Developer: Factor 5
Release Date: 08/30/2007
Available Exclusively On
Fun. This is not a word you will be thinking during your playthrough of Lair. There isn’t a single redeeming value to putting yourself through the torture of Lair unless it’s for novelty or pure curiosity, like myself. I avoided this game like the plague during and after launch. It was quickly thrust into bargain bins just months after launch and no one gave it a second thought. The HD era of gaming was a rough start for most developers and this game put Factor 5 out of business. So what happened?
Well, for Factor 5’s history you can watch plenty of YouTube videos on that, but Lair seems to start out okay, but within 10 minutes you realize you’re going to be in for a rough ride. The game seems okay during the opening pre-rendered cinematic as it looks quite impressive for the time. Once the cut scene ends you are on the ground and you immediately notice the first few issues before you even jump onto your dragon. The framerate. It’s absolutely abysmal and one of the main reasons why the game is nearly unplayable. It never runs above 30FPS and quite often dips down into single digits. Whenever there’s an explosion or the thousands of enemies rendered on-screen in forms of armies far below you, the game just can not keep up. The game from this point already feels half made and like it’s in alpha stage.
The second thing you will notice is how incredibly ugly the game is, even for its time. The textures are horrendously blurry and pixelated and stretched out, the models seem half-done, the animations are broken and skip and jump around to different points, and not to mention the awful controls. The dragon itself controls half-way decent, but without the patch to add analog support this game can not use the precision of the SixAxis motion with this horrible framerate. Nothing feels finely tuned and you’re always doing large gross movements to overcompensate for the framerate. When you finally get the hang of the controls you are to lock on to enemies and shoot then down with fireballs. Pressing circle allows you to magically zoom up to them, or just magically appear next to them for a takedown style button pressing fighting mini-game for health or a QTE animated takedown. You can also bash them on their side by swinging the controller towards them. This entire combat setup seems good on paper but it’s clearly unfinished.
Locking on doesn’t work half of the time as the dragon will stay locked on, face the opposite way of the enemy, yet somehow still shoot fireballs at them and sometimes make it. Usually when you let go of the lock-on button that’s when all hell breaks loose. Nine times out of ten you will slingshot across the map and disorient yourself, hitting objects also slingshots you as well and will just push you straight into the ground. Every single mission is either an escort or takes out X enemies until something happens. The objectives are so vague and it’s so difficult to know who is the enemy and what units to attack. There are no highlighted areas, arrows, or anything to help you out. I restarted missions multiple times because I didn’t realize I was attacking the wrong side or completely missing an enemy that I didn’t see. While swooping down and attacking thousands of enemies at once seems impressive, and it should be, it’s not fun at all in this game. The draw distance is abysmal as animations run at 2 frames until you get right on top of them.
Oh, and the story? Forget it. Two warring factions for no apparent reason and then you switch sides halfway through. No lore, no goal, just a couple of armies fighting because they can. The enemy design is boring, the dragons are boring, and outside of fighting the controls and framerate, the game is just dull and uninteresting. Even if this game worked the underlying gameplay loop just isn’t fun. Sure, the maps look huge and there are tons of enemies on screen, but it’s a jumbled mess of confusion and throws the balancing way off.
Overall, Lair is just an awful game and shouldn’t be experienced by anyone. Unless you want to play an infamously bad PS3 game, just stay away. Thankfully the game is short-lived, but you couldn’t get Gold ratings in missions even if you wanted as the framerate and awful controls prevent you from doing it. There is also no trophy support patched in which is a real bummer.