E3 2012: Hands on with Infinity Blade Dungeons for iOS

The diablo’s in the details

E3 2012: Hands on with Infinity Blade Dungeons for iOS

For most, the first game that really drove home the increasing capabilities and relevance of smartphone gaming was Epic and Chair Entertainment’s Infinity Blade.

Combining striking graphics with touchscreen-optimised controls, the title acted as a serious statement of intent from the two formally console-focused companies, and was a perfect advert for the power of the Unreal Engine on mobile devices.

Infinity Blade Dungeons is a rather different beast to the previous two games in the franchise. Rather than combine cutting-edge visuals with what some might call ‘casual’ gameplay, Dungeons looks and plays like a full-fat action RPG in the mould of Diablo that’s been slickly adapted to touchscreen.

Loot drop

There are two big differences between Dungeons and previous attempts at recreating the loot-hunting gameplay such as with Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter series – the graphics and the controls.

Rather than stick virtual sticks on the game as with its competitors, Epic has opted for a touch-to-move mechanic for your character, combined with gesture-based combat skills.

So rather than tap at floating icons on screen to activate powers or attack, you’ll be slashing (a la Infinity Blade) to attack, drawing circles around your character to whirl him into a whirlwind of death, and double-tapping an enemy to activate the item-specific special move.

Each weapon type in the game has its own special little features and individual stats to consider. So while double-tapping with an axe sends you slashing down on a group of foes, a magical hammer creates an apocalyptic explosion of lava and fire.

The most satisfying move, however, is the bullet-time styled drag-and-lock attack, which sees you press and hold on your character before tracing out the respective targets.

Letting go with a hammer equipped sees it fly out from your hands, spinning into the marked foes in a flurry of pyrotechnic explosions.

Deeper underground

Lead artist for Dungeons, the excellently named Maury Mountain, tells me that most of the team consists of veterans from the Gears of War series on consoles, and this certainly shows in the level of detail in both the textures and the complicated geometry of the detailed dungeons.

These ‘dungeons’ can be both open air and underground, with my hands-on taking place in and around old disused mines. They’re designed to be repeatable, with the action-RPG staple of collecting bigger and better loot (which, naturally, shows up on your character) the main draw to venture back into a previous area.

But it’s not just simply a case of collecting items and equipping them. Dungeons also introduces a series of mini-games, including mining for raw materials and even forging your own weapons with the metals you find.

Both are, at their core, reaction-based games. Forging, for instance, begins with you tapping as a bright hot bar goes past dents in the blade. Do well, and the item that comes out of the forge is stronger and more powerful.

There’s a much more serious feel to Dungeons than earlier IB titles – with individual stats, buffs, special features (such as ‘chance to daze’ and other action RPG staples) making an appearance in the detailed equipment menus.

Epic hasn't revealed an exact date of release, but expect to see Infinity Blade Dungeons pop up on the App Store a little later in the year.