April 12, 2007 - Though we've already seen Lair a number of times and a decent stash of screens and videos have been released, details about the game beyond the recognizable "bridge level" have been kept rather mysterious. Sure, we've known about some of the game's mechanics -- the ability to physically assault other dragons, take to the ground to do battle and more -- but we've only seen these elements in small doses. This past week, however, Sony and Factor 5 gave us a couple of hours to dig our heels into Lair to get a fiery taste of what's to come in some of the game's opening levels.
One of the biggest lingering questions about Lair right now is its current status and expected release date, so we'll get that right out of the way. The version we saw was an alpha build, but it sounds like the game is pretty close to making it to beta. Factor 5 says that its development process makes for a quick progression from the "first alpha" to the final finished form, and that we can expect to see Lair on store shelves this July. Indeed, dragon battles on our PlayStation 3s are a mere three months away.
Good news folks, a PlayStation Store demo is in the works.
Not only will you be able to buy the game in July, but Factor 5 also confirmed that there will be a downloadable PlayStation Network demo at some point. It's unclear as to whether the demo will hit before the final release or after, but it isn't supposed to be too far off either way.
In order to keep Lair's story at an extremely high level of production, its tale is told in a very linear fashion. However, individual missions will allow for branching goals, giving players the ability to play them as best they see fit. If you don't want to worry about the troops on the ground and would rather focus solely on the skies, you can go ahead and do that.
Speaking of the ground, many folks have assumed for some time that you're able to get off your dragon and partake in a little hand-to-hand combat. It turns out that this isn't true. While it may have made for more variety, Factor 5 says that this not only doesn't make sense from a character perspective (you're a dragon rider and not a soldier), but that the studio has put its development efforts towards gameplay variety in other areas. While you will find yourself on foot on some occasions (such as at the start of the game), these sections are simply there to enhance the experience a tad as your only goal is to get to your dragon and take to the air.
Although you won't actually be able to take out a mace and jump into unarmed battle, you will be able to land your dragon and cause havoc while on the ground. Once you've touched down, you're able to ram through soldiers and other beasts, unleash spreads of fire and more. Pressing the Triangle button orders your dragon to eat a hapless and unfortunate soldier, giving it back a bit of health. One of the major design elements that the studio wanted to get across as well is that the dragons aren't simply planes but creatures that are capable of waging physical combat and so forth, and to this end it looks like the studio has accomplished its goal.
As for those other elements of gameplay variety, Factor 5 promises that Lair will continuously introduce new systems to the player throughout the entirety of the adventure. Though you'll begin by simply flying around and killing dragons and peons as you'd expect, you'll eventually learn how to pick up and throw creatures (like horses), grab onto objects and shake them loose to cause structural damage to the environment, earn advanced physical attacks and more. The studio is keeping mum on exactly what other things we'll see, but we've been promised that there are "major" changes to what you'll be able to do in at least one point of the experience.