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The Player 

by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Lair


Rated Mature; PlayStation 3 & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he moon is the only thing standing motionless in the night sky. Like an enormous glowing coin, it hangs surrounded by stars slowly rotating in the background. Beneath this flat, fake heaven, mountains range along the horizon like cardboard silhouettes from a cheap theatrical. An ocean glistens below. As I turn my dragon to the left, his lumbering body tilts in response, muscles twisting as his wings scoop air. A singer keens in the background. Her pseudo-Celtic wails are punctuated by thick leathery wing flaps and monotonous explosive blats from my dragon's fireballs.





The dragon I'm riding keeps flapping without my assistance. But the fireballs require the attention of my thumb, tapping down every time I want to launch one. It's about the only action in Lair that my thumbs are required to take. Controlling the dragon is achieved by tilting the PlayStation 3's wireless Sixaxis controller. A lean to the left and my dragon veers in that direction. A tilt to the right and he begins a graceful clockwise arc. If I "pull back" on the controller, my dragon climbs towards the moon, which is still hanging in the sky like a piece of set decoration.





During Lair's 15-minute chunks of battle, I'm not only required to attack enemies in the air, but I also must swoop down over battlefields and land in the midst of ground combatants, letting my dragon unleash saurian wrath. As long as I'm on the ground, Lair responds like any videogame, letting the joysticks and buttons direct my dragon's movements. But when I'm in the air, all the great feats are fated for my arms.





And so I swoop my controller around, tilting to try and make the dragon fly in the right direction. The ocean fills the screen and the fake moon bobs into view. Then, due to a shift of balance on my sofa, my dragon tucks its wings to its side, stretches its neck forward and races like a spear. "Get back!" my compatriot soldiers yell at me over the magical intercom. It's too late -- I've flown directly into a squad of enemy ice dragons. "Trouble," the game tells me as I fall from my dragon, dropping lifeless into the false water below.





THE GOOD: There seems to be some disagreement between me and the PS3 with regard to the position, pitch and yaw of the Sixaxis. Much of the time my dragon responds by flying erratically. At least it only takes a moment of calm stabilization to regain control. And when it's working, the dragon behaves like the future of flight simulators.





THE BAD: Lair's epic scale often works against it. While flying over the ocean, I can see grids of identically lapping waves looking more like crops than surf. As I fly over armies, their banners pop tardily into existence above their heads. Soldiers on armor-plated rhinos glisten in the sunlight but don't cast shadows. Combat as detailed as Lair's demands a greater clarity and precision of drawing. The PS3 should be able to provide the goods, so I blame the programmers for Lair's unfinished appearance.





THE BOTTOM LINE: Lair sets me on top of a beautifully animated dragon, puts his motion-sensitive controls in my hands, then drags me to the ground.





2/5 Stars

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