Accel World VS Sword Art Online

Review: Accel World vs. Sword Art Online

Bandai has teamed up with ArtDink once more to release yet another game in the Sword Art Online instalment. Weird things happen in SAO as it merges with Accel World; an anime made by the same creator Reiki Kawahara. Can Bandai convince us this time? Find it out in the review below!

What is it?

The game is a crossover between Accel World and  Sword Art Online. It features an (unlockable) multiplayer, a customisable team system and a fairy flight mechanic from the previous game, so that the player can fully experience Alfheim Online’s aerial combat system.

When worlds collide…

I did some research about Accel World (short for Accelerated World) and Sword Art Online before diving into my review, as I have no idea what it’s about. A good friend of mine gave me a short version of the plot which helped me getting familiarised with the franchise. That being said, both animes are similar and play out in the same shared universe. Having both of these crossover into one game seems to be a very interesting concept. EDIT: For those who know nothing about the series there’s a massive database in the games menu’s which lets you read up the lore of both games.

The story begins with Kirito, Asuna and Yui going for a picknick. All is great and peaceful, until the family trip is abruptly ended by a dozen of slimes. This prompts the tutorial, which flows nicely and directly into the gameplay. This tutorial learns you the basic moves and combo sets, and you quickly find yourself hacking trough the oppressing foes encircle you, craving for blood. A small cutscene happens, further advancing the plot as Yui is suddenly captured by an unknown entity who is responsible for merging both worlds. You find yourself unable to rescue her as her path is blocked by an overpowered enemy, which beckons you in retreat. Players from the future start pouring into the world of SAO, and the whole plot starts to unravel. It’s pretty decent and interesting enough to find out why Yui was captured and what the intents are of the malicious foe.

 

YuiYui getting captured by a mysterious figure…

This party is lit!

You can sum up the game’s party system in one word: solid. You can change every player, and upgrade their stats with loot found on the battlefield. You can even customise each character with outfits. This is the game’s biggest strength as it features a myriad of players to chose from. Fans of the anime would enjoy themselves as they would create a dream team consisting of all their favourite protagonists. Kirito might be the star of the franchise, but that doesn’t take away you can’t play as other members of the cast; simply press R1+L1 simultaneously and you quickly switch with one of your three party members – each with their unique abilities – as they fight alongside you. Quickly switching to a a character during battle can give you a huge advantage. Each teammate gains experience independently by fighting monsters, so you don’t have to grind for points to upgrade a certain perk. Sure, you can play the game with a single character, maxing out their stats, but where’s the fun in that?  It’s also with noting that your partners will shout compliments about your exquisite fighting prowesses and levelling ups. A nice touch that brings out the teamplay and human aspect in the game.

AWvsSAO_Jan262017_08Team up with a wide variety of teammates as you farm XP.

SURE, YOU CAN PLAY THE GAME WITH A SINGLE CHARACTER, MAXING OUT THEIR STATS, BUT WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?

 

Levelling up is quite easy, as the playground is filled with creatures for you to hack, slash, stab and spear with your arsenal of weapons and attacks. You’ll find rare loot that you can trade in for coins or weapons you can use to further hone your combat skills. You’ll be able to afford a shiny amor in no time. On a side note, the upgrading system of the game is decent, which lets you Enhance, Synthesise or Transform weapons at the Smithy in town. It’s a bit of a head scratcher of what you’re supposed to do as there are no guides that tell you what each category does. Enhance should be obvious, but Synthesis and Transform are a bit vague and both seem to do the same thing. I could be wrong as I haven’t been able to figure it out yet.

Quick to learn, hard to master

In this case, one button does it all isn’t applied; multiple buttons do multiple things. And you better remember them straight away because the game won’t tell you a second time after the tutorial is over. Luckily, the combination of buttons is fairly easy to remember, albeit different for some characters. I struggled with the controls at first, as some moves demanded 2- button actions, followed up by another button press – which is great at teaching you hand-eye coordinates. In the end, I found myself happily button mashing the whole time as I couldn’t remember for the life of me the combo’s for certain attacks. Combat wise, it also features a simple lock-on system where you can focus on an enemy and with a flick of the analoge stick, switch to another one. You’ll be using this mechanic the whole time as fighting foes without is tedious. The combat is also very close and super attacks only work when you are facing your enemy directly. This could use some improvement as I missed my targets more than a few times while being in their direct vicinity, fully locked-on. I would’ve expected my character to automatically find its target, rather than staying in place, stringing together a bunch of cool looking animations. Sometimes when unleashing a massive attack, it will miss your opponent because you were standing too far away. <sigh>.

The game is fairly easy to pick up and combat is simple. The only challenge the game throws at you are the boss battles which makes asks some strategy. They’re quite fun and honestly, the game could use more of this challenging gameplay. Whilst not being tough as a rock, the bosses can deal serious damage and can even decimate your team in a few slashes.

AWvsSAO_Jan262017_04Unleash devastating power-attacks that can annihilate most foes in one strike.

