Blades of Time
is a hack and slash action adventure title developed by Gaijin Entertainment and published by Konami, following the adventures of treasure hunting heroine, Ayumi. While Blades of Time
is considered to be the spiritual successor to Gaijin’s earlier game X-Blades
, the only real similarities are the style of game and the main character.So what is it all about?
The story to Blades of Time
can be easily summed up in a few sentences. Ayumi, our scantily-clad, sword wielding, treasure hunting heroine, and her rather more intimidating associate Zero are in search of the fabled treasures of the Dragon Temple from the unimaginatively named world of Dragonland. Once she forces her way to the device that allows transport to this other world and activates it, she discovers that she is trapped. Zero is nowhere to be found and to top it off, she is caught in the middle of the age-old struggle between the forces of Chaos and Order. So her adventure begins and she must fight her way through the plethora of different locations in order to find Zero, locate a means to return home and, of course, get rich along the way. To be honest, there really isn’t much else to the story and if you’re looking for an engrossing tale full of drama and interesting plot twists, you’ll not find it here.
Unfortunately the poor voice acting doesn’t help the story either. Lines are spoken with very little emotion and with very little flow; worst of all are Ayumi’s monologues that are wholly unnecessary and certainly wouldn’t be missed. There is at least one saving grace to both the story and the voice acting in the form of the collectable diary pages. These additional pieces enhance what little plot there is by giving the player some backstory to the locations and the inhabitants of Dragonland, detailing their hardships and explaining some of the mythos. In fact the voice acting that accompanies these pages is probably some of the best in the entire game.Gameplay
While the story isn’t the strongest point of the title, the fast paced and fluid combat certainly is. Combos are simple to tie together and flow nicely, allowing you to slice enemies with ease, while the selection of spells add a more tactical aspect to the combat. Ice spells can freeze enemies in place while fire spells can damage them over time. Though Ayumi’s swords aren’t her only weapons, she is also capable of performing ranged attacks using a variety of firearms. While they are very useful for taking out enemies at a distance or breaking shields and force fields, it is frustrating that switching from melee to ranged mode requires a press of the right analogue stick, which is often not recognised by the game in the heat of battle; luckily the reverse is more easily executed and switching back to melee can be done through actions such as attacking or jumping.
You may think that the furious hack and slash style of the game would be forgiving to the player, but the enemies' simple AI results in them following the very simple tactic of running at the player and attacking. Your combos can also be interrupted easily, leaving you open and vulnerable to an onslaught from the mass of creatures hurriedly sprinting towards you. Luckily, evasive moves such as jumping and sliding away from enemies is easily achievable and is, in a lot of situations, a necessity to give yourself some breathing room when swamped by large groups of unrelenting enemies. Mastering these moves is paramount if you wish to survive many of the encounters later in the game as foes often surround you and attack furiously, resulting in a very quick death. While combat isn’t always very forgiving, the same can't be said for the checkpoints and load times. Checkpoints occur almost every time you enter a new area and are so frequent at times it almost seems as if there is a checkpoint after every few steps; if you die during an encounter you won’t have lost much progress. On top of that, the load times following a death are excellent to the point that they are almost instantaneous.
Reaching shrines that are scattered around the world gives Ayumi access to new abilities and spells, and each time you reach a new shrine you are able to choose one or two of these abilities. Early on in the game when Ayumi reaches the first shrine, she receives the ability to absorb the life force of enemies she has defeated to allow her to grow stronger, though the ability itself is actually completely useless and just a plot device rather than a gameplay mechanic, as the game doesn’t feature any form of currency or XP system. Before reaching the next shrine, defeating a thousand enemies won’t allow you access to any more gifts than if you had only destroyed twenty. That said, when reaching a new shrine you are given quite a large choice of abilities and this lets you develop Ayumi more to your style. The number of shrines is limited, so you’ll have to decided whether or not to choose combat skills, spells, evasive bonuses or a balance of them all.
Ayumi also has the ability to rewind time after attacking an enemy at her disposal, which creates a double that copies all of your previous attacks and allows you to take on more than one enemy at a time or face a single foe on multiple fronts. It also allows you to keep large groups at a distance and deal with them with ranged weapons. While this ability is a great idea, and in many battles a necessary technique, it can often becomes very confusing when there are multiple copies of our heroine onscreen. On top of this, there is another very frustrating downside to this ability; if the enemies move from their original position in the last rewind, all attacks performed by your duplicates will inevitably miss their target and therefore cause all the damage that had been done to the enemy in previous passes to be completely negated. Due to this, the ability is difficult to use in a lot of combat situations and best used against tight groups of slow enemies, which in the later parts of the game are few and far between. Where the Time Rewind ability really shines is during the variety of boss battles and mini bosses with only one normally slow moving target to deal with; the likelihood of your duplicates missing their target is reduced dramatically. This also keeps your target distracted, allowing you to find and attack its weak spot and dispatch it with relative ease. The Time Rewind ability does not just apply to combat either. There are many puzzles that are designed around using the time manipulation ability to open doors. While these sections aren’t as taxing as they could have been, they do a good job at breaking up the game's many combat sequences.
