SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection is the latest installment in the long-running franchise from Bandai Namco and AQURIA Co. It touts the “largest roster of SAO playable characters and sub scenarios”, but does the game actually deliver on its promises and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the universe?
SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection
In SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection, players will take on the role of Kirito and his friends as they adventure through the “Dark Territory”. The game kicks off with a mysterious dark knight appearing and, slowly but surely, the game drip-feeds you more characters and narrative content as you play through each chapter.
As a result, SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection doesn’t feel like a game for newcomers. There are a ton of returning characters and if you don’t know much about Sword Art Online, you’ll feel extremely lost here as to who they are are why they are here. It follows directly from its predecessor, SWORD ART ONLINE: Alicization Lycoris, but a lot of changes have been made.
Dorothy, a character that’s new to the game, takes centre stage throughout and plays a pivotal role in driving the plot forward. The story is set in the “Underworld arc” of the Sword Art Online extended universe, but since the games feature their own unique twist on the tale, it’s significantly different from the anime and manga versions.
Dorothy’s growth as a character and her interactions with Kirito and his pals throughout the game is a key feature that AQURIA has nailed here. The voice acting in the game does a lot of heavy lifting too in conveying the emotions of the characters and, in general, the storytelling was fine throughout thanks to the diverse cast of characters.
Sword skills, hack-and-slash, and damage-sponges
Moving on to the gameplay, in SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection players will have access to a large party roster and, just like the prior game, you’ll be hacking and slashing away. Button bashing abounds in this game and, if you’re a fan of musou titles, you’ll feel right at home.
It’s just as satisfying and you’ll be able to execute combo attacks with ease and use finisher skills too. Players have 8 available slots to assign attacks or skills and you’ll use these on the fly in battle to defeat your enemies. Levelling up your skills is pretty straightforward and the skill tree is easy to understand. The “Tactical Arts Command Mode” allows you to order your comrades to act in a specific way that you determine and this helps out a lot in battles where you want to be focusing on doing one thing, while your allies lend aid with their skills.
That said, SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection does have a few downsides. Firstly, enemies are extremely tough and resilient, and quite literally soak up tonnes of damage. As a result, the game eventually starts to feel tedious and grindy. Even your flashy chain burst attacks feel a tad lacklustre because of the sheer amount of damage enemies can soak up.
On the upside, the game isn’t exactly hard with enemies never presenting too much threat to you. The difficulty curve is just right and being able to string together combos with your supporting party members as well, as complimenting them with a “Nice!”, is always enjoyable. There’s also enough variation between characters to keep things fresh despite the hack-and-slash design at the core of the combat.
Sadly, exploration in SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection is pretty much non-existent though. The game is quite linear and the Dark Territory honestly does not look all that great. Side quests in the game fall into the rather generic fetch quest and fight-specific enemies category, and these quests aren’t even that hard to complete either since you’ll often just find the items in question purely by running through areas and picking up items.
Hunting Quests that involve defeating special enemies are at least a bit more challenging and engaging. However, when it comes to the late game, the problem of enemies being damage-sponges once again rears its head. Depending on how much patience you have, these battles will most likely start to annoy you and feel like a chore rather than a challenge.
Graphically, SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection is disappointing. The environments look incredibly bland and uninteresting, while the character models have a weird shiny glow to them that makes them look out of place in the world. Thankfully, the actual attack animations and effects look great – it’s just a shame that they don’t really feel great as the enemies are such damage sponges.
The soundtrack is also fairly standard with nothing that stood out, but attack and skills effects are good and match up well with the animations. The Japanese voice acting, however, is well done and worthy of praise.
Sadly, multiplayer in SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection works differently than before, with players joining in on a quest and then immediately returning to their own world. It requires specific matchmaking conditions and will most likely die out quickly after release as active player numbers dwindle. If you expected to co-op the entire game with a friend, you’ll be disappointed as that’s not an optionhere.
Overall, SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection is a mixed bag in comparison to its predecessors. It features some really fun combat but also plenty of baffling design decisions along the way. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, you should avoid this title and rather start with the older Sword Art Online games first to get a feel for the mechanics, setting, and cast.
If you’re looking for a refined and expanded successor to SWORD ART ONLINE: Alicization Lycoris, you’ll likely find SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection to be disappointingly lacking in complexity and multiplayer functionality.
SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection was reviewed on PC using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox One/Series S|X and PS4/5.
SWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection (PC) ReviewSWORD ART ONLINE Last Recollection (PC) Review
- Fun hack-and-slash combat
- Quality Japanese voice acting
- Large character roster
- Combat grows repetitive as enemies are damage sponges
- Some baffling gameplay design choices
- Lacklustre visuals
- Watered down multiplayer aspects