IN THE END, I FOUND MYSELF HAPPILY BUTTON MASHING THROUGHOUT THE GAME

 

The flying in this game is quite simple yet difficult (at first) to master; the inverted controls are selected by default and, to be honest, work best as such. You can unleash devastating dive attacks, barrel roll yourself out of danger or fight hordes of flying opponents in style. You use the directional buttons to automatically start flying or cancel flight. The X button reduces your speed to a halt, so you you scope out your environment for quests and enemies. There’s something so stupidly satisfying with flying around the rather tiny map, hunting for that good ‘ol XP, kicking monster teeth in left and right. The mechanic could use a little more refinement as it very easily to fly over enemies or into objects on the map. Which is surprising as the maps are mostly devoided of any personality and, in this case, assets. If you do fly around the dull and empty map, it’s pleasant to soar around and lose yourself making loopings around floating rocks. Main quest? What main quest?

Accel-World-VS-SAO-Millennium-Twilight-04Soar sky-high between a mix of fairytale landscapes and towering concrete buildings.

Flat for a 3D game

I quite like the style of the game; it has great art and crisp as a chip 3D-but-looks-2D-characters that stand out the environment very well. It reminds me of DBZ: Budokai 3 from the PS2 era. And here is where the game falls short. Whilst the game has it charms, it doesn’t look as good as todays titles. If anything, It resembles an upscaled HD PSvita port more than a next-gen game. Perhaps the reason why the game looks like it was made in 2006, wasn’t to make a next-gen looking game with bokeh, depth of field or global illumination, but rather to experience the world of Sword Art Online and Accel World. It does take you away from the immersion a bit, as aesthetically pleasing games with lots of razzle dazzle pull you into the world, rather than having you spectate it. The environment is vibrant and colourful, but it can’t make up for the amount of blank space it exhibits. You’ll often find yourself in a square map the size of a football field with nothing it it but hills, some grass and enemies. Muddy textures, weird shadow casting, and a bad lightening engine all help to attribute this game a sense of cheapness. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that the game doesn’t play in full resolution of your tv; it displays its contents on your screen according to how you’ve set you Display Area Settings in the PS4 menu! That’s a very weird and honestly odd choice of doing things, ArtDink.

MUDDY TEXTURES, WEIRD SHADOW CASTING, AND A BAD LIGHTING ENGINE ALL HELP TO ATTRIBUTE THIS GAME A SENSE OF CHEAPNESS

 

Another noticeable detail is the pop-in distance; it is subpar. One time you’ll find yourself in a crowded town, and when leaving Dicey Café in Ryne, it takes up to 5 seconds for the game to populate the area with bland and boring NPC’s. Not only in town, but also while out in Wonglide, where barrels and enemies would, irregularly, appear in a radius not further than 20 feet. The grass, however, is unaffected by this problem. Odd. I seems that the developers didn’t harness the power of the PS4 to make an optimised game. When an in-game scene cutscene happens, the image would stutter for a couple of seconds and the return to its smooth self. And the game plays very smoothly. It flows really well despited the aforementioned … technical difficulties.

AWvsSAO_Jan262017_03Although the game has some beautiful aspects, the graphics won’t win any beauty contests.

Identity crisis

The game struggles with trying to be a full on crossover, but ends up kicking itself in the shins as it can’t pinpoint what it wants to be. It safely stays in its comfort zone, not risking going overboard with ideas. It doesn’t try to go deep and complex, nor does it focuses entirely on Accel World, but rather on Kirito and Asuna finding Yui. That’s a bummer as the story could’ve been mored developed, with intricate choices and a story that doesn’t feel forced in. Alas, it plays like a DLC for Sword Art Online: Lost Song. In fact, it retains a lot of the core components of the latter, but with the added cast of Accel World. Unfortunately, The game wasn’t able to draw me in completely: I didn’t feel any connection with the characters as the game feels like an endless chore of repetitive  and similar quests. Throw in a shallow plot line and you got yourself a bittersweet cocktail of what could’ve been a great game.

Conclusion:

I booted up the game thinking I would dislike it, but the more I played the game, the more I enjoy it. The game has a lot of potential but falls inches short to live up the name of the franchise. It has a lot of flaws and certainly isn’t gonna win any awards, but the game has enough to offer to keep you entertained for a couple of hours before you go binge watch the next episode of Game of Thrones. It’s definitely a more polished game than previous instalments, but misses the point from time to time.

Should you buy the game as an RPG fan? Maybe; there’s enough to do to keep you busy and the story is good enough to keep you going. But don’t expect much from the game as it won’t keep you entertained forever. If repetitive quests and MMORPG elements are your thing, then by all means grab a copy of it.

Should you buy it if you are a fan of the series? I’d say yes. It packs a good amount of playable characters and is full of references to the series. I wouldn’t consider it a FullDive, but it’s decent enough to keep you playing it till the end. Now if they sold the NerveGear separately, this game would definitely get you ‘hooked’.

Pro’s:

  • Solid party system with in-depth customisation
  • Enjoyable combat and challenging boss battles
  • Smooth gameplay
  • Lots of lore in Database
  • Flying!

Con’s:

  • Lacks depth and complexity the franchise is known for
  • Outdated visuals, featureless and dull environments: not up to today’s standards
  • Game feels cheap, plays like an expansion pack.
  • Becomes repetitive and boring very quickly

ENDSCORE 6.5/10