|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Gaijin Entertainment|
|Release: Q1 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
If you don't remember, X-Blades was a button mashy action/adventure game featuring a scantily clad woman. It didn't impress too many people when all was said and done, and the main character Ayumi's wardrobe (or lack thereof) may have been more popular than the game itself.
The good news is that the folks at Gaijin Entertainment seem to have learned their lesson. While X-Blades was a rather generic action game with nothing more than button mashing combat, Blades of Time is taking a page from indie hit Braid, allowing you to screw with time. Frankly, it doesn't look all that bad. Here's a short rundown.
Blades of Time definitely has all the hack and slash combat you'd expect from an X-Blades follow-up. Press buttons to do attacks, string them together to do combos, earn experience to upgrade your moves and learn new ones, and so on. It's nothing we haven't seen in Dante's Inferno or Darksiders.
However, Ayumi has some new powers now. She can rewind time, and she can create "time clones" of herself that exactly mimic her actions in past timelines that no longer exist. Sound confusing? Let me put it another way.
Say you are facing off against a group of enemies. You rush forward and kill one, but then the rest of them gang up on you and you die. You can then rewind to the start of the battle when you ran forward and killed that one enemy. However, when you restart time again, a ghostly time clone of yourself still runs forward and kills that enemy, leaving you to go kill another enemy. You can repeat this process until tons of time clones spread out to handle the entire army, and you don't even have to break a sweat.
The entirety of the game is built around this interesting mechanic. For example, if you are facing one enemy with armor so thick your attacks bounce right off him, you can create ten time clones to strike all at once, shattering his armor in one strike. Or if there is an enemy guarding an entryway that only moves when you pass his field of vision, you can create a time-clone to lure him away while you slip right past. These time clones could be used to move platforms so the real Ayumi can continue onward, act as meat shields so the real Ayumi can stab enemies in the back, or even form massive armies to gang up on a boss that is as big as a building. The possibilities are endless, and you'll no doubt have tons of fun experimenting with different techniques.
This game also includes extensive co-op and competitive multiplayer. However, all the multiplayer modes in the game strip Ayumi of her time powers; you will need to use real people instead of time clones in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Unfortunately, this could easily make the game a lot shallower, so it seems like an odd choice on Gaijin's part.
Now, the least interesting aspect of Blades of Time's gameplay is the combat itself. As cool as the time clones may be, the actual fighting is still very button mashy and extremely simplistic. Ayumi eventually gets new skills such as lock-on dashes, magic, and special combos, but overall, these are just variations on the "mash the X button to win a lot" concept. Hopefully this will change by the time the game hits store shelves.
That being said, the game's time-cloning element might be just the gimmick it needs to justify all this overly simple combat. Either way, be on the lookout for Blades of Time when it releases in early 2012.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer