Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is the fourth entry in the popular action RPG from Bandai Namco Entertainment. The story for this latest adventure is set in a new type of game in Sword Art Online universe, which is actually in Beta stage. If you haven’t played any of the past Sword Art Online games, then you should have no issue in starting with this latest entry as takes a completely different approach to the past games.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization plays like an offline MMO look-alike action RPG, if you think that this sounds confusing, then you might not be familiar with the anime on which the game is based on. The anime of Sword Art Online deals with a group of characters that play an online MMO. It originally started as a light novel but has proven to be immensely successful branching off into mango, anime and games. The story mostly deals with their adventures inside this MMO and since the game is based on the anime, there is a meta commentary of sorts as we play a game that references the world as a game in itself.
If you are a fan of the series then you will have a blast with this latest entry, as it is packed full of content from it, even featuring popular characters and story line straight from the anime. If you have never seen the anime and are completely new to the world of Sword Art Online, then it may take you a while to grasp the world and characters of the game, since it can be confusing at first.
The story of the game is set in an alternative timeline and it is set as a follow up to season 1 of the anime. The main character Kirito is one of the few players who are taking part in this beta of a new MMO game called Sword Art: Origin. There will be some recurring characters from the past game including Asuna, Sinon, and Klein. While the game’s story retains a sense of familiarity for the fans of the series, newcomers are also presented some backstory with flashbacks so they don’t feel lost with it.
The game’s combat system is action based and at first, it might be overwhelming to understand. This is mainly because of the MMO-like nature of the game, which means that the screen is cluttered with UI that often make little sense in the start. It takes a while to get through the game’s basics and fully grasp its combat, but that said, the action can be fun once we are immersed in the battle system.
Just like an RPG, the characters are represented on the battlefield with full control. Players can also control the party to some extent with commands that look like they are straight out of an MMO. The combat works on the basic of chain attacks and successful chain attacks increase the damage dealt to the enemies. Players can also utilize skill attacks with our main party to start a flurry of chain attacks. Overall, the combat is rather fun but not exactly revolutionary. It gets the job done and it can be fun to execute the chain attacks for some of the more tougher boss battles, while avoiding their own attacks. We can try to dodge out of the way of their attacks or parry them. There are special skills available as well that can be utilized along with the regular slash attacks in a combo.
While the battle system tends to be fun for the most part, the actual game design leaves a lot to be desired. This is an unfortunate effect of trying to mimic an MMO, so it often feels overwhelming at first. There is a lot of story that is told through countless dialogue options with NPCs and it can be discouraging for the newcomers who just want to jump straight into action. Another aspect that carries over from the MMO genre is the abundance of useless fetch type of quests. Unfortunately the story is strong enough that whether you are a fan of the series or a newcomer, you can still have a good time with it.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is a bold step in the right direction. It acts as a bridge for fans of the series while those who tackle this as their first game can get their money worth if they can ignore some of the shortcomings of trying to mimic an MMO-type world. On the plus side, they have nailed the aesthetics of it well enough and the combat system on itself can be really satisfying and fun to play in the game.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is available now for the PS4 and PS Vita. It was developed and published by Bandai Namco. This review covers the PS4 version of the game.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Review (PS4)
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is a faithful representation of the source material that unfortunately has flaws in gameplay that can be infuriating at times. This is an unfortunate consequence of trying to follow the aesthetics of an MMO world.