Blades of Time is full to the brim with potential. Every aspect has a spark of brilliance trying valiantly to break free from the constraints of an otherwise mediocre game. It’s tragic and undeniable, despite clever ideas Blades of Time’s construction just isn’t up to scratch.
Blades of Time is developer Gaijin Entertainment’s spiritual successor to their previous title, X-Blades and the inspiration is clear to see. It’s a third-person action game following the tale of Ayumi, a young, scantily clad treasure hunter who finds herself on a mysterious and dangerous island in search of treasures and power as well as a way to escape the island’s hostile factions. It’s a confusing and ultimately shallow plot with equally mediocre writing in the script but the voice acting overall is believable, although Ayumi’s constant narration is annoying. As a driving force for copious amounts of combat and some puzzle solving, it work well enough.
Frequent and often repetitive combat punctuates your trek through a set of linear but varied levels. The two button attacking and dynamic shifting between melee and gunplay is a simple yet tactical system. Actually performing combos is a breeze whilst a challenging difficulty keeps you on your toes as enemies take heavy punishment and return the favour with heavy attacks. It forces you to approach combat more thoughtfully than in many hack ‘n slash titles. Diving straight in and button bashing won’t work for the majority of enemies and instead you’ll rely on quick combo attacks before darting out of range, dealing some projectile damage with you gun – and eventually magic – before jumping back up close.
Indeed combat shows a lot of promise. As your adventure unfolds you’ll eventually unlock additional combos and abilities, including some devastating and strategically important magic and elemental attacks, to deal with your foes. The problem is the controls, and at one point the camera, aren’t quite up to the task. The camera when firing your guns zooms in obnoxiously close to Ayumi’s shoulder and severely obscures your view, and occasional delays with the controls can completely ruin your combos and leave you vulnerable to attack and cheap deaths. Magic also takes several precious seconds to activate making it unwieldy. The concept of great combat is clearly there but its execution lets it down.
Blades of Time’s unique time altering mechanic does help with the combat issues though. Ayumi can manipulate time at the press of a button but instead of simply rewinding time it also creates a clone of Ayumi each time you use it, allowing you to attack enemies from a different angle whilst your clones distract them. This time manipulation mechanic is also used to great effect to solve environmental puzzles, such as activating multiple switches. It’s a neat idea that adds a nice extra layer of strategy to combat and puzzle solving to relieve some of the tedium from repetition. The puzzle solving is particular stands out as Blades of Times most stable and impressive feature. They’re clever and cerebral but never overly challenging.
Other than the time manipulation mechanic Blades of Time treads very familiar territory. There simply isn’t anything here that you haven’t seen before in a hundred other games. Enemies lack variety and imagination, characters are clichéd, and the whole setting suffers from begin generic. The variety in the levels does help keep you visually engaged but frequently frame rate issues and objects and textures occasionally refusing to load, let’s down the solid but unremarkable presentation.
There are also problems with simply moving around the environments, with the same unresponsive controls from combat cropping up in exploration as well. In particular the failure to register jumping and dashing leads to plenty of cheap and frustrating deaths.
In addition to the short single player adventure is an online arena based competitive and cooperative mode called Outbreak. Here you can work together or against other players to stop hordes of enemies filling the screen, with an option for bots if – like I did – you find too few others playing online.
Indeed Blades of Time has the potential to be a great third-person action game but the execution let’s practically every aspect down. Overall it’s a generic adventure game with a single trick – time manipulation – pushing it just above average.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 16/03/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Blades of Time by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.