Infinity Blade isn't a paradigm shift. It isn't a revolution. It merely confirms what we've always known: great games are more than pretty graphics - they're about compelling gameplay too.
Developer ChAIR has raised the bar when it comes to presentation - Epic Games's Unreal Engine shines on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad - yet the real accomplishment is in marrying graphics with great gameplay. No longer is it acceptable to hide shallow gameplay behind awe-inspiring visuals.
A gripping blend of intuitive touch controls, engaging role-playing, and sharp graphics - Infinity Blade is a great game.
What if God was one of us?
The quest to slay the infamous God King isn't a perfect one, but it does hit all the right notes. You take the role of a righteous knight seeking to fell the maniacal leader, who sits high on his throne in a dilapidated castle. It's a futile effort, though, and after a failed first attempt it falls to your descendants to defeat the God King.
Repetition is intentionally built into Infinity Blade. Rather than visit new levels, you trudge through the same castle grounds in subsequent bloodlines. While a minor complaint, this lack of variety puts the focus on combat and character development - two areas in which the game excels.
Sword-fighting action and basic role-playing come together in a unique way, allowing you to battle enemies in real-time with swipes of the screen and level up with experience rewarded with victory. Neither is a revolutionary concept, yet straightforward, polished design make an impact.
The finger is mightier than the sword
Battles are surprisingly challenging and fun. Swiping the screen to attack is easy to understand, though tough to master. Strong, smart foes force you to vary your attacks in order to avoid damage.
Screen scribbling is a losing tactic because enemies can easily bypass such chaotic attacks by blocking your blows. Instead, you're pushed into breaking enemy attack chains by blocking with your shield, parrying with well-timed counterattacks, and casting gesture-based magic spells.
This carefully balanced combat system rewards skill and punishes carelessness, encouraging you to react and adapt to enemy tactics. It's a smart system and one that evolves over time to ensure you're just as challenged five hours into the game as you were in those first few battles.
Despite the limited bestiary, there are real differences in the way enemies fight. Nimble assassins execute speedy slashes that demand quick responses, whereas lumbering trolls issue slow but brutal blows.
Role-playing for dummies
Hand-in-hand with combat is a basic role-playing that strengthens your equipment with experience earned from battle. Each victory brings experience points that are divided amongst your equipped items, as well as your general person.
Once you amass enough experience, an item is considered mastered and you're given a point to assign to any of your core attributes (Health, Attack, Shield, and Magic). Additionally, upon levelling up you receive two points to allocate to your attributes.
It's a simple yet highly effective system that carries over with each new bloodline. In this way, the repetitive use of the castle grounds is countered by the continued development of your character. Still, Infinity Blade struggles with repetition and limited level design.
The short end of the stick
The problem isn't the on-rails approach - you're given liberty to pan the camera to find treasure chests, life-restoring potions, and bonus gold - it's the lack of variety in enemies and adherence to the same paths through the castle. Changing the route with each bloodline would mix things up.
Other issues affect Infinity Blade. Crashes to the home screen occurred infrequently, but often enough to note. The delayed multiplayer mode also sounds promising, although its absence in this initial release makes it feel incomplete.
None of these reduces the game's impact: in fact, these shortcomings underscore everything that has been done right. From its challenging combat system and simple role-playing to the glittering graphics, Infinity Blade is undeniably fun and worth every penny.