The lights are on
Lair had a rough start. Huge expectations surrounded its original release. With Sony publishing, it would be one of the first games to attempt to take full advantage of the PS3 controller’s motion-sensing properties. Developer Factor 5 had a rabid fanbase of flyboys and flygirls who had played the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games, and were hungry for more flight combat. And perhaps most importantly, Lair was a dream come true for many fantasy enthusiasts – a game all about dragon-riders battling it out in the sky.
Sadly, Lair just couldn’t match up to those lofty expectations. When the game released, perhaps as an attempt to push motion play onto the growing player base of PS3 owners, the game included no traditional analog controls. The motion controls were problematic, leaving players unable to perform the most basic turns and attacks without significant practice. And when you can’t control a game, enjoying it is difficult.
That’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot to love about Lair, and now is a great time to go back and check it out. Several months after release, Sony and Factor 5 updated the game with analog controls. A quick control switch in the Options menu enables this essential feature, and all of a sudden it’s a lot easier to enjoy the things that Lair does right.
This dragon combat game has you zooming through the skies as a young soldier named Rohn, fighting for your country against a rival nation. The story weaves a cinematic plot of betrayal and redemption, exploring themes of religious dogmatism and the dangers of military power. While visuals have begun to show their age, the sweeping mountain ranges and towering cities still look great, and the dragon designs are gorgeous.
The game includes my personal favorite video game orchestral score of all time – an evocative and adventurous collection of music by John Debney that plays out in crisp THX 7.1 sound. Reminiscent of the best moments of John Williams’ Star Wars scores, the music is full-bodied and powerful, fueled by a 90-piece orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Even if you don’t decide to play the game, think about tracking down this amazing collection of music.
The majestic visuals and music buoy the mid-air combat at the core of the game. Rohn directs his dragon through a variety of combat scenarios. Blast ships out of the ocean with gouts of flame, engage in tumbling airborne duels with enemy dragons, and crash down into hordes of enemy soldiers while slashing and biting through their ranks. Mission objectives are varied and take you to all sorts of locales, helping to keep things fresh throughout the adventure. While various elements of the gameplay are clumsy at times, the sense of power that you want out of the dragon concept is in full effect.
Even with its bright points, no one is going to play Lair and miss its many rough edges and mistakes, especially now that the game is over five years old. Even so, Lair scratches an itch that many gamers have long had – a true exploration of dragon flight and combat – and gives a chance to live out that fantasy in a way few other games have ever offered. If you dismissed the game the first time around, but you share that fantasy, consider tracking down what will certainly be a cheap copy of Lair. With its tragically late-to-the-party analog control scheme patched in, you might find something worth getting excited about.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.
I may try this; I'd be lying if I said Riding a Dragon wouldn't be epic!
Funnily enough I mentioned Lair in the Neir feature. Also haven't touched this one personally but popped my head in on my roommate at the time playing it. I thought it was kind of a cool concept being all about Panzer Dragoon and Drakan: The Ancients Gates but from hearing the swearing that my roomie made, the most of which resulting from the six-axis controls, I was turned off.
Still batting a no hitter on featured games from this cult classic list. 0/8
Lair is not a cult classic, it was just a horrible game.
Ah this reminds me I need to finish this game. I bought it with my PS3 and liked it for what it was. But then I got distracted by bigger releases and forgot about lair.
im sorry but this game was a very bad game and doesnt deserve to be in this list...go re-read your own reviews. man, this game made me pull my hair due to one of the crappiest gameplay i ever dealt with
I was all excited about this game when it was first released but lost that enthusiasm when I heard about the control scheme. I wasn't aware they patched it. Might have to add this to the back log
I'll be picking this up asap.
4.99 at my Gamestop I guess I'll pick it up.
Looks interesting. Might get at some point.
Always heard that this was a bad game. The negative opinions about it really turned me off.
I've always wanted to try it. Thank you Matt! You make me want to play it!
I loved this game when it came out never finished it tho
The game is great and fun, but sometimes the dragon controls can be a bit wonky and finnicky.