Every now and then a platform is graced with a game that pushes the boundaries of what people thought it possible of. Infinity Blade is that game for iOS. Developed by Chair Entertainment, the same group that gave us the critically acclaimed XBLA games Undertow and Shadow Complex, Infinity Blade makes use of Epic Games’ Unreal engine to bring what is sure to be a memorable gaming experience on par with their past efforts. Priced at $4.99 ($5.99 for iOS universal version) in the Apple App Store, Infinity Blade could get away with a price tag of $9.99, or conceivably more, with no hesitation.
The first thing you will notice is that the game is stunningly beautiful. Of course, when Project Sword was announced by no less than Steve Jobs, we saw that it would be gorgeous, so this should not be such a surprise; I feel, however, that most promotional images and videos can be very misleading. This is not the case with Infinity Blade. If anything, it’s more beautiful in my hand than it ever was on a distant screen. Infinity Blade opens the doors for iOS developers to achieve things they may not have thought possible on the platform, in much the same way Tony Hawk achieving his signature 900 opened the doors for people to do even crazier things while in mid air on a piece of wood with some wheels on it.
The gameplay is simple, consisting of on-rails movement, which does pull away from the free world roam of the technical demo Epic Citadel but provides structure and constant forward progress; gesture-based battles, which utilize the control limitations and abilities of iOS masterfully; and a leveling system that combines standard XP earned through battles with XP earned through the mastery of equipment, which encourages the player to constantly swap equipment out as each individual item becomes mastered.
First, the movement; the game is on-rails, with small blue tap-circles initiating cut-scenes taking the characters from their current location to the next location. At each location, however, you are able to pan the camera around before proceeding, which gives you the opportunity to find items by the wayside that you may have otherwise missed. The game world is, as I said, absolutely stunning. Take the time at each stop to look around and enjoy the scenery. As a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Second, the battles; inflicting damage on an opponent is primarily done through swiping your finger on the screen in various directions. There is more to the game than that, however, as blocking, dodging, and parrying attacks play a major role in your characters’ survival. Successfully blocking, dodging, or parrying consistently can lead to stunning an opponent, which opens up a massive attack opportunity. Opening up these attack opportunities is the key to moving through battles efficiently. Additionally, a recharging power attack button and recharging magic attack button provide powerful assistance. While the power attack is simply a button-press, the magic is gesture-based, requiring a different symbol to be drawn on the screen, depending on which magical item you have equipped.
Third, the leveling system; as one would expect, your characters earn XP from battle. However, each item you have equipped also earns XP as you use it. Once an item is mastered, you are granted an additional attribute point to be applied to fields such as health, attack, defense, and magic. Once an item is mastered, it will no longer build up bonus XP, which encourages you to continually rotate your equipment in order to take maximum advantage of the bonus attribute points. Between the equipment your characters will find during their journey and the weapons you can purchase in the game (with the money you earn in-game, not in-app purchases), there is a great deal of power to be had in mastering equipment successfully.
The story is fairly standard fantasy fare, at first. The immensely powerful God-King kills a lone hero attempting to destroy him. Eighteen years later, the hero’s son stands where the hero once stood, and begins his assault on the God-King’s castle, fighting through an increasingly difficult cast of enemies. The new hero finally reaches the God-King’s throne room, defeats the God-King’s guardian, and finally engages the God-King himself…where the hero is slain. Eighteen years later, the hero’s son stands where the hero once stood, and begins his assault on the God-King’s castle, armed with his father’s equipment and abilities, fighting through an increasingly difficult cast of enemies. The new hero finally reaches the God-King’s throne room, defeats the God-King’s guardian, and finally engages the God-King himself…where the hero is slain. Eighteen years later…well, I think you get the point. I bet my plural and plural-possessive use of “characters” earlier in the article makes more sense now. While a single playthrough of the game is entertaining, the true capabilities of the leveling system really shine when you follow your bloodline through multiple generations, becoming more and more powerful with each new hero as he faces deadlier and more dangerous enemies.
Infinity Blade is a game that, at $4.99 ($5.99 for iOS universal), you would be a fool to pass up. I will provide a caveat with that statement, however; I have heard that it can be a bit much for the 3GS, so I would only recommend this game for iPhone 4 hardware.