By Spencer . January 21, 2011 . 6:34pm
In the Lord of Arcana demo you start off as a death machine, kill Nidhogg, reemerge as a fledgling warrior in their underwear, and slay Agni. So, what happens next? Killing Agni again.
That’s what I did in the English version of Lord of Arcana, which I’ve been playing for a few weeks. After the first fight with the fiery giant, I upgraded my character’s great sword and bought a card that gave my warrior a fire spell with the loot I earned. Then went back to the Ahbor Desert to face Agni again since it was the next mission the game unlocked. While you have a choice between "Agni invades" and a skeleton hunting mission, I like to do things in order.
The second time was easier than the first, and the third was a breeze thanks to an orb that auto-targets weak points. Yes, you have to fight Agni a third time to move the game forward in mission five "Sandstorm Hellfire." A desert priestess sent the request because the oases are drying up, which is clearly the work of Agni. You never see this priestess, though. In fact, you may even miss the reason why you’re fighting Agni… again because this is explained in a little block of text you need to flip through on the quest select screen.
Victorious, I took on the next challenge, a Sand Ripple Rose fetch quest. This mission, like all of the others in Chapter 2, took place in the desert. Skeletons (the first monster that blocks when you attack) wander in the sandy plains along with Drake Shades. You don’t want to run into those giant dragon-like beasts at this point in the game. They’ll literally flatten your character until you run out of Sacrifice Charms (think of these like Reraise as an item.)
Finally, I reached a new boss, Takemikazuchi who wields the power of wind and a spell that shrinks your character. The battle begins with this move hitting your character. Just as a test, I tried to attack Takemikazuchi, but my character’s great sword was more like a great toothpick. The trick is you have to chase down a glowing orb that’s released when you get hit by the micro-spell. After slashing it, your character is restored and Takemikazuchi is knocked unconscious for a few seconds. That’s enough time to unleash a flurry of attacks and run away before he summons a flash lightning storm. The battle continues with Takemikazuchi dashing at players (dodges work well here) until he’s wounded. Angered, Takemikazuchi glows red and attacks more frequently until he starts limping because he’s near death. The fight, like many in Lord of Arcana, ends with a flashy quick time event where your character cuts him down to size.
Because of the cooperative ad-hoc play and loot collecting, Lord of Arcana has often been compared to Monster Hunter. Those games share many similarities, but I think combat is more like Star Ocean. After you run into a monster, the screen shifts to a battlefield with an imaginary wall. Square makes your character attack. When you deal damage you charge up your magic meter, which lets you fire ranged attacks with circle. Triangle uses battle arts, which was a dash-slash followed by a knockdown cut. Since this is a Square Enix title I opted to use a massive two-handed sword, sort of in honor of Cloud.
All of the enemies have cues to let you know they’re about to attack. Goblins do this silly dance before swinging their club. Skeletons glow purple and charge for a second. It’s possible, well with at least the character I made, to knock enemies down with Rampaging Blade (the technique you start the game with) way ahead of their attack. Alternatively, you can run circles around monsters to evade most strikes from regular enemies. I think I found my "sweet spot" early on with the two-handed sword. So far, every common monster fell prey to my dash –> roll slash –> light slash –> rampaging blade knockdown combo. Once they’re on the ground I just repeated the rush. If you lock on to an enemy and they’re near death you can finish them off with a coup de grace, a brutal move that turns goblins into gibs.
Defeating Takemikazuchi opened up a new area, the Kamma Wind Cave, which had more monsters and more parts to collect. Like many team hunting games, you need to combine enemy drops to make new weapons, armor, spells, and ability granting orbs. The latter two usually require cores from bosses like Agni and Takemikazuchi. Getting cores from regular monsters takes a little more planning. Arcana power will randomly imbue an area in a map for a limited time. If you get there in time (triggering warps ahead tends to help) and defeat a monster while the Arcana power is active you can transform fallen monsters into cores.
And there are plenty more monsters to hunt. The first three quests in Chapter 3 are all kill "x" of "y" monster. Sorry, Kirin you’re going down.