previews\ Apr 12, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Lair - PS3 - Preview

When it comes to a purely visceral experience on the PlayStation 3 console system, Lair was one of those games that looked to have all the ingredients to make that concept a high-flying reality.

Come on, there are flying dragons, battling it out over the cities, waterways and countryside of a fantasy kingdom.

Sony hosted a media event to give journalists a little hands-on time with the title, and not only is Lair an extremely visceral experience, but the game combines strong physics elements with detailed interactive environments for a game that is founded on aerial combat but challenges players to think in terms far beyond the combat flight-sim genre.

Lair Screenshot

Factor 5’s co-founder Julian Eggebrecht was on had during the event to give a bit of guidance into what Lair will hold, then journalists were turned loose to get some hands-on time.

He began the presentation by stating that “I think Lair will be one of the showcase points” for the PlayStation 3 console system. Supporting 1080p resolution, the first five levels of the game will showcase the game’s control schemes, firmly set the plot into motion and give players a glimpse of what is in store graphically. While not all the game’s boss mobs were revealed, one of the earliest, a coral snake, measures one mile long. Huge? Yes, but so is this world in which each section is 32x32 kilometers in size.

The game has parallels to real-world issues, including global warming. It is the latter that has caused a factional split in the peoples of the world into the Mokai and Asylia nations. The two are at odds with one another and part of the formula for the combat is that the side that controls the skies controls the world. Hence there are a warrior class of dragonriders (the sky guards), those who mount the great winged beasts (there are four classes of dragons in the game), and battle it out in the skies above the kingdoms.

The Sony SIXAXIS controller is key to the dragon flight dynamic. The motion controls are what players will use to control the flight of the dragon. Tilting the controller angles the flight path of the dragons, and then hot buttons come into play for attacks, and so on.

The game centers on one of the dragon guards, as he is caught up in the duplicity of his own leaders and the war with the Mokai.

Lair Screenshot

The game levels are timed, but players will find that “we have new gameplay dynamics that come online throughout the whole game.” The game does track a linear path, but sandbox mechanics will enable players to get a bit creative as they move through the game.

As players use the dragons for attacks, they will fill a rage meter. Once the meter if full, players can trigger a time effect that slows down everything in the world with the exception of the player character and his mount. Dragons can not only use their own species ranged attacks, but will be able to pick up objects from the ground and throw them at enemies. They will also be able to dive in, claw and slash at a foe, and then push it away for a gaseous (fire or ice) breath attack.

If players are caught up in the visual elements, the audio portion of the game will only serve to enhance the game-playing experience. The musical score used a 75-piece orchestra and was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London. John Debney (Sin City) composed the score, which has a grand “operatic” feel. And to deliver that sound, the game supports 7.1 HDMI surround-sound.

Five levels were available in the hands-on portion – Day of Terror, Blood River, Demon Pass, The Crossing and Serpent Strait. The interface is well designed and easy to learn. The control scheme itself, the SIXAXIS flight controls, are smooth and responsive.

There is a real sense of wonder in playing the game, one that pulls the player into the story. The only thing that disrupts a sense of total immersion are the load times. The game, though, is in the tweaking phase and on track for a July release. Between now and then, perhaps, some of the load times may be reduced.

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