If we scored games purely on their looks then Infinity Blade would be straight 10s across the board. It’s not just a nice looking game, it’s officially the best looking game on iOS. Fact.
But we don’t base reviews on aesthetics alone, there must be a game in there somewhere to consider anything even near to a 10. Does Infinity Blade have enough under the bonnet to make it? In some ways it does, but if you’re expecting a full on RPG experience then you’ll be disappointed.
The game takes place in the castle previously seen in Epic Citadel. This time around, unlike that tech demo, you don’t get free roam of the castle. Small blue circles show you the various options for routes through the huge grounds and every route takes you past a horde of vicious looking creatures sporting shiny armour.
Before combat begins you get a chance to look around, finding bags of gold and potions as well as the odd weapon if you’re lucky. They all go towards increasing your stats which, in turn, increase your strength, health and armour. These become very important when you get into a brawl with one of the enemy cohorts and this levelling up system is really the only hint of the RPG element in the game.
The main meat of Infinity Blade comes from the combat. Swiping your finger across the screen will swipe your weapon of choice across the enemy or block their attack with a parry. Pressing the shield icon will block an attack if done at the right moment, though you only get a certain number of blocks. Finally, pressing the bottom corners of the screen will dodge out of the way of any sword blow if done correctly.
So, you see, the game is more akin to something like Nintendo’s Punch Out or Glu’s Super KO Boxing on the iPhone. That’s no bad thing when the control system works as well as it does, but I can’t help feeling that some gamers are going to be left disappointed by the style of gameplay here.
Once you get over the initial shock/disappointment, then Infinity Blade shows what it can do. The combat is a lot deeper than it looks, it takes skill to time the strokes and guards right and progressing through the castle leads to much bigger and harder enemies. The enemies range from quick Assassins to lumbering troll-like behemoths who are slow but have a deadly blow. Different tactics are needed for each kind and it will take a few attempts to work out the best strategy.
Despite the different models, playing through the game you get a sense that the characters are made up of a very few types; slow, average or fast attackers. There just aren’t enough different styles to keep the combat fresh. This isn’t so bad the first time around but begins to grate after the third journey and you’ll need to make a fair few of them too because getting to the anti-chamber is not the end. Though your quest will be suddenly and un-expectedly cut off by your untimely death, it will be down to your bloodline to carry on the quest. As you step into the shoes of the next generation, owning all the strength and armour of their forefathers who went before , it will bring you that little bit closer to defeating the ultimate foe, the God King, in the heart of the castle.
But while the gameplay counts heavily towards the final score, it’s impossible to talk about this game without going back to the visuals. ChAIR have done wonders using the Unreal Engine iOS build and the details in both the scenery and character modelling show this. Detail on the backgrounds, that you’ll possibly only notice by pausing the game, add a sense of realism to the scenery while lighting falls perfectly on the characters as they stand locked in battle. The constraints of the movement are softened somewhat by just the ability to look around you and take in the flag blowing in the wind or the brickwork in the nearby archway.
And yet it’s not perfect, the frame rate suffers on 3GS at times. It doesn’t seem to hinder gameplay but it jerks around while the camera pans at times, particularly when a new enemy is in sight or the game is trying to move too many objects at once. The iPhone 4 doesn’t have the same issue but, even so, you can feel the strain. The game will also be disappointing for those looking for more depth. While it plays to the iOS platform’s strength with controls and the fighting mechanics it’s still a basic brawler at heart.
As a package though, Infinity Blade delivers and it delivers in spades. It reminds me of a more constrained Shadow of the Colossus, which is quite the compliment. For anyone who owns a 3rd or 4th generation iOS device this is an essential purchase.