Bored of Arcana
Combat in general is an extremely simple affair. Each battle takes place in a tiny instanced area that you "warp" to for the duration of combat. You won't find any of the skill- and timing-based attacks you are familiar with if you are a fan of Monster Hunter. Combos are executed by mashing one of the attack buttons a certain amount of times, and beyond that, there is very little depth. Once you have monsters close to death, you can press circle at the proper moment and execute a sort of bloody finishing move that ostensibly gives you more or better loot, although in practice it was difficult to discern what this bonus was. Early on there is very little variety in what you fight, making it a little tedious, and while there is more variety in the enemies later, the combat itself fails to evolve.
Once you get a little further into the game, Arcana become available to you. Rather than just mindlessly slaughter the minions, you can choose to sacrifice them instead, which may or may not turn them into monster cores. These cores are the true "rare" items in the game, and allow you to forge more powerful items and spells/summons. Unfortunately, whether or not a monster turns into a core after sacrifice is seemingly random, and when they don't, they instead just turn into nothing but a mess and you get nothing from the fight. The risk/reward system adds some tension I guess, but it can be pretty demoralizing to fight something for 5 minutes then end up with nothing.
Of course, in this genre boss battles are the meat of the game. Lord of Arcana certainly features some impressive foes for you to fight, and they certainly add a needed bit of complexity to the combat. Bosses have numerous targetable areas, and your reticule will change color depending on what attacking that bit will do. Attacking the tail of a dragon might take away its ability to smash you with it, while striking at the armored underbelly will prove to be useless for most fighters. Knocking off the wings can grant you extra items at the end of the battle, and hitting the snout might stun it long enough to let you pound on it with impunity. At certain points throughout the fight and at the end, the action will pause for a "melee duel" which is code for a QTE which, if input successfully, will deal a large amount of damage to the boss.
In a game like this, loneliness is your biggest foe, and true to the tradition, Lord of Arcana supports multiplayer. You can definitely play more strategically in these situations, and being a magic-focused character becomes much more viable. Alas, infrastructure mode is conspicuously absent, so you'll either need to find some local friends who want to sit around the house with you to play in Ad-Hoc mode, or hope everyone has a PS3 and knows how to use the Ad-Hoc Party function. Those without friends can probably find some like-minded antisocialites on a forum to team up with, but that is a lot of hoops to jump through for a game that isn't that compelling to start with.
While I appreciate bringing some competition to the table for the Monster Hunter juggernaut, the fact is this offering pales in comparison to the series it is trying to emulate, and unless you are completely burned out on the Monster Hunter franchise, and can't find a copy of Gods Eater Burst, you are best served staying away from this mediocre title.