in a game, though, it's technically strong, being built from the ground-up with these shared experiences in mind.

Is it enough for a release to simply be a good clone of a great game? The answer in this case is 'just'. The title is sure to appease fans of the genre that Capcom built, but it doesn't bring much that's new to the table, limiting its potential audience to players waiting for Monster Hunter Freedom 3 to get a western outing.

Lord of Arcana
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 26 February 2011
Fans of Monster Hunter are in for a decent alternative to their favourite action RPG, but a lack of imagination traps Lords Of Arcana on a plane of relative mediocrity when compared to its bigger cousin
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