.hack//Quarantine - Reader Review  

The Last Hack
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

15-30 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Finally it's time for the final game in the .hack series. This is what we've all been working towards over the last few games. It will determine to a large degree how we feel about the series as a whole. Before I go any further, if you haven't played any of the previous games it's far too late to join the series now. Start on Infection or Mutation at the latest. For those of you who have played the previous games and want to know if this one's any good, the answer is yes it is quite good overall, but it has its flaws as well. Goblin tag has been fixed so that it no longer takes forever, but inventory space remains as small as ever which is especially annoying because Quarantine has an item completion event and it takes forever to collect all the items in the game without any place to put them. Longer dungeons make their return in this volume as well and I don't mean just five floor dungeons. Quarantine has its own ten and FIFTEEN floor dungeons. Yes, you heard me correctly, FIFTEEN floors. Not only that, but there are a lot of dungeons that have data-bugs as normal enemies making them take forever. My number one complaint, however, is the ridiculous amount of virus core hunting you are forced to do. You will have to collect about fifty virus cores throughout the course of the game. I kid you not. It also seems as though either I am very unlucky or they have severely lowered the rate at which you obtain them as well. On a lighter note, fans of the anime will be happy to know that there is now an even greater connection between the games, .hack//Sign, and .hack//Liminality.

   Battles still seem to retain and perhaps even improve upon their AI. They are still exciting and a new group of enemies and a small increase in enemy difficulty only improves upon this. There is a great increase in abilities and although they are very similar this is the first game where you really have to balance your equipment so you can have the most useful combination of skills. Kite's high level equipment also gives you a much greater magical arsenal than in previous installments which gives you a much wider range of possible attacks. As with previous .hack games, there is a wide range of bosses each with their own unique fighting strategy which keeps things interesting as well. The only downside to the new set of enemies is how many of them are data-bugs. There are far too many since they now often appear as normal enemies and take about ten times as long as other enemies. Data-bug battles sadly turn into long hack and slash battles most of the time. The final boss fight is also rather boring though I won't discuss it here as it is full of spoilers.

Please, no! Not ANOTHER data-bug! Please, no! Not ANOTHER data-bug!

   The music is more of the same, but there are some exceptions. In addition to the same old dungeon and field themes which we've heard plenty of times before there are, as in the previous installments, some good boss themes. Some of them are better than others, but overall the soundtrack seems much better this volume which is always nice for a final volume in a series. The visuals are better too. The overall graphics have improved slightly, but the major improvement comes in the form of high level spells which look rather awesome. Using a high-level spell at the same time as a Wavemaster or two can create some very cool looking effects. This is also a nice addition to the final part of the series.

   The overall difficulty is a bit higher this game which is refreshing since, with the exception of some bosses, the other games in the series were just too easy. Unfortunately, there is another factor that adds to difficulty and forces me to raise the difficult of Quarantine to one point higher than the rest of the series. This very cruel addition, however, is based not on skill, but on luck. As I stated earlier, data-bugs now often appear as normal enemies. The only way to beat them is to data drain them. As you can imagine, in ten and fifteen floor dungeons, this adds up. If you are unlucky you will receive a system crash and a game over. If you are lucky, you will live. I found this to be cruel and extremely annoying as I was sitting there in the red about to die with no control over my situation. Fortunately, I was lucky for once and survived, but I can imagine that some people may be stuck on some of these levels for a very long time with absolutely nothing they can do about it. Due to this annoyance and the ridiculous amount of virus core collecting there is almost no reason to ever play this game again. As in previous volumes you can unlock movies of most of the important cut-scenes. You can still play the game in another language, but there are too many annoying things in this volume for my taste. This is the longest of the .hack games and has the most side-quests. Sadly, about ten hours of it is spent virus core hunting and another ten or so fighting data-bugs, which adds a lot to playtime without it being much fun at all. Luckily, you'll still find yourself spending quite a good amount of time doing important things such as side-quests as well which helps even it out time-wise.

   Quarantine has the same interface as the third one. There really isn't much to say about it since it's pretty much the same interface you've been dealing with since the first game and you're probably quite familiar with it by now. Just like all the other volumes, (you must be sick of hearing me say this by now ^_^) Quarantine has amazing localization. Yes it still has the same good dialog, jargon, etc. that we've all come to know and love over the course of the series. Nothing new here, so rather than repeat everything, I shall move on to the plot.

The light and the dark come together. The light and the dark come together.

   Once you get past collecting virus cores, fighting data-bugs, etc. you'll find a wonderful plot. Of course, you probably expect that by now, but Quarantine has probably the best plot yet. There are a massive number of key scenes, bosses, e-mails, character development, and information about characters from the .hack//Sign series to name just a few things you have to look forward to. Also, as an added bonus there is a lot of explanation. Anything that may have been unclear at any point in the series is explained either at some point during the game, after the game, or on the bonus DVD. The story comes to its conclusion and everything is tied together and explained very well. They did a great job of that. Due to the amazing level of detail given to Quarantine (such as why Mia and Elk really collect Aromatic grass), I believe Quarantine has the strongest story of all of the games in the series. It's also quite amazing how they are able to retain the originality of the series the entire way through, even through the final chapter. There are still a large number of twists in the plot and it's all pretty original.

   Despite all of the minor and major annoyances in the game it is still completely worthwhile to complete the game and see the greatest story of the four. It's a shame that it follows in the footsteps of the other games in the series and creates a wonderful plot, but ruins the game itself with other annoyances such as repetitive dungeons, virus core collection, and data-bugs as regular enemies. Basing several levels purely on luck lowered the appeal of this volume even further. I'm afraid there are just too many major flaws in Quarantine to give is any higher than a low 7. It's still a good game due to the storyline, but it's horribly unbalanced. Had they spent a little more time on the game itself this series could have been truly wonderful, but unfortunately they didn't. Liminality has quite a nice conclusion as well without any annoyances whatsoever and all of the .hack storylines(.hack games, .hack//Sign, and .hack//Liminality) tie together nicely in the end.

   As for the series as a whole: it has a wonderful story, but a large number of annoyances. Either you'll find that the series is worth playing in order to see the plot or you won't. If you feel this way about the earlier parts of the series then the fourth game certainly isn't for you. The plot starts out slow as the first game in the series sacrifices a lot for the later games, but it picks up a lot in the second and third games. If you're willing to endure a little pain to get to the true prize in this series then you should play the games. I seriously doubt that you'll be disappointed by the plot.

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