Lair will go into history as one of the biggest disappointments of 2007. Still, a long time things looked good for the newest game from Faktor 5, the makers of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series. The final product, however, got shredded unanimously by the American press. With reason?
The story for one isn’t worth much. You play as Rohn, a dragon rider in the army of Asylia.]When one day Asylia gets attacked by surprise by the neighbouring Mokai it’s up to you and the other dragon riders to protect the empire. The story gets more complex as the game unfolds but it does remain quite subsidiary to the action.
And that action gets put on the screen quite remarkably. Lair is without a doubt one of the most cinematic games on the market. Dozens of fire-breathing dragons fight against each other in the sky while on the ground whole armies battle against each other, shooting with ballistas and catapults. The game is amazingly detailed, whether we’re talking about the skin of the dragons, the beautifully reflecting water or the spectacular lighting. The animations of your dragon are also of an enormously high level and combine all that graphical violence with a great orchestral soundtrack, solid voice-acting and ear-deafening THX-noise and you know that on a technical level Lair pulls everything out of the closet.
Lair may be a joy to watch and listen, it certainly isn’t a joy to play. As you probably suspected, your dragon isn’t controlled with the analog sticks but with the movement sensors from the Sixaxis-controller and that’s immediately the biggest problem. The controls aren’t precise enough which makes that your dragon will often do the exact opposite of what you want it to do. Especially for people who aren’t used to inverted controls Lair can become quite frustrating quite quickly. I personally always use an inverted Y-axis which makes that the controls for me are bearable, but for a lot of other gamers it will be torture.
Still, in theory it looks quite simple. Speeding up is done with X, stearing with the motion sensor and locking a hostile dragon with R1. Once you’ve got a dragon in your view you can choose to shoot a fireball or ram it. As you get rid of more and more Mokai your anger meter will fill up. In rage mode you can also do takedowns which make that you sky-dive towards a Mokai dragon and throw down its rider in full flight. This is done through button press sequences that we know all too well from just about any action game since God of War and Resident Evil 4. Unfortunately the targeting function is as stupid as can be and you’ll almost always select another target you had wanted which often leads to major irritation.
From time to time you’ll also have to fight on the ground and strangely enough you’ll control your dragon with the analog sticks then. You can fry soldiers, rip them apart with your claws or give them a nice kick with your tail. Fighting on the ground does bring some variation but remains all but interesting. And more irritation: Lair doesn’t have a multiplayer mode (there is a decent training mode) and is astonishingly short with about six hours of gameplay.
Lair is a beautiful game to watch (thanks to a Lord of the Rings-like spectacle) but a horror to play. Most of the problems, however, are present thanks to the inaccurate Sixaxis controls that will drive even the most patient pacifist to despair.