If you've already played an Infinity Blade game - or Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, Horn, Avengers Initiative, Death Dome, or Dwayne Johnson's Rockpocalypse - then you'll know the drill with Infinity Blade III.
A gargantuan monster stands before you, practically filling the screen, and attempts to turn you into very pretty Unreal Engine 3-powered paste. Your job is to fend off incoming attacks by parrying sword swings, blocking shield bashes, and dodging kicks.
Eventually, the enemy's defences will break and you'll have a precious few seconds to unleash hell. You'll fire off a flurry of screen swipes and, hopefully, a few well-executed combos as you take apart the enemy's life bar... pixel by pixel.
You have a few options for dealing with these titanic beasties. There's the classic sword and shield, of course. Instead, though, you could wield a giant hammer, which is all block and no dodge. Or you could use a pair of nimble blades, which are all dodge and no block.
With Infinity Blade III, Chair puts a few new twists on its well-worn and oft-copied formula. There are now weapon-specific combos and new quick time event inputs. Sometimes, baddies drop their weapons mid-bout, only to pull out a entirely different type of blade and completely change the fighting dynamic.
Like a boss
But, then, in classic Infinity Blade style, you come across a boss. He's level 150. You're level 15. Those aren't good odds.
He lets you get a few parries in - maybe gives you enough time to unleash a super attack and a magic spell. And then he murders you with about as much effort as it takes to break an egg. You're dead, and you must start the chapter from scratch.
This is how Infinity Blade has always worked. The boss characters are designed specifically to infuriate and frustrate you so that your eventual triumph tastes so much sweeter.
It was an interesting way to frame the first game (and a clever way to string out 20 minutes of content into a £4 game), and it worked for the super-sized sequel. But this setup feels out of place in Infinity Blade III, which has an actual story mode with chapters and classic progression.
You might be looting a futuristic crypt in one level, and then taking on a colossal beast in a dusty coliseum the next. You might have to fight a dragon in the middle of a desert, sneak into a mountain-top temple, or perform a midnight raid of the castle from Infinity Blade II.
The constant killing you off and forcing you to trot through these same locations twice (and many more times if your experience is anything like mine) just gets in the way of the unfolding of the story. It feels like a tired - almost unnecessary - holdover from the previous games.
Those frequent deaths and constant grinding are made worse by the fact that it's easy to fall out of sync with the game.
Sometimes, you have such high-powered weaponry and such impregnable defences that you could kill the game's hulking great titans with a literal wiggle of the finger. Other times, enemies will just immediately eviscerate you.
That delicate knife's-edge balance - where you feel like the scrappy underdog, always on the cusp of death but just about able to rise to dominance if you really time your strikes and pay attention - was a staple of the first Infinity Blade, but it's rarely found in this threequel.
What're ya buyin'?
A large part of this is due to the game's staggeringly complex arsenal and economy. Sharp reflexes and a knack for rapid-fire finger waggling will only get you so far, you see. The statistics of your weapons and various bits of armour are often the true deciders of a battle.
There is a enormous collection of items to buy, and two characters to buy for. You need to finish levels as Siris and new character Isa to proceed, so you'll need to keep both warriors kitted out with the best gear.
There's also a roving merchant with special offers; a blacksmith who can upgrade your tools; and a whole catalogue of gems and potions.
If you keep dying, it's hard to know if it's because you suck (admittedly, that's entirely possible), or if you've just made horrible buying decisions (also likely).
There's a pair of currencies in this game. And while you can find money in the environments and win it from bouts, you can also boost your coffers via in-app purchases. I often found myself painfully ill-equipped to tackle the next boss but also running low on money and thousands of bucks away from buying the next sword.
If Infinity Blade III is truly the final game in this storied saga, then the series will probably be remembered as a staggeringly handsome screen slasher that's often a tense, boisterous, thrilling fighter, but just as often tediously repetitive and infuriatingly unfair.
Not a particularly great epitaph, then. Maybe Chair could do better in its next life.
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