Infinity Blade: Siris Bsns
You know, we really take cell-phones for granted. Cell-phones are true modern miracles with their fanciful gadgetry, allowing you to make phone-calls to anyone on the planet at any time you feel like bothering. Not only that, but they let you choose whether you want to actually talk to the person, or just text them and bypass all obligations to sound truthful when avoiding dicey conversations about how you accidentally lost your girlfriend's cat in a mountain of beer cans (way easier than you think). Adding to all the technological wizardry, there’s the smartphone, which can find information on anything ever, along with GPS tracking, some form of cloud support, voice translation, and now functional AI with Apple’s newest addition to their iPhone armada. While this micro-technology evolves, more innovative and intriguing apps are being released daily (around 600 a day), but this past Thursday, iPhone owners rejoiced over the release of Infinity Blade 2. Though it has its flaws, Chair Entertainment and Epic Games have truly capitalized on iOS software and released a beautiful, fun, visceral, and totally addictive experience. Seriously, just look at “The Good” section of this article. It’s big. Like, really, really big.
Infinity Blade 2 does well not to fix things that ‘aint broke. The same basic combat from the first game is still intact; you engage a “titan” in a series of dodges, blocks, and parry’s mixed with smashing whatever’s in front of you in the face until either A) you die, or B) massacre whatever you’re fighting in stylish CGI fashion. Combat is further improved with the addition of two new play-styles; you can choose from the traditional sword and shield for the most balanced gameplay, or you can go with two-handed weapons for devastating attacks or two one-handed weapons for tornado-speed kung-fu slicing action.
Sword & shield combat allows you to evade an attack, parry it, or block any blow from any direction. It’s the literal median between damage and defense. If you decide you want to use heavy weapons (or nukes as I call them), you’re no longer allowed to dodge, and must either parry or block everything. Blocking with a two-handed weapon isn’t the same as using a shield; you must block in the direction you’re being attacked from, which can be problematic when facing larger enemies who can push past your block and hurt you anyway. And since you’re using a two-handed (ergo, heavy as shit) weapon, the margin for error with parrying is slim; if you parry too soon, you wont have enough time to rebound and take a second swing for a proper parry as you would with the other play-styles. The payback involves an intense amount of damage done between combos and finger-swiping QTE’s (quick-time events). With one-handed weapons, you can parry and dodge, but cannot block, which can be problematic as some of the harder fights involve moves that are very difficult to evade and impossible to parry. The payback is gracefully pwning face as a supersonic warrior of swirly death that, if executed correctly, will collectively hit like a minigun strapped to a freight train.
Magic has been noticeably tweaked. Like in the first game, after your magic timer has filled, you must then draw with your finger the symbol that represents your element (a lightning bolt for lightning, a circle for fire, a wave-like shape for water, a ‘U’ for healing, etc.). Aside from the addition of new elements like wind, water, holy, and crystal, magic is no longer the go-to answer for everything totally meant to kick your ass. Yet like in the first game, magic is a tactical ability. Any spell will stun any enemy despite what they’re doing, which can be useful when frantically drawing the almost-circle-of-life at 16/3500 health while the spikey Cerberus monster thing is about to stampede your ass.
The other special ability at the players’ disposal is the Power Attack, or as I call it, the Limit Break. For those who are well versed in Final Fantasy, the basic concept should be pretty clear; a powerful special attack becomes available after your limit gauge is filled from either getting smashed around or dealing physical damage. That is exactly what a Power Attack is, which adds a great and totally glossed-over element to the game. Each weapon class has a unique power-attack, each creating a momentary bullet time QTE that will make you either swipe or stab your enemy with varying effects.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve been on the verge of death and make a total come-back by managing to get some kind of break, start chain attacking until what I’m fighting thwarts my plans by farting a flawless block, which I’ll then counter with my trusty Limit Attack. Or is it Power Break? Whatever. I’ll either trash whatever I’m fighting or stall long enough for my magic timer to fill, allowing me to promptly heal myself. With friends watching, this scenario turns a few graphic-dazed friends into rowdy spectators cheering you into a rebounding victory or a valiant death.
Seriously, it’s a crazy good time.
Gameplay and Customization and Stuff
It’s rare that I ever enjoy linear gameplay, meaning the character must travel through a pre-ordained path with little to no say as to how the story progresses, but there are some games that can pull it off. Half Life 2, Metro2033, and every good Final Fantasy (3-10, everything else is shit) comes to mind. Seeing that manually navigating through an environment on touch screens is an annoying and unrefined facet of the tech, Chepic created the “point-click” exploration system, which lets the player decide from several branching paths that all lead to the same end. This led to inevitably boring and repetitive paths designed to farm gold and experience, something Infinity Blade 2 addressed by simply adding around five times as many area’s to explore, coupled with the promise of aggressively releasing free content that includes more levels in the near future.
I could write paragraphs about why the visuals are stunning, but for the sake of how large this article would then become, I challenge you to watch any Infinity Blade 2 gameplay video on YouTube and tell me what you see doesn’t confuse and startle you. And also tickle your happy place. Where improvements in graphical prowess won’t invalidate the first games’ equally impressive visuals, it totally invalidates playing pretty much anything else on an iPhone or iPad. Including the first game. What I will mention though is the well-received redesign of the inventory system, which categorizes items instead of lumping them all in one giant list. This makes item management as easy as giving a stoner brownie-mix and $200 with something special in mind.
