Blades of Time Review

Blades of Time overcomesobstacles of its own creation with the strength of its novel time-twisting abilities.

by

The fight was going poorly for Ayumi. Down to her last shred of life against a foe three times her size, she had just one chance to come out alive. So she fell back on her old standby: time manipulation. In a red flash, one Ayumi became three, and her once-living foe entered the realm of the dead.

There are situations in Blades of Time when Ayumi's mystical powers come together in such spectacular ways that you can hardly contain your excitement. Figuring out clever ways to lay waste to demons triggers "eureka!" moments, and that feeling resurfaces in a variety of clever puzzles. Blades of Time offers such a novel spin on traditional third-person combat that you might be able to overlook the unresponsive controls and the jarring gun combat for a little while. But no matter how enthralled you become, it won't take long for the harsh light of reality to illuminate the many pitfalls. Blades of Time is a great concept in an uneven package.

Like all women who don skimpy clothes and know a stunning array of martial arts techniques, Ayumi is a treasure hunter. Her multidimensional tale contains so many opposing factions that keeping everything straight is as difficult as the slaying formidable foes who try to kill you, and her annoying narration only further distances you from her plight. When the perfunctory ending sequence plays out in less than a minute, you wonder why you should even care about the outcome at all.

Ayumi has plenty of time to smell the flowers.

Although the story in Blades of Time is a poorly constructed mess, the events you partake in are anything but. Maneuverability is the binding force that makes chopping down foes a satisfying endeavor. Ayumi glides across the ground like an angel with a bad attitude, and a breezy dash lets you dive into and out of battle in a pinch. Attacks are limited to two buttons, which means you don't have much variety in your moves, and there is a noticeable lack of weight in your mighty attacks. However, such limitations are not a detriment. Positioning is imperative and health is in short supply, so rushing in to unleash a mini-combo and then sprinting back out is a sure survival tactic. Button prompts appear over weakened foes so you can deliver devastating finishers, and these elements combine into fast-moving, empowering situations.

But that's just scratching the surface. Tap a button to rewind time, and you see the fight play out in reverse before your eyes. You regain control of Ayumi when you stop this process, and you now have a partner at your side. A clone reenacts whatever moves you recently performed. Using this power, you can hack away at a foe, rewind the clock, and then hack away at the same foe simultaneously. Abusing this ability is not advisable. When you go back in the past, reality conforms to how it was in that earlier state. If you already took down an enemy's life bar, you undo that damage when you rewind the clock. This balances your power to some extent. Inadvertently healing a boss can cause fights to drag on endlessly, so you have to make smart use of your powers if you want to excel.

Stay as far away as possible from the yucky spiders.

Situations surface that force you to use this power intelligently. A creature may wield a giant shield that prevents you from attacking its soft back tissue. If you unleash a deadly sword-swinging show on that shield and then spin back time, you can open him up to damage. Distract him with your clone while circling behind, and you can slash away at his weak point without retribution. Outmaneuvering these hellacious beasts makes you smile with sadistic glee.

Exploitations temper some of that enthusiasm. There are fights in which you can cheese your way to victory by doubling your attacks until an enemy lamely falls at your feet. This is especially noticeable during sequences where long-distance foes can be taken out with your gun. By firing into the crowd, rewinding, and then firing some more, you can mow down meanies before they can come close to you. Although there is joy in hearing the echoing rush of two guns firing in symphony, such a victory is hollow. You feel like you're taking advantage of the system rather than making the most of it. This scenario is made worse by the lousy gun controls. Blades of Time's emphasis is on flashy movement, but your momentum is squashed when you whip out a firearm. Ayumi stands stoically still while letting loose a bullet barrage. By forcing her to be grounded, the game ensures you can't abuse your guns in every fight. But there are times when you need to rely on long-distance attacks, and whipping out your rifle feels emasculating.

A bigger problem lies with the controls. At odd moments, when you push a button nothing happens onscreen. You try to dash out of the way or initiate a finisher, and Ayumi stands stock-still while a baddie pummels her to a pulp. Such a problem is maddening in the best of times, but when your health is low, this unresponsiveness rises to the next level of frustration. Ayumi carries up to three health packs at a time, and you need them because her health bar can be drained with just a couple of hits. Ideally, you refill your health and reestablish your dominance. But such an option isn't always possible. You might be caught in an animation that precludes you from healing, and having your precious life leak away because the game won't let you have a bite of that tasty health is a horrible way to die. To make matters worse, you might slam on the button multiple times to ensure you're healed, only to watch in horror as two of your reserves are used up in your frantic taps.

The unresponsiveness carries over to every move in your arsenal. It's not something that happens frequently, but it happens often enough to be the cause of many deaths. Whether the buttons work or not, magic is difficult to pull off. At various points in the game, Ayumi finds an altar that grants her special powers. Conjuring fire, throwing ice, creating earthquakes, and summoning other elemental attacks enliven the combat. But the more powerful spells require you to hold one button and then tap another, and these have a noticeable delay. It takes away some of the thrill of filling the screen with fire when your health is sapped because you were stationary for so long. Still, once you figure out how to use magic, it does add another dose of excitement to your hacking and slashing. You build your magic meter by attacking, so you enter a smooth rhythm of slicing baddies, shooting magic, and then repeating, until all fall at your feet.