The game's locations are pretty straight forward and don’t have much in the way of areas for exploration, so you’re not likely to get lost on your adventure. Due to its linearity, the game doesn’t feature a map system; if you do get turned around, you’ll have to rely on Ayumi’s magical compass. The compass has two uses and, because of this, it has two hands. The inner hand is always present and points you in the direction you must go in order to get through the game. This doesn’t always work and on numerous occasions the compass ended up taking me back to an earlier room, only to then turn me around again. The second hand only appears when a treasure chest is nearby and directs you to your loot, which is normally new weapons and equipment, so checking the compass is often vital as a treasure chest can easily be missed. The items you find also carry over to the multiplayer aspect of the game allowing you to customize your multiplayer character load-out.Graphics
When it comes to how the game looks, Blades of Time
may not be the greatest looking game of all time, but it really doesn’t look bad at all. The game takes place across a variety of different settings, from lush, vibrant jungles and islands in the sky to dusty wastelands. Each location is designed to be easily distinguishable from the rest with a somewhat high attention to detail. It seems as if developer Gaijin Games may have been too proud of their accomplishment and wanted to keep it looking just the way it was, as the game doesn’t feature much in the way of destructible environments at all -- just the usual breakable barrels and crates; the style of these crates do change depending on your location, so it’s not all bad. The variety in the games locales is also reflected in the variety of the enemies. Each location has many enemies that are specific to their locations and, as well as being rather detailed, they fit in with their environments really well. From animated stone statues in the ruins and tribal zombies in the jungle to futuristically armoured flying knights, known as Skyguard, in the sky islands, it certainly seems that thought has been put into making each location its own. That said, some enemy types do make appearances in more than one location, especially in the later stages of the game.
Unexpectedly, Blades of Time
does feature a multiplayer mode, which can be played either competitively or cooperatively. Outbreak mode is similar to a tower defence game, in which players must defend their pillars from attack while attempting to destroy the pillars of the opposition. The game is won or lost when all of the pillars and the team's magical tree are eliminated. Combat follows the same rules as in the single player campaign, though now abilities are earned by defeating enemies and levelling up. Bare in mind you are only able to choose which abilities you wish to take once you die and respawn, which also has an adverse effect on the health of your pillars. The mode can be played solo, which is a good thing as there are often few people online, and it also means that only one of the four multiplayer achievements actually require you to be online. Completing certain objectives during matches also spawns treasure chests that allow you to collect new items for your character. Items collected through multiplayer are also unlocked for use in the campaign and vice versa. With only a limited number of maps and only one game mode, the multiplayer does not have much in the way of longevity and probably won’t draw you back once the achievements have been earned. While it may seem like the multiplayer is just tacked on, it is a fun experience and a good distraction if you enjoy the game's combat, even if it's almost impossible to find a match.Achievements
When it comes to achievements, the title is a relatively pleasant experience. On my first play through on normal, I was able to pick up 725G as the majority of achievements are story related, while a few are earned through defeating certain enemies or bosses in specific ways. By checking that all important compass more often and searching for hidden paths it could easily have been 785G. The campaign will require two playthroughs to unlock all of the difficulty based achievements and you may need to replay a few levels afterwards to locate all of the collectables for the other achievements. The multiplayer achievements aren’t too difficult either and in most cases they can be done offline, with the exception of one that requires you to defeat another online player. This title does look to be quite favourable for those wanting to improve their completion ratios.Summary
Despite its flaws, Blades Of Time
is easy to pick up and a fun hack and slash game. There are plenty of quick paced fights set in some great locations, but getting past the poor voice acting may be more of a challenge than most people would care for. While the enemy AI is rather basic and tactics are pretty simple for most fights there are a few sections that do require a little more thought and change the pace quite nicely, though the lack of any real story or reward system does leave you without anything to draw you back. The Time Rewind ability’s uses in and out of combat is a refreshing change from many other games in the genre and certainly is the title's selling point; it wouldn’t surprise me if something similar appeared in the future.
The addition of multiplayer does add some extra replay value to the game and is also quite fun. The fact that it allows for solo play against the computer allows you to hone your skills while you're waiting to find a match and also means that only one of the four online achievements truly requires you to be online. As I mentioned earlier, with so few online achievements it may not be able to hold the attention of many an achievement hunter once they have been earned.
You'll get at least good two playthroughs out of this, with Hard mode giving players a decent challenge. In some cases a third run may be needed for collectables and missed achievements.
The reviewer has spent ten hours playing the single-player campaign and an additional four hours playing multiplayer.