It may surprise the less observant amongst you to find that Blades of Time is in fact the spiritual sequel to X-Blades from 2009. The original game saw the main character Ayumi running around, collecting treasure and chopping up the endless hordes of enemies in a typical hack ‘n slash manner with a largely forgettable fantasy story, which I think involved a curse.
Whilst Blades of Time may not have changed much by way of purpose (the game still revolves around hack ‘n slash gameplay with treasure to find), there are some additions to the gameplay. But the most shocking change, and possibly a reason why players would not have realised this game was a spiritual sequel, is the way the game looks. The original X-Blades had our heroine cast as a buxom anime-style gal with a cel-shaded look, but in Blades of Time Ayumi seems to have grown into a much more realistic look, along with a much skimpier outfit. The new visual direction is certainly welcome, making the game feel much less of an arcade game and much more of a serious hack ‘n slash title.
Or at least it would feel more serious if Ayumi would just drop the constant one-liners and quips. I am quite happy for a strong female lead to have a rosy outlook on life and be able to see the funny side of things, but the constant need to comment really isn’t necessary. The constant torrent of dialogue from the main character wears thin very quickly, which will leave the majority of players not only having trouble relating to the character, but actively disliking her, which is not an ideal situation for a main character to be in. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn’t involve earplugs. Turn the voice level down in the settings, of failing that just turn the volume off altogether – the games’ audio track is not so great that you will be missing much.
Blades of Time provides the player with plenty of enemies to kill in a variety of interesting ways, across some very good looking environments. There are even puzzles to solve in order to progress. The fact that all of this is tied together with, once again, a forgettable fantasy story would be a shame, if it were not for the enjoyable gameplay.
There is only so much that one would expect from a hack ‘n slash game, but Blades of Time manages to tick all of those boxes quite comfortably. Things start off fairly simply with a couple of basic attacks, but soon progress to include projectile attacks, magic and special abilities, giving the player plenty of options when it comes to dispatching the multiple enemies. Exploration will reveal new weapons and even outfits for Ayumi, giving the player further reason to keep playing.
Perhaps the most interesting addition to Ayumi’s adventures is hinted at in the games’ title – Blades of Time. Ayumi has the ability to manipulate time, something that makes insurmountable foes much more easier to deal with, and seemingly co-op puzzles simply solved. The mechanic works by allowing Ayumi to go ahead and do what she must, then rewind time and play through the action again with a second version of herself. This can be done a number of times, resulting in the type of attacks that I have previously only seen when Naruto performs his Clone Jutsu moves. This allows players to basically “gang up” on enemies, create diversions for themselves and even solve puzzles that would normally require two or more characters. The mechanic itself holds infinite possibilities and I would like to see it developed further and put to a more meaningful use than it has been in this game. Perhaps something for another sequel, spiritual or otherwise.
In Blades of Time however, even the enjoyable mechanic of manipulating time and effectively creating multiple clones can become a bit repetitive. The action and the puzzles are simply not varied enough to make the game stand out from other hack ‘n slash titles. There have also been a few bugs present in this PC version, one of which resulted in the game being unplayable on one of our rigs, due to the video card. This problem will have likely been resolved by now through a patch, but it was an annoyance nonetheless.
Blades of Time is your standard hack ‘n slash game. If you approach it expecting no more than that, then you will enjoy the high quality visuals, the variety of the attacks and enemies, and the brilliant time manipulation. But if you are looking for more than the standard, then the games’ various issues will become much more apparent and leave you feeling unfulfilled. Gaijin Entertainment have some really good ideas here, but they are well hidden within an average game.