Blades of Time PC
If you have a good memory, you might remember a mediocre hack and slash game that went by the name of X-Blades (review here) that came out in 2009 for both the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game wasn’t any good as it suffered from bad repetition in gameplay, location designs and combat. At least the anime inspired graphics were nice to look at, and the main character, Ayumi, was created with a sexy, cute anime girl look with a costume that rendered her G-string invisible, displaying all her bottom in full glory for the world to see. It’s not often a company gets a second chance to fix problems with a game, but Gaijin Entertainment is back with Blades of Time, a spiritual successor to X-Blades. It stars the same character, but with a complete different design and art style, this second chance can only be for the better, right?
Ayumi is a slender looking, sword and gun equipped treasure hunter who will stop at nothing to taste the wildest riches the world has to offer. At the start of the game, she raids The Guildmaster’s fort as he is preparing an ominous looking sphere to transport some folk to an alternate dimension named Dragonland. Getting teleported by the sphere, Ayumi finds herself stuck in the mysterious Dragonland and must find her partner, Zero, and escape while defeating the dangerous inhabitants and villains of the treacherous island. In all honesty, the story never did anything for me. It felt undeveloped and shallow, more of a topic to let the player progress in the game. What you’re left with then is Ayumi’s constant speaking as a method to keep you entertained and diverted from the weak story. Whenever she deems anything worthwhile, she pops off a few lines. I think she has a different definition of worthwhile than what I do.
While the story still manages to suck, at least the game itself has some promising features, including a combat system that’s slightly better than X-blades’ mediocre attempt. Blades of Time’s combat is simple and straightforward, where one button does Ayumi’s quick attacks and one does her kick attack, a move that launches enemies into the air allowing you to jump up and do air attacks and then finish off with the kick again, sending the enemies back down to the ground in a cartwheel spin of swords. It certainly looks fancy when Ayumi’s doing all these cool looking sword moves, but she only has the same set of moves for the whole game. Finishers can be done when the opponent is close to death, which results in Ayumi jumping at the enemy and stabbing them. Overall, the combat is shallow where you end up just bashing a button to attack.
Along with her twin blades, Ayumi also has access to magical attacks that are activated pressing two buttons in succession. These can freeze opponents, set them ablaze or push them away to give you space. She can also dash to opponents in the air using the lock-on button (like Sonic the Hedgehog) and hack them to pieces while suspended off the ground. It’s extremely easy to do thanks to the good controller layout. I played the game using the Xbox 360 controller, which the game picked up fine. All you need to do is go to the options and turn on controller support and the interface is changed to the same as the Xbox 360 version that launched earlier in the year.
Ayumi does come equipped with a rifle, allowing you to take shots at foes. Shooting is fine, but when you need to zoom to get someone from a distance, it feels a bit awkward and messy especially when you’re next to a wall and the camera messes up, clipping some scenery into your viewpoint. Blades of Time has a funky gameplay mechanic called “Time Rewind” that lets Ayumi rewind time with a push of a button. This is slightly different than a simple Prince of Persia rip-off because when you rewind Ayumi, she remains in position. What you notice is you’ll spawn another Ayumi – which comes out of the main one – that glows an orange colour and is retracing the steps that you just did. Once you come out of the time activation you’ll see the orange silhouetted Ayumi reproducing what you just did. You’re free to move the real Ayumi around while this is happening, and if you want, you can simply rewind again to make another clone appear, copying what you were doing while the first Ayumi clone was running about. You can keep doing it till you run out of metre, but then you’ll have to wait for it to gradually charge up.
Time manipulation is certainly the highlight of the game. It’s used to solve puzzles, for example, requiring multiple Ayumi characters to stand on switches so that a door will open. You learn to use it in combat near the start of the game, but soon you forget about it because early on it feels that you can progress through the game without it. Later, Blades of Time gets a bump in difficulty that makes it a requirement to use the time rewind feature to survive fights with multiple enemy targets or enemies that make cloning yourself necessary to deal extra damage. There are cool ideas used for the clone function, but it just needs elaborating more than the few genius parts that stand out. Also, the rewind function itself is overused towards the end, making a cool idea become a drag, something that should never happen in a good action based game.
After you’ve become familiarised with the rewind mechanic, you’ll see that the rest of Blades of Time is lacking. There are an extremely limited number of enemy designs, and one is invincible, requiring you to use clones to get past him while he’s focused on hitting your fakes. A.I is simple and straightforward, which can play against you as some of the A.I can hit hard. Since Ayumi’s dash doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able to dodge attacks, you soon find yourself dead if you get swamped by the computer. One odd detail that made no sense was the way you upgrade your skills. During the adventure, you come across statues that will take away the souls from your body in exchange for power ups. This is scripted because there’s never an indication of how many souls you have, nor the statues requirement. It just seems pointless to have the souls in since it has no bearing on the game whatsoever.
Animation is robotic and stiff – mostly visible in the CG cutscenes – but is passable. Models look decent and environments are good, making them the better part of the game’s look due to some solid designs, rich colours and pretty foliage – just look at the sky gardens and you’ll know what I mean. Ayumi will explore different environments ranging from jungles to deserts. The desert stood out for me, even if it is a small part of the game; you’re required to hide in the shadows since the sun is too warm for Ayumi, damaging her if she spends too long in the open. Sound wise, voice acting is poor for every character, and Ayumi talks a bit too much and often comes off sounding dumb at times.
Blades of Time is a better game than X-Blades, but not by much. The game knows it has a good idea because it abuses the time feature trick a bit too much, and like a kid wanting attention, you’ll just get fed up with it being in your face all the time. I did have fun with the game – there’s something about it that made me enjoy just hacking down some fools with my clones in fancy fashion, even if the rest of the combat is a little flat and basic. In the end though, all the problems pull it down and make Blades of Time a game that can be fun to play at times, but nothing more. If you don’t mind that, you might be one of the people that Ayumi is just looking for, because I can’t see her finding many fans with her latest treasure hunt.