A welcome addition to the customization element of iBlade 2 is the Gem mechanic. Players will receive different shaped gemstones from chests or fights that’ll add some kind of special perk, from elemental damage fused into a weapon, physical or magical damage intensifiers, to elemental defense bonuses. Each of the mid to high tier weapons and armor have specifically shaped slots that correspond to the gems they can take, which adds a welcome level of personalization; Siris now becomes your warrior, different from any other on iBlade 2. Speaking of Siris, if you don’t like his name, you can change that too.
The aforementioned free content pack that Infinity Blade 2 buyers are expecting will include a multiplayer mode, which stands to be one of the more interesting parts of the game. In the first Infinity Blade, players were pinned against each other as either Siris or one of the many different titans you face in the game in a ‘best of seven’ tournament style face-off. There’s a good possibility that this, along with “Swarm”, a mode where you face an endless supply of baddies, will return. But that’s unconfirmed and purely speculation; what is confirmed are fucking raids.
Players will do their best to deal as much damage they can to raid bosses spread across the world of Infinity Blade 2 before eventually getting overwhelmed. The collective damage done by all the players will inevitably kill the boss, and all those who participated will be sent loot for their endeavors. The catch is that each boss will only be around for 24 hours, so everyone who owns Infinity Blade 2 will be collectively fighting that fat bag of hit points as if it was trying to take a shit in their bed on their birthday. Because loot is important.
Pseudo-online involvement that gives a feeling of a community-wide comradery has worked well for other big-scale titles like Dark Soul’s for the PS3, so there’s no reason to think the raids on Infinity Blade 2 wont do just as well over the 3G / 4G network without need for Wi-Fi. Speaking of online connectivity, with the Cloud support that comes built into iBlade 2, you can safely and sneakily play for hours on your phone at work, church, or in class to later grab your iPad(2) and pick up right where you left off.
So, about how I’ve been saying how iBlade 2 is awesome because it’s available for a phone? That is also the source of one of its biggest flaws. After about 20 minutes of playing, my phone started to heat up. Ten minutes after that, I had to sit outside so the winter air would keep it cool. But since my phone is wrapped around my hands, this did nothing to keep my phone from getting borderline uncomfortably hot, as in just hot enough to play through the M.I.B. fingerprint erasing process going on in my hands.
I’m assuming this is because of said heat as well, but iBlade 2 has a tendency to freeze without any real way to restart the game other than waiting it out or restarting your phone. Another defect likely linked to heat issues involves the sounds not playing properly. Occasionally the music decides to take a vacation with all the voice acting and subtitles. Sometimes SFX gets invited, but not always. This, again, is resolved with a quick restart of your phone; an annoying fix to a bug from simply playing the game. I haven’t seen any abnormalities with normal functions in my phone due to this temperature increase, but I can only wonder what it may be doing to my phone’s battery.
I’m not sure who decided during development that recycling animations was a good idea, but let me be the first to say that shoving my two-handed, flat-surfaced hammer, through something’s body is a seriously unattractive (or seriously badass) thing to watch. It’s fairly obvious that the finisher animations were made with basically only pointy objects in mind, which is odd since both two-handed and dual-weapon gameplay emphasizes the characteristics of each weapon respectively, just not that flat things aren't allowed to be pointy. Why aren’t there custom animations for two-handed weapons that take the surface dimensions into consideration? Why aren’t there cool akimbo-style ninja / samurai warrior style finishers?
The existing finishers are a vital part of the game, and the proverbial cherry on your combat cupcake, but it’s pretty disappointing that with all the effort put into making iBlade 2 so atmospheric and involving that Chepic would drop the ball and not make bash-happy or Ninja Gaiden-esque sequences. I imagine Siris running onto something’s back and nuking it in the face with the blunt end of something heavy four to ten times in quick succession, or maybe sideswiping it in the jaw and watch some teeth fly. Which would look way cooler than watching my blatantly blunt hammer get handled like a sword. And shoved into a monster’s neck. Like a sword.
$6.99 may seem steep for an app, but don’t get shit twisted; Infinity Blade 2 is a game designed for gamers. It’s an action-adventure RPG where you play as the God-King-slaying warrior “Siris”, the same hero from the first Infinity Blade. With the inclusion of a sweet voice-acted storyline that picks up from the iBlade e-book by Brandon Sanderson, players are now put into the classic RPG formula; you’re a hero who’s on some great-than-thou journey, looking for some person or some thing to resolve some great injustice, or to save the world from some great terrible something while fighting many things and exploring the mystical lands of somewhere. No longer are you a nameless warrior fighting your way through a gauntlet-tower to eventually kill the tyrannical God King-- now you have a name, a voice, and a purpose. Coupled with this new depth in story, the revisited and greatly improved combat system, vast customization options, a beautiful visual buffet for your graphical pallet, promises of free content ranging from explorable levels to extra items to online raids, Infinity Blade 2 shapes up as a proper and simple alternative to iOS gaming and sets the bar for touchscreen gaming in general.
Final Rating: 9/10
Despite heat issues, a few bugs, and some missing animations, Infinity Blade II is the definitive iOS masterpiece that sets the stage for future touch-screen titles.