Every successful gaming platform that has ever been plugged into a wall, from the ancient NES to the PlayStaton 3, has had that one title that made people sit up and take notice. Infinity Blade, from Epic Games’ subsidiary Chair, is that game for Apple’s iPad.
The game is best described as a sword fighting simulator, with your character taking on opponents with different sword strokes and combos with the ability to dodge, block and parry. Swiping across the main part of the screen makes your fighter attack in the desired direction, and you can string blows together for different combos leading to big damage to your enemy. Touching the left and right of the screen dodges in that direction, and pressing in the middle of the bottom portion makes you block an attack, although you may still take some damage. You parry by swiping in exactly the opposite direction that the enemy is attacking. Parrying, blocking or dodging several times, or even with perfect timing, opens up your opponent to attack.
Many games using similar systems fall apart in the execution, but not here, with the enemy A.I, gameplay and even camera angles coming together to create a fantastic experience, with every battle, absolutely, genuinely enjoyable. From basic grunts to giant, fifty foot bosses, every encounter is filled with strategy, excitement and the feel of an epic duel. There are also super attacks to build up and a basic magic system to give you an edge.
The story here, and the progression through it, are fascinating. The game starts out with you as a warrior trying to kill the God King, an evil ruler with a magical sword called the Infinity Blade. You are killed in the fight, with your essence embedded in the sword, and the scene then cuts to back outside the castle you were dueling in, only 20 years later and you playing the role of the warriors son, out to exact revenge on the God King for killing your father. You then make your way through the grounds of the castle, fighting warriors, into the castle itself until finally, after defeating many enemies, you find your self face to face with the God King. After he kills you, your essence is sucked into the Infinity Blade, as your father’s was.
The scene then cuts to back outside the castle where you the play the role of the next son, ready to continue the seemingly endless loop.
Seems insane, but there is a reason it works. Every item you pick up, every time you grow more powerful and gain new weapons is passed along to the next son. The enemies grow more powerful as you grow more powerful yourself, only the God King doesn’t. He is immensely powerful and fast, but gradually, little by little and after many battles, you start to catch him up. Eventually you will defeat him, not only because of your power, but also because, after many defeats, you start to learn how he works…..
It is a grind, but a thoroughly addictive one, and it reminds me a little of Demons Souls, an extremely punishing but powerfully rewarding PS3 game. It punishes you time and time again. You fight tooth and nail to get to the God King and he makes you start over and over again. However, you will keep plodding on, feeling like you are playing a part in your own personal, yet epic, battle.
In between fights, you don’t have much control over things, instead you can look around your surroundings and touch highlighted points to progress to the next section. You can choose a few different routes through the castle, so it’s not all the same backgrounds all the time. There are also bags of money and other collectibles around, which are hidden away and also chests to open. These can contain weapon, magic and armour upgrades, all of which are vital to progression. This progression is formed in two ways. First of all, you can upgrade your character through experience points gained through fighting, spending upgrade points on different characteristics gained through leveling up. Your weapons also upgrade themselves through experience points, but you can buy quick upgrades with money collected around the levels.
The graphics are beautiful, and anyone looking at them would think they were running on one of the big HD consoles. Chair use the Unreal Engine to great effect, with the castle, its ground and its interior al having a spectacular look and feel, with epic vistas and intense detail. The only slight disappointment is that there are some low res textures on some of the enemies close up, but I’m really nitpicking, as some of the opponents are stunning to look at. The music is great, and perfectly pitched to provide maximum atmosphere.
The presentation here really makes the game. The way the warriors square up to each other, the tiny cut scenes when you start to get an edge on your opponent, and the fact that the characters all react to blows in a realistic and believable way, although how a forty foot robot with hammers looks realistic I can’t tell you, but Chair have done it.
There truly isn’t anything else like it on any mobile platform, let alone the App Store, and it truly is a hardcore game, and one that is set to become one of the highest regarded among gamers on Apples iOS platform. It is also a universal app, which, as always, adds immense value. This could have easily turned into a murky drudge, but instead is a true challenge of stamina and skill.
However, it clearly is not for everyone. Those looking for a casual game should look elsewhere, as this is the polar opposite of casual, and even some hardened gamers will play through to the God King once and become disheartened when they realise they just have to do it all again. Overall then, a fantastic game that will challenge you and punish you like few before it. those put off by difficult games should look away now, but everyone else should look to this as an essential purchase. A modern classic.