Blades of Time Review
Game: Blades of Time
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
Blades of Time is one game that probably wouldn’t be on everybody’s list of games to play in 2012, as the spiritual successor to the underwhelming X-Blades it didn’t have too much to live up to, but the screenshots and trailers that we saw in the lead up to its release looked rather promising. Gaijin Entertainment have made use of a new game engine and a more realistic aesthetic in an attempt to turn things around. Does Blades of Time take the good things from X-Blades, add a little bit of graphics, some story and create something that’s actually rather good? Does the new direction that the developers are trying to take the game in help or hinder the series?
STORY: The story starts as Ayumi and Zero enter the guild hall, after a short battle Ayumi has the Guildmaster pinned up against the wall and he convinces Ayumi to touch the glowing sphere that’s in front of her, she is a treasure hunter after all, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she’d be interested in the shiniest object in the whole room. Upon touching the glowing orb, Ayumi is transported to a strange and dangerous place; the Dragonland. Eventually you’ll discover that the only way to leave Dragonland is to make your way to the Dragon Temple that’s located on the other side of the island, touch it and be instantly whisked back to the place from whence you came. That’s the plan at least, and the one that Ayumi sticks to from here on.
The story serves its purpose but it’s by no means anything special. You’ll often find yourself guessing as to why certain character made certain, story changing decisions only to be left in the dark and never have it explained. You’re just supposed to accept that things happened because that’s what the game is telling you, just try to absorb it and don’t think about it too much. At one point Ayumi’s entire costume even changes, this is never explained, or even referenced at all, she just starts one mission wearing an entirely different outfit from what she was wearing just a single level ago. Extremely odd stuff.
GRAPHICS: When it boils down to it, the graphics engine that holds Blades of Time up isn’t all that bad. It’s not the best engine in the current generation of gaming but when you consider that Blades of Time is the spiritual successor to X-Blades it looks much better than most people will be expecting. As decent as the engine looks however, it will takes some pretty impressive visuals to take the player’s attention away from the frankly terrible running animation that Ayumi does throughout the whole game, complete with her arms resembling – and moving – like that of a chicken. Not something that’s particularly good to watch for hours on end.
The design of the enemies is something that clearly took a lot of time and effort, and the developers pulled it off quite well. The Skyguard are some of the most interesting designs I’ve seen since I played Bayonetta a few years ago. They’re not enjoyable to fight against, but they’re quite something to look at.
SOUND: The audio within the game – specifically the voice acting – is one of the biggest downsides of Blades of Time. Every single line of dialogue is poorly acted, from all of the characters in the game, some of them almost literally sound like they’re phoning their performance in. You’ll quickly finding yourself groaning at some of the stuff that Ayumi says, and not in the funny “oh you’re such a joker” kind of way either, no, that would be a walk in the park, it’s more of a “please God, why won’t you shut your face hole!?!” way. I actually found myself ignoring most of the audio because of the terrible performances, deciding just to read the subtitles and create my own voices within my own head. This is a shame because some of the music within the game is actually quite good, it’s just overshadowed and ruined by the rest of the audio that surrounds the Blades of Time.
GAMEPLAY: For the most part, the gameplay in Blades of Time plays very much like any other hack & slash game that you may find. You’ll spend the fast majority of your time travelling between places within the game world and flailing your weapons until everything on screen is dead or at least well on its way to being so. The only trouble with this is that (just like all the other hack & slash games that you may get your hands on) a lot of the areas that you’ll find yourself in within that game are exactly the same. You’ll find yourself in one area, kill all the enemies in order to progress and find yourself in an extremely similar area only five minutes later just to do the exact same thing all over again. There are only a couple of instances within the whole game where this repetitive gameplay ever really changes. On paper, Blades of Time sounds like it should play like something such as Devil May Cry, considering that the main character makes use of swords and a gun, but that’s not the case. If you’re a fan of hack & slash games and are used to the repetitive nature that has become synonymous with that genre, then you may not find it as tedious as others.
One of the main gameplay elements, and the reason the game is called Blades of Time, is the fact that Ayumi has the ability to manipulate time, creating clones of herself by rewinding time. This is mostly used in puzzles, in places where there may be two or three switches, but only one of Ayumi. Sound like a problem? Not at all, just rewind time to create clones of yourself (as many as is needed) and get all of your clones to stand on the switches. This time mechanic can take a little bit of time to get used to, especially if the only ‘Rewind Time’ mechanic you’re used to is the one in the Prince of Persia series of games, but once you’ve got it down to an art you generally won’t find yourself stuck with any of the games’ puzzles. There’s only a couple of types anyway, they just keep repeating; much like everything else in the game.
Unlike other hack & slash titles, Blades of Time has slight RPG elements in an attempt to add a little bit more substance to the title. These RPG elements take the form of additional weapons, clothes and jewellery that you’ll be able to find dotted around the world inside treasure chests. Some of these chests are actually quite difficult to find, requiring the player to cast an Order spell (pressing the up button on the D-Pad) while in the chest’s vicinity in order to make it pop up. The items that are contained within the boxes don’t always correlate to how difficult a chest was to find. Sometimes you may spend a great deal of time fishing out a chest from the realms of chaos only to find that it contained a pretty useless necklace. Most of the time they contain useful loot but this is something to be aware of beware you spend the next hour searching for a treasure chest.
As well as the game’s main mode, there is also a mode called ‘Outbreak’. This mode is very reminiscent of games such as Battlefront in that you’ll be added to a team, either one with real people or one with bots, and you’re given the simple task of looking after a couple of nodes while trying to attack your enemy’s nodes. Well, it sounds simple on paper at least. If you’ve ever played Battlefront before, or any other games of that ilk, then you’ll understand how difficult it is to attempt to attack and defend simultaneously. While this mode is difficult to grasp, it’s almost more fun than the main game mode as you get to simply do the hacking and slashing aspect of the gameplay, ignoring the platforming, repeating visual styles and some of the other repetitive aspects of the main game. Keeping everything simple and relatively fun.
LONGEVITY: For the most part, once you get to the end of Blades of Time, there’s no reason for you to put the game back in again and play through things again. There are collectible items dotted throughout the world, which take the form of audio files (which are supposed to be journal pages, filling in various little sections of the story), but it’s easy enough to get these on your first play through. For the people that really enjoy the combat system there’s always Outbreak mode, which is the mode that almost everyone will keep coming back to; if they come back to the game at all.
VERDICT: Blades of Time isn’t the greatest game on the planet but a lot of people wouldn’t have been expecting it to be so anyway. It does nothing in terms of innovating the genre and its only real selling point is the ability to rewind and manipulate time. This feature works quite well once the player has got their mind around it but is never utilises properly within the game, instead only being used for the same types of puzzles over and over again. If you’re a massive fan of hack & slash games, or you’re borrowing Blades of Time from a friend, then it’s worth a play. However, if you’re hell bent on purchasing it for yourself, do yourself a favour and wait until you can get it for next to nothing.