You probably haven’t paid much attention to Konami’s Blades of Time. To be perfectly honest, we had mostly overlooked this title, which has been overshadowed by fare like Neverdead (which, sadly, was the same build we had played previously) and the Metal Gear HD remakes. But after receiving a demo from the one and only Tak Fujii – yes, that Tak Fujii – we came away somewhat intrigued. What we saw was something that, while a little rough around the edges, looked to utilize some interesting concepts.
Blades of Time is under development by Russian firm Gaijin Entertainment, and Fujii was quick to praise the former Soviets for their impressive, rapid development of game programming prowess on the world stage. The game stars a spunky, lithe young treasure hunter named Ayumi as she explores a mysterious – and, of course, very dangerous – island. There’s a trove of treasure to be had in this accursed isle, and Ayumi’s going to grab it all for herself. Fortunately, as an experienced adventurer, she comes prepared. Not only can Ayumi wield her titular blades to combat enemies, she can also equip a rifle to take down enemies in some first-person-shooting action. As the game progresses, she can also learn new combos, upgrade her weapons, and use damaging magic, which Fujii eagerly showed us.
Besides the FPS elements, this all sounds like a pretty pedestrian 3D hack-n-slasher so far. But there were some interesting bits that Fujii was keen to emphasize. The first was Ayumi’s dash skill. Ayumi has unlimited use of a speedy dashing attack that she can use to close in the distance between herself and a foe, or use as a means to travel between one location to the next. We saw this demonstrated when strange, ethereal pillars appeared in the sky in our snow-covered trial stage. With a few button presses, Ayumi had locked onto the objects and was dashing between them, allowing her to reach an area tha was previously inaccessible. Fujii also highlighted another clever stage design that focused heavily on the dashing mechanic.
At one point, Ayumi must trek through a desert, but the enemies that live there thrive under the hot sun. Simply running out of the shadows into the light can result in Ayumi being overwhelmed, so the player must use the dash to run from one safe shadow to another and approach enemies for quick takedowns.
So where does the “time” element from the title come in? That’s another of the game’s interesting mechanics. Ayumi has a finite ability to rewind time, and, by doing so, she creates a clone of herself that repeats the previous action taken. Fujii demonstrated some of the many creative ways this mechanic is put to use. In one part of the stage, there are two switches that must be pressed to open a door. The switches need to be triggered at the same time, but Ayumi can’t be two places at once... until she steps on one switch and rewinds far back enough to move to the opposite switch, using her newly made doppelganger as a preprogrammed co-op partner.
This mechanic can also be put to use in combat: At one point, Fujii was fighting a heavily armored foe with a giant shield. He spent a while attempting to whack his foe, but was being blocked constantly. But this was fully intentional on his part. He then used a time rewind to send Ayumi back in time a ways. This time, the enemy was preoccupied with blocking the clone attacking from the front, allowing Ayumi to cross over to his vulnerable back and strike him there. It’s even possible to create several Ayumi clones performing pre-programmed actions, as Fujii demonstrated in a battle with multiple foes. There were four Ayumis, each one battling a foe and keeping it occupied, which meant that Fujii could now methodically approach and kill each member of the group easily without being overwhelmed. Of course, there are problems with time manipulation – Ayumi doesn’t gain back lost health by rewinding, and her time control powers have finite limits, which are pushed by how far you rewind and how many clones you create.
We came away from Blades of Time quite surprised. If anything, the ideas behind it are solid, though there are still a few rough patches (the visuals and framerate seemed particularly uneven). Of course, we couldn’t end the demo without asking Fujii the question on everyone’s minds.
“So how many troops are in this game?”
Fujii gave us a knowing look and a smile. “Many millions.”