Blades of Time is a mediocre game, with an inventive combat system utilizing time manipulation. Dreadful writing and one of the most annoying protagonists in a dog's age dampen its charms, while the puzzles between combat show a dearth of creativity.
- Novel time mechanics
- Polished combat system
- Looks nice for a budget title
- Irritating protagonist that won't shut up
- Performance issues
- Lazy puzzles
- Slapdash multiplayer
Blades of Time Review:
Blades of Time is a game about rewinding time that just so happens to also be a spiritual successor to the poorly received X-Blades. While developer Gaijin Entertainment can't go back and prevent that abomination from happening, it can do the next best thing by creating a game good enough that we can begin to forget about their previous unpleasantness. Blades of Time may suffer from a thoroughly obnoxious protagonist and pitiful writing, but beneath its generic trappings lies a surprisingly well-made hack-and-slash title with an interesting central mechanic.
Army of Me
This may not be apparent from the beginning, however, as Blades of Time gets off to a rocky start. Protagonist, Ayumi, has transitioned from an anime pinup girl to a stereotypical blonde airhead trying to be Lara Croft. She's even adopted a British accent. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, she begins the game slaughtering a room full of fellow treasure hunters, only to gain access to an orb that transports her to the mythical land of riches, Dragonland. (Can we all take a moment to appreciate that it's actually called Dragonland?)
This confusing display of homicide is the least of Ayumi's problems. Much more detestable is that she never shuts up. She spends the entirety of the game spouting out cringe-worthy dialogue like, "So the altars are sources of strength. Cool!" to no one in particular. She's a bit like Charlize Theron's character from Arrested Development, only without the humor.
It doesn't help that the story is so forgettable that I've actually forgotten it. Apparently my brain figured it wasn't worth the mental real estate to commit to memory, which doesn't bode well when it remembers such useless crap as the lyrics to the Perfect Strangers theme song.
Thankfully, these red flags are downplayed once the combat system picks up steam. Blades of Time switches effortlessly between button mashing sword swings and third-person shooting. The focus is squarely on the former, but the latter is handled well despite there only being a few firearms. Whether you run and gun with a rifle, hunker down with a machine gun that requires standing still to fire, or slice away with your dual katanas, the combat is malleable enough to suit most playstyles. Your primary close quarters attacks don't feel particularly powerful, but successive combos will build up your rage meter, allowing you to unleash elemental spells that reign down upon foes with a thunderous crash.
This is all well and good, but Blades of Time's most unique attribute is Ayumi's ability to rewind time. (This doesn't have anything to do with her titular blades, incidentally, but I guess "Blades and Time" wasn't so snappy a title.) Unlike the similarly titled Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, tinkering with the fourth dimension doesn't simply reverse the last several seconds, but rather creates an alternate reality in which your prior selves replay your previous actions while you're free to go about your business. These ghostly duplicates can not only distract enemies, but hurt them as well. Fire into a mass of foes, rewind, then watch your past self do it again while you hack away from the rear. Before you know it there are several apparitions of Ayumi slashing and shooting about, causing all sorts of mayhem. Balancing this on top of the already fleshed out combat system can get messy, but there's a devilish delight bringing about such chaos.
Despite this, there are a few issues with combat. Tapping left on the d-pad to heal only works when you're not otherwise occupied with an attack animation, so it's easy to panic and tap it multiple times until it registers only to accidentally heal yourself twice. The sliding/dodge maneuver takes a little too long to recover from and context sensitive counters are finicky, due to it not always understanding which enemy your responding to. Still, these are minor glitches in an otherwise outstanding system.
Time Enough at Last
Outside of combat there's a smattering of puzzles and platforming, though neither rise above the rudimentary. Too many puzzles rely on the same copy/paste designs of tasking players with standing on two or three switches at the same time. Solve this once, and you've solved it a dozen times, yet the game is content to keep throwing it at you. Given that The Misadventures of Mr. P.B. Winterbottom stretched the same time-based concept into a full puzzle game, it's disappointing that Blades of Time's brain teasers peter out so early.
This lack of refinement extends to a series of technical glitches. At one point the game froze on me four times, causing me to hard reset the system. After worrying I'd have to restart the game I finally made it through by making a concerted effort not to overdo the rewind feature. Even when the system doesn't crash, processing dozens of enemies and multiple timelines can slow the framerate to a crawl.
Elsewhere, visually Blades of Time may not compete with any of the triple-A titles on the market, but rises above the lowly bar set by other budget titles. Some animations are ropey, lip-syncing's nonexistent, and having only one character model for human enemies until they resemble an army of clones exposes the game's modest budget, but environments are rich and detailed. Settings like a desert surrounded by a celestial plane or a series of floating islands bristling with glowing flora are particularly stylish. There's no shortage of enemy designs either, and while some border an repetitive remixes, there's still enough variety to ensure the sights stay fresh.
Outside of single-player, there's a two-player online component in which players fight alongside a squad of AI companions defending their outposts while defeating that of their enemies. This can be played both cooperatively and in versus mode. Outposts shoot projectiles at you, though, so you'll likely spend ages watching AI characters duke it out while firing upon enemy towers from a distance. Unfortunately, each structure takes far too long to damage, leading to monotony as you chip away at the opposition. It's such an arduous, undeveloped mode that one wonders why Gaijin even bothered.
Time is on My Side
Blades of Time does everything it can to turn players off with its loathsome main character, daft script, and technical issues, but beneath all that there's a competent action game with bold ideas befitting of a much better title. This won't be enough to convert non-fans of the genre, but those who enjoy a good hack-and-slash or just want to chill out and feel like an ass-kicking timelord will find a good 8-10 hours of enjoyment from this. It may fall short of its potential, but given its humble roots Blades of Time successfully rewrites history into a reality where I'm hopeful at the prospect of a third game in this series.
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Editor's Note: Blades of Time was reviewed using a PlayStation 3 copy of the game; however, we also played the Xbox 360 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.