by Nataniel Hohl
previewed on PS3
A Sequel in Spirit
Blades of Time, the upcoming hack-and-slash, action-adventure game being developed by Gaijin Studios for the PS3 and Xbox 360, has most likely been flying under a lot of people’s radars, even after its debut in early June of last year. I admittedly had never heard of the title until now which is a shame since it looks like it will be a pretty fun and fast-paced game. Set as a “spiritual sequel” to Russian-based Gaijin Studio’s previous title X-Blades, Blades of Time aims to blend both third-person hack-and-slash gameplay with FPS elements as well as more creative mechanics like time control and platforming.
Setting the Stage
Blades of Time doesn’t have the most complex of plots; a young female treasure hunter named Ayumi must explore a large and mysterious island and loot it of its spoils. Naturally the island is also home to a variety of different monsters and other foes that hope to put Ayumi’s treasure-seeking ways to an end but fortunately she comes equipped with several different means of defending herself. A pair of elegant blades allow Ayumi to perform acrobatic and deadly hack-and-slash combos while a handy rifle also lets her gun down enemies from afar in an over-the-shoulder setup akin to Gears of War.
She can also harness the chaotic magic that inhabits the island to perform a dash attack that lets her quickly close in on enemies or navigate the island by “platforming” between various objects in the world. The magic also lets her use a “rewind time” ability that summons a sort of “time doppelganger” which can be utilized both for solving puzzles and for dispatching some of the more pesky enemies she encounters. The concept may sound weird on paper, but it actually looks pretty cool in application as Ayumi uses her doppelganger to distract shielded enemies so she can attack their weak spots or simultaneously press multiple switches to solve a puzzle.
A Breath of Fresh Air
While the various mechanics Ayumi employs do sound neat, it can’t be ignored that trying to blend hack-and-slash gameplay with FPS shooting is nothing new (Devil May Cry, Warhammer: Space Marine) same goes for time manipulation (Prince of Persia) but what Blades of Time may lack in innovation and originality it more than makes up for in visuals and aesthetics. The very first thing I noticed when watching the E3 demo for the game was how beautiful it looks.
The environments are colorful and expansive with various particle and weather effects giving them an appealing glow while the combat and platforming animations are smooth, stylish, and slick. Using Ayumi’s reverse time power coats the screen in a cool red sheen and getting to watch her time doppelganger zip around dispatching foes is nothing short of awesome. And while I only got to see brief glimpses of a forest-like environment in the demo, Gaijin Studios has promised that many different landscapes, ranging from snowy mountains to expansive deserts, will be featured over the course of the game.
Breaking New Ground
Ayumi’s blades and gun are just the tip of the combat iceberg in Blades of Time. As players progress through the game, Ayumi will be able to upgrade both her swords and firearms, learn new combos and special moves, and even gain new types of magic that expand upon her base repertoire of time manipulation and dash attacks. Gaijin Studios was eager to hint that these new attacks and mechanics will be crucial in defeating some of the game’s later foes and mastering its puzzles.
Best of all, players don’t have to explore the island alone. While details at this point are scarce, Gaijin Studios has also promised a fully fleshed out co-op mode as well as more traditional player vs. player-centric multiplayer modes. Considering the overall feel of movement and combat in Blades of Time feels akin to other fast-paced hack-and-slash titles like Devil May Cry and God of War, it will be interesting to see if Gaijin Studios can deliver a competitive multiplayer experience that is just as fun and engaging as the single-player campaign.
It may still be off of most gamer’s radars, but Blades of Time is shaping up to be a new and exciting entry into the action adventure genre. With vivid and colorful visuals, fresh new takes on familiar mechanics, combat that looks to appeal to both FPS and hack-and-slash fans, and a multiplayer experience that has definite potential to shatter people’s expectations, Gaijin Studios’ spiritual follow-up to X-Blades looks to be just the sort of game action-adventure fans have been hoping for.