Copying Monster Hunter isn’t an obvious route to success outside of Japan, so how does this new game from the makers of Deadly Premonition fare?
If we were to say that this game was from the same developer responsible for the cult hit Deadly Premonition, we would expect a significant proportion of readers to take a keen interest. If we also point out that this is a clone of one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time in Japan, one that regularly outperforms Final Fantasy and Metal Gear, we would expect everything everyone is always on board. But when we say that the game in question is Monster Hunter, we know that almost everyone is going to lose interest instantly.
Despite its phenomenal success in Japan, Capcom’s Monster Hunter seems unlikely to be heard here. The reasons are pretty clear too: it’s not a particularly good game, especially in terms of controls and combat. Instead, it owes its success to its social elements, which are specifically tailored to the Japanese way of life, where long commutes and a willingness to play wireless games with strangers are the basis of its appeal.
As a result, there have been many clones over the past few years, including various Phantasy Star Online games – from which Monster Hunter borrowed most of its initial ideas. Lord Of Arcana comes from the MaXplosion cloning school. So much so that it should start with a warning about dizzy deja vu, not to mention the usual dangers of strobe lighting.
The game does little to hide its shame either, with a rudimentary storyline about unlocking an ancient power sealed in stone monoliths. Every warrior worth his salt competes for the chance to become the titular Lord of Arcana, which involves hanging out in a Monster Hunter-style village and completing numerous Monster Hunter-style quests.
As such, these quests usually involve collecting special items (plants, creature remains, etc.) or killing a specific monster. Since this is an action role player, you slowly accumulate experience points which increase your proficiency in the weapon you use, as well as magic and your base stats. As you complete quests, you also move up the ranks of the Quest Giver Guild, allowing you to take on increasingly difficult, but also more lucrative, quests.
As we said, this is all exactly the same as Monster Hunter, with the near-open world environments slowly opening up as you progress through the game. And just like Monster Hunter, you get into it. You will soon be fed up with visiting the same old places. But where Capcom’s gameplay makes all that repetition and leveling more palatable is with its constant stream of rewards, in terms of new loot and resources with which to craft new weapons and gear.
Lord Of Arcana is much more stingy in this regard, and you quickly start to wonder why you care about collecting even more potatoes or fighting another useless goblin.
The only positive difference between the two games is the Lord Of Arcana fight, which takes place on a separate battle screen. While the camera looks just as gruesome as Monster Hunter when it scours the environment, in the battle screen you get proper target lockdown and nice beefy moves with which to berate monsters.
Compared to a real beat ’em-up, this is still very basic stuff, and it would have been a lot more impressive without the switch to a separate screen, but we certainly enjoyed it a lot more than the clunky action of Monster Hunter.
Objectively, it’s really just about being less worse than his inspiration and unless you’re playing the game with three friends, you’ll miss the point. British Monster Hunter fans are already struggling enough to find reliable allies, but since there is no online mode here, the chances of meeting someone else with the game become minimal.
But playing alone is just not an option. Not only is the repetition and slow progress mind-numbing, it quickly becomes unplayable too. And yet, if you’re around other people, the very last thing they want to do is play this tedious dungeon crawler with you. Isn’t it, Zach?
In short:A Monster Hunter clone that copies most of the key features but fails to properly balance any one of them – or add appropriate new ideas.
Advantages:The graphics and music are decent and there is definitely a lot of content. The combat is generally better than Monster Hunter and his ilk. Four player offline cooperation.
The inconvenients:Painfully slow progress, with too little reward for too much effort. Quickly becomes incredibly difficult on your own. No online option.
Formats: PSPPrice: £ 34.99Publisher: Square EnixDeveloper: Access GamesRelease Date: February 4, 2011Age group: 16