Arc the Lad: End of Darkness is the latest in a series of
long-running RPG series known best for its unique strategy-influenced
battle system. That is, until this chapter. As a departure from the
series, End of Darkness features a battle system that is much more
similar to that of an action RPG. The player controls Edda, the hero
of the main story and, as in the fashion of most action RPGs, runs
around freely in dungeons, hacking and slashing away at his enemies.
The game controls very smoothly and fluidly, though it feels slower
than what is comfortable. Pressing the R2 button opens the magic menu
from which the player can choose to cast fire, blizzard, or cure
magic. All of the magic effects were flashy and well-done. When fire
was cast, it seemed like the entire map, or at least a large chunk of
it, was engulfed in flames.
In another huge departure from the series, End of Darkness is the
first Arc the Lad title to be online-compatible. Though the player
can choose to play the single player story, there is also a
cooperational multiplayer internet option through which up to four
players can join in. The demo at E3 that I played only covered the
online portion and I was fortunate enough to have Cortney jump onto
the adjacent machine to try out the cooperative online play with me.
First off, there's no change in the gameplay when jumping from single
player to online. The only thing that's really different is that the
multiplayer mode is divided up into separate missions and the people
playing must work together to clear all the enemies on the field to
complete the mission. There's no story involved--it's just mindless,
slashing, online fun. Probably the biggest concern on most people's
minds is lag. Essentially, all I have to say is that no one needs to
worry. There was no lag whatsoever in the game I played. I was even
able to play my character while looking over and watching only
Cortney's screen. It was as if we were on the same machine.
The best way I can think of to describe End of Darkness's online
gameplay is to say that it's very reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online,
only better. It's faster, cleaner, prettier, less repetitive, and a
lot more fun. Arc the Lad fans and newcomers to the series, alike,
should keep an eye out for this title.