Blades of Time Review

Started by Blizzard, June 04, 2015, 01:02:25 pm

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June 04, 2015, 01:02:25 pm Last Edit: June 04, 2015, 01:10:22 pm by Blizzard
I've picked up the game recently on a sale for a few bucks since it looked interesting. I've gotten around playing (and finishing it) and since it was fun, I wanted to write a review about it here.

Blades of Time is a classic hack'n'slash button masher action game with a few twists. Unlike most games in this genre, there are actually no real combos that you can perform. There seem to be a few combinations when using the two attack buttons (sword slash and kick) in different orders, but in general the game does not rely on this kind of mechanic. Instead it relies magic attacks, ranged weapons and rewinding time (e.g. the rebooted Prince of Persia franchise from the last decade).

The main twist is that rewinding time moves everything backwards except you. It then creates a time clone of yourself that will repeat all the moves you did up until the point when you activated the time rewind. It's a pretty cool mechanic in itself, but the really fun part is that you use it to solve puzzles as well as kill certain enemies with it. e.g. You can use finishing moves on enemies when they are weakened, but heavier enemies won't go down with just using a finishing move on them. You have to execute the finishing move, then rewind time and then while your time clone is executing your previous finishing move, you join in with another finishing move to actually kill the enemy. When facing a horde of enemies, it's pretty useful to kill one or two, rewind time and go on to kill another one or two while your clone helps with the first two. And then you repeat it again until you have 4 or more clones that just clean out the battlefield with you. Still, using the mechanic takes some time so you won't end up spamming it and killing all the fun, especially since it's helpful, but not overpowered.

Ranged weapons aren't the main focus of the game, but there are lots of moments where you will have to rely on them so being skilled in shooters will help you here quite a bit (especially in some later levels where you can pick up rocket launchers temporarily and they make some sections a lot easier). IMO the shooting sections are a bit too often, but on the other hand I have to admit that at a few moments I was glad I could pull out my gun and kill a few enemies from afar.

There is something called a "rage" bar which fills up when you attack enemies and depletes completely if some time passes without you fighting. There are two types of magic: weak and strong. Filling up the rage bar allows you to use the spells, but they don't deplete the entire rage bar when they are used. If you fill up the entire bar, you will get a life point (while still being able to cast a strong and a weak spell once).
You can have up to 3 life points and boy, will you use them often. Enemies take quite a chunk of energy with most attacks, especially "heavy attacks" by enemies which take half your health. This mechanic makes combat very interesting as you have to keep a constant eye on your health. Not only have I died many times, I also died a lot having life points left that I wasn't able to spend fast enough to avoid death (you have to press a button and hold it for a fraction of a second). At least the game doesn't penalize you a lot for dying. In most cases you will respawn right before the section where you died. Often sections will be divided into parts and groups of enemies where you will respawn right before the group that killed you. I can say that the game is not an easy one and you will die a lot more than in similar games (e.g. Devil May Cry), but it's still not frustrating most of the time.

Magic is easy to use, requiring just pressing a combo of only 2 buttons. I played it with an Xbox 360 Controller and that combo was A + either X, A or Y, depending on which magic I wanted to cast. There are more powerful versions of these magic spells and they are activated by holding down A for a moment before pressing one of the 3 buttons.

Some additional features are that you can find hidden treasure chests and equipment which either boosts up your magic attack or your defense or gives you some other useful perk. It's a nice little touch to make the game more interesting and motivate the player to explore the surroundings instead of just rushing through a level. While the game is linear in design, it's not a weakness due to these treasures as they make the world seem more than it is. Though, I wouldn't have complained if there were a few more better hidden secrets in the levels.

The graphics are not the best I've seen in a game, especially textures will have a relatively low resolution in many places, but that doesn't take away at all from the graphical representation of the game. The level design is gorgeous and the graphic effects are beautiful. The graphic style is unique and has its own charm, especially how different levels have very different feels to them, but they are still consistent within the game itself. Not being a AAA game developer and pulling off something like this with a low budget is a big achievement IMO.

The story isn't anything special, but from the beginning on you will be constantly bombarded with questions by the main character Ayumi that makes you think and rethink your situation a lot. The narrative is done greatly and even though I've read online that people are annoyed that Ayumi constantly talks, I think it's a strength of the narrative, because it's not story - game - story - game - story, but they are intertwined constantly. You are playing the story. I also loved that the game, even though very serious in tone in general, often displays an amount of self awareness that usually isn't seen in games. Many times when I went through a nasty room with really tricky traps, Ayumi would make comments such as "Who would come up with a room design like this? This is crazy!", making fun of how unrealistic the room actually is. So even though the story is mediocre, its execution is done well.

The more serious downsides of the game include sometimes annoying auto-camera movement and shaking (especially when the camera tries to focus on your time clones while you try to look somewhere else), that it's pretty short and that combat doesn't offer anything really new once you get a grip on the time rewind mechanic and magics. While there will be some annoying enemies later where you have to figure out how to kill them, it's still more or less a variation on what you already do. Regardless, not once did I feel the game was too easy or felt bored by combat. I'm just saying that maybe they could have done something more with it.

Even though the game is relatively short, there is a DLC that offers almost an extra hour of gameplay and there is an additional game mode called Outbreak where you... well, I have no idea, I didn't try it. But from the achievement descriptions connected to it, I could tell that it features some sort of online play where you can play with and/or against other players to complete challenges and fight enemies and bosses. If they combat had more variety, I might have tried it out a bit. But like this, meh.

One last thing I want to mention is something I noticed and think is a great idea. When you die the first time in a section, you respawn with your health full, no life points, no magic, no rage. But with each subsequent death, you get one of these extras to make it easier for you to get through the section. The best part is that it doesn't destroy the balance. Not a single time had I felt "Yeah, those 3 life points and full rage bar were overkill for this section" after I died like 5 times before and finally were able to finish the section. And it didn't feel like patronizing either since you gain and lose life points and rage so quickly during combat that it doesn't make a big enough impact to be a problem, but it does make a big enough impact to save your ass.

All in all, I'm giving it 7/10 and it's more than worth the few bucks I paid for it when it was on sale.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that the puzzles weren't anything great, but they are good enough for a game like this.
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