Also available on: N/A
Developer: Chair Entertainment
Publisher: Epic Games
Genre: Action RPG
Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade was an ambitious attempt to take iOS gaming to lofty new heights. While it broke new ground for Apple platforms cinematically, shallow and repetitive gameplay prevented it from attaining classic status. There were numerous issues for an inevitable sequel to set right, yet plenty of positives for it to build on. Fast-forward to the present and Infinity Blade II has touched down on the App Store. It looks no less impressive than the original, but does it succeed where its predecessor failed?
At first glance, Infinity Blade II isn't the giant leap forward many were expecting. It appears more polished, but has been built on the same old hack 'n slash mechanics and linear principals. However, the longer you play, the clearer it becomes that Chair has fleshed out the experience in all of the right places. The storyline has greater scope, there are more opportunities for exploration, and character customisation has been padded out.
This is still very much an action-driven affair with an emphasis on Punch-Out!-style combat. Once again, parries, blocks, counters and combos are your bread and butter, carried out via well-timed screen swipes. It's all about memorising your opponent's attack patterns and combating them appropriately. That said, there are some new twists on the formula, all of which work in its favour.
There are now three classes of weapon - your traditional sword and shield, dual-wielded short range tools, and an array of heavy-duty hammers and axes. Each set has its pros and cons. For instance, dual-weapons handlers sacrifice defensive capabilities in order to deal more blows, while heavy weapons compensate for a lack of speed with blunt force trauma. A new power-ups system by which you can upgrade your weapons by inserting gems into them makes combat all the more interesting. These precious stones are unearthed during battle, and bestow your items with various powers. If nothing else, it makes skirmishes more interesting and strategic.
With more sophisticated role-playing elements on its side, Infinity Blade II feels like a complete package and less like an overly-long tech demo showcasing the Unreal engine. The potential for exploration also works wonders for the game. It's still a thoroughly linear experience, but the developers have responded to feedback on the previous title and offered some opportunity for off-the-beaten-track movement. There are multiple routes for you to take, and although they all lead towards the same ultimate goal, there are plenty of bonus items to be uncovered along the way, paving the way for some replay value.
Although Chair has tried to make the game's environment more interactive, it's still a crying shame that you can't take in every nook and cranny of those eerie dungeon interiors and stunning medieval landscapes. Outside of combat, it still feels as though the player's role is to trigger cut scenes that progress the story and lead into the next battle. This is less of an issue than in the original Infinity Blade, but it may deter those who can't stomach restriction.
Infinity Blade followed an unorthodox structure, in which the player was required to battle through the game multiple times as a string of the protagonist's descendants. The sequel follows much the same structure, except with an alternate plot device to explain the déjà vu. This time around, the lead character is reborn whenever he is defeated by a boss, and transported back in time to level-up for the rematch. It makes for a hugely confusing narrative, but it's an approach that works for the most part. The enemies you encounter are different each time and you get to keep all of your powers, abilities and XP points, so this doesn't feel like backtracking.
One of Infinity Blade II's biggest selling points is its breathtaking cinematics. Visually, it's a cut above anything else on the App Store and almost on par with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 fare. The character models and animation are stunning, bringing to life this medieval fantasy world. English voice acting has been added to the equation this time around, and while its competent enough, the American accents are somewhat incongruous in this particular setting.
Game Centre support for unlockable achievements and other online features gives the game the feel of a fully-fledged console offering. As with the original, Chair plans to add to Infinity Blade II over time with online multiplayer and the promise of stacks of DLC content. The updates will be free, so the decision not to include them at launch was not financially motivated. In any case, it will be interesting to see how the game develops over time.
In summary, Infinity Blade II continues to be a step forward for iOS gaming. Chair has delivered a visual masterpiece with satisfying combat that rectifies many of the issues of its predecessor. We aren't quite at that point where smartphones and tablets have made handheld gaming systems obsolete, but after this release, the gap between them is certainly narrower.
> What do you think of the game? Share your views