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Review: SWORD ART ONLINE: ALICIZATION LYCORIS Feels Like HD Gaming on Dial-Up

The world of Sword Art Online has a massively devoted fanbase that has been craving a great game, especially because SAO is literally based inside various video games. We have gotten a handful of games with a wide variety of quality, but all of them falling short of the scope of SAO in general. Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris brings a lot of really great content with but the massive amount of performance issues hold this game back from ever becoming a truly enjoyable experience.

Let’s first talk about the good parts of the game. It is almost daunting how deep and complex the skill trees and party member customization can be. Various skills have extra iterations to make them more potent or more attune players styles. Each character has various slots for passive abilities, buffs, and combat skills. This along with armor, weapons and visual customizations allows players to have a lot of control of their party and how they act and look. Even in battle, players can switch between different party members and give them specific commands to adapt to different combat scenarios. 

Another good thing about the game is its story. For fans of anime and more longform storytelling, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris has a lot of dialogue, interesting story beats, and characters. It does follow closely to the original anime story in a number of ways, and that can be seen as either good because fans get to play through everything or bad because of the lack of new content. The last major positive thing about the game is its combat system. When working smoothly, combat can be very complex, engaging, and require finesse and intellect. I wish there were a little bit better tutorials on what to do and how to use all the various tools effectively.

These are a lot of positives, but this game suffers from seriously strong technical problems. I played this on a normal PlayStation 4, which compared to the PlayStation Pro and PC is the weakest. However, even areas as simple as a town or just a field with my characters alone required lengthy loading screens, while still giving me consistently low frame rates. Objects and characters would always be popping in and out of view. I did some additional research, and other players on high spec PCs reported performance issues with frame rate and loading screens. 

Another major problem with the PlayStation 4 version was that the input lag made the game feel like it was in slow motion. Just trying to pick up things or talk to people felt sluggish and combat involving more than two enemies was almost unplayable because my blocks, attacks, and movements would never line up with the enemies. There may be some heavy patches and fixes in the future, but as of now, playing it on the PlayStation 4 feels like someone poured molasses all over my character. Below is just a quick taste of how sluggish combat felt with me being tossed in the air for a crazy amount of time. Here is a longer Youtube version of my gameplay on PS4 (by the way, I’m not bad at games, it is literally super slow at reacting and my guarding and attack inputs were very laggy).

If this was a robust world filled with life, many moving parts, and really high-quality graphics, some of these slow down would make sense. But that’s not the case. The game looks fine, and at the right moment looks really good. But often textures load in very slowly or are very simple, and the geometry of the world looks very blocky especially in the panoramic views when first loading into a new area. I’ve honestly seen Playstation 2 games with environments that look just as good. It all just looks very unpolished and quickly thrown together. 

If everything was running perfectly smoothly, meaning the environment, loading screens, combat, and menus moved like butter, this game would be a great RPG. However, the state that it is in now is almost unplayable and gameplay feels more like a chore in order to get to the dialogue. If you want to play this game on PC, look up online how to get the best performance out of the game and be ready to still deal with some issues. But I cannot recommend this game on the PlayStation in the state that it’s in. The overall score is going to be pretty low. It would deserve better if the game was running properly but all of the good features are overshadowed by the many problems.

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