E3 is a great way to find out about upcoming video games, both for new titles and for titles with updates or re-releases. The latter is true for Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.
We met up with Dennis Lee, Director of Marketing for Sword Art Online. He told us a little bit about the original vision behind this game:
Lee described SAO as a game based on the light novel and manga series. A series about characters who play a VR MMO and once they get into the game they get trapped. The only way to escapes is follow the game creator’s instructions to beat the game or you die. And if you die in the game you die in real life. SAO: Hollow Fragment is a video game adaptation of that anime series that follows an alternate storyline. What’s cool about that, Lee said, is that the player can get a pseudo MMO experience even though the game is mostly a single player RPG. A lot of the controls may feel like an MMO, Lee noted, with a lot of the same shortcuts, and cooldowns on your attacks, but you can choose whether to venture out alone, or play with others online, or play with your AI partner. So, it will play like an MMO but without the large community of players like a true MMO environment. It's the definition of a single-player MMO, really!
Lee also described how players can choose to send out their AI partner on missions or have her stay by your side and fight with you. She can attack, defend, and draw enemies away. Traditional RPGs don’t always use the draw out tactic where an NPC pulls agro, but MMOs often do, so it’s cool that SAO:Hollow Fragment is able to use that option.
Your partner may also request that you do things with her together, during a fight she may suggest you do a sword skill together to take out the enemy, and if you do it then your relationship with her deepens, and you get more skills and power ups. Your partner will suggest things that aid in completing the missions and generally give pretty sound advice like when to use a specific AOE spell.
The big question of course was about if this re-release with the translation fixes will help the overall game experience. I hope so. With the dialogue and story line being so confusing and diluted in the first release, it really overshadowed the best part of the game: the awesome combat and dynamic fights with cool bosses. All the action in this game is really smooth and graphically beautiful, and the world is a blast to explore. Working with your AI partner to trigger additional skills is another awesome part of the game, and all the ways you can interact with your partner make it inclusive and immersive similar to Fable. It’s nice being able to hotkey your favorite moves and have a similar control style as an MMO but with a controller. It’s also neat to be able to choose between playing solo where the main story progression lies, and the multiplayer option to play with up to three other friends where you can complete missions and side-quests with them.
The Hollow Fragment re-release is coming for Playstation 4 in the late summer and then more will be coming via Sword Art Online: Lost Song set to release this fall on Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita.
The barrier to entry is low in this game for anyone new in the genre, and is appealing to fans of combat heavy MMO and RPG gamers. If someone is intimidated to play MMOs because you’re playing with thousands of others, but they are used to playing single player RPGs, this game is a great bridge to bring a little bit more but not too much to the table.
What are your thoughts? Have you played the first Sword Art Online games? We’d love to hear about your experience. Keep in touch and tweet me with which additional MMO and RPG coverage you’d like to see!