PLATFORM: PC, PS4 (REVIEWED), XBOX ONE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
A few short years from now, people will be able to access ultra-immersive VR experiences via a machine that allows players to enter online worlds and directly control in-game avatars using nothing but the power of their own mind. Alicization Lycoris starts off by following the events of Sword Art Online's third anime season; arriving in an online world, Kirito finds himself trying to rescue a young girl who has been taken away to be executed after inadvertently entering a dangerous area beyond the mountains, strictly forbidden to humans. If the goblins, orcs and other monsters weren't enough to deal with, Kirito also needs to figure out which “players” are human and which are just NPCs... After a certain point, the story branches off into a new adventure supervised by series creator, Reki Kawahara, which really gives fans of the series something to sink their teeth into.
SAO:AL features everything you'd expect from an open-world action JRPG. Exploring weird and wonderful lands, completing quests, earning experience points, levelling up, equipping weapons and armour, learning new skills and so on. The real-time combat, based around “Arts” (flashy special moves that deal big damage and provide all manner of physical buffs/debuffs), starts off fairly simply but eventually gets more complex as Kirito grows more powerful; it takes a long time (10+ hours) for everything to really click into place but, when it does, it's an incredibly fun world to play around in.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris doesn't do a huge amount of things differently to similar titles, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The pacing might be slightly off in the early going and the odd bit of polish here and there wouldn't go amiss (some juddery animations and tiny on-screen text / subtitles can be quite frustrating on the visual side of things in particular), but there's more than enough to keep fans of the genre happy.