Frequent spikes in difficulty occur mainly because of the unreliable controls. Many of the harder battles enter the land of frustration because you can't heal in time or you fail to initiate a finishing blow when you most need to. In practice, the controls fail only a small percentage of the time, but that doesn't diminish how problematic this is. For the most part, the high challenge level is a welcome aspect of Blades of Time. Once you learn the basics of how to use your time-manipulation ability, the game unleashes swarms of foes with varying strengths and weaknesses to force you to take a creative approach to combat. You may stave off an advancing horde with your gun, rewind time, and then take out air attackers while your clone continues to fire into the crowd. Or you can summon a clone to serve as a distraction while you unleash waves of magical death from a distance. The tools to complete the most difficult sections are always in your grasp; it's just a matter of deciphering the best method of conquest and executing your plan with precision.

The snowy forest is an ominous place.

Challenges also arise during more contemplative sections. Time bending is ripe for intriguing puzzles, and there are enough brain teasers in Blades of Time to keep you invested outside of the demon slaying. The best of these appear in a desert-themed level. Sun is your biggest enemy when direct contact with light burns your delicate skin, so manipulating shade is paramount to your survival. Coordinating clones to step on switches while you dash through the newly formed darkness injects Ayumi's graceful movement into even the more thoughtful moments. Later puzzles fall short of the mark. Creating a ball of energy to light nodes is tedious at best, though these puzzles are easy enough to not distract you from the combat for long.

Even during its low point, Blades of Time presents nicely detailed environments to tear through. Technical issues (disjointed animations, inconsistent framerate, blinding particle effects) are initially off-putting, but what the game lacks in polygon-pushing prowess, it makes up for in sheer variety. Sky gardens is the most captivating section. Flowered bulbs rise high into the wide-open sky while waterfalls empty into shallow pools, and the fantastic wonder this scene creates is a pleasing contrast to the somber winter scenes in a later level. There are enough unique environments to keep your eyes pleased as you peer at the various tapestries. Considering that Blades of Time retails at a budget price ($40), the fact that it sports so many differing locales is a welcome surprise.

Whoever planted a garden in the sky is brilliant.

Another unexpected addition: multiplayer. Both competitive and cooperative modes are available, but neither is engaging. Your time power has been stripped away here, leaving you with a smooth though bare-bones combat system that quickly grows old. But you have to take the bad with the good in Blades of Time. The promise of its inventive time mechanics is occasionally realized. However, you do have to put up with so many down moments that your dedication may intermittently waver as you push through to the end. Novelty comes at a price. Blades of Time's uneven construction struggles to maintain its high potential, but it's sheer uniqueness makes it well worth spending time with.

The Good
Intriguing and well-integrated time-manipulation mechanic
Interesting puzzles
Graceful movement leads to satisfying combat
Good environmental variety
Vast assortment of enemy types
The Bad
Unreliable controls
Wielding a gun removes the joy of movement
Forgettable multiplayer
6
Fair
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Discussion

45 comments
bostadskontrakt
bostadskontrakt

Just played through it on PC and had no problems with controls. Overall it was really enjoyable although I was frustrated at some enemies at times. Graphics are great and environments are even better. The game grows all way through the end and I think it's worth a 7,5 score. Good final bossfight too.

sarahschneider
sarahschneider

Noticed a lot of flaws from my perspective of this game, most of these are rants, and it's directed at the devs, not Tom or other players. So, here it goes :

1. If you want to name a main character of a game as "Ayumi" you should know that players would expect an asian looking (could be hot/cute/pretty/whatever ~ pick one) girl, and not some poor attempt at a blonde hispanic/western half cute and half hot woman. If you don't know how to do this, hire a better 3d/artist.

2. A main character needs "character", no matter what genre the game is, or else, it'd be forgettable. After a complete playthrough, I still don't know and/or couldn't grasp what kind of person Ayumi is. Was she a good person? was she smart? was she a courageous? was she loyal? what motivated her to do those things she did?  heck, I don't even know if she was a nice person or not, the lack of character in Ayumi is downright silly, especially for a game without character customization feature. I can answer those with most main character on most games I've played so far, but not with this game. 

3. So many plotholes in the main storyline, I'm surprised that the game had any storyline at all. A lot of things happened without reason, and those that had them, were mere fillers just to provide excuses so Ayumi can continue on killing everything on her path. Now I get that this is an action game, but holysh*t Gaijin, cmon!

4. Voice in general. I'm not too bothered by the voice acting, it was adequate, but the continuous monologue by Ayumi even when nobody is around to listen really made her look stupid (this is outside the many things she did in the game for silly reasons) and some of the things she said reflected this and gave the impression that she's not, smart.

5. The game put almost zero value on exploration, it doesn't award players who took extra time to check holes, weird passageways, alternative routes, none. Not even random easter eggs or weapons/equipments, even no insignificant items laying around outside of the main game direction/path. Even the classic mario on nintendo had put more effort into this.

6. Coming from Gaijin and Konami, the difficulty scaling on different monsters are beyond my understanding. The bosses were downright easy, while some random adds on random encounters can be frustrating occasionally. It was almost impossible to beat most lower ranked monsters by pure hack n slash + spells. The game itself wasn't hard, but to take an action hack n slash and implement such a mechanic that hack n slash in itself is not viable on almost every scenario, is not ok.

I did however, enjoy the graphics. It is not as pretty as most modern games, and disregarding the animation quality, it is quite fine. Everything else, well, as I mentioned above. In short, this game is not worth anyone's penny, unless it's a hardcore fan of this genre, or the previous releases.

GhostyDog
GhostyDog

Pretty looking game, very similar in game dynamic to Too Human which I enjoyed despite the repetitive nature of the game however just playing the demo on 360 was virtually impossible due to the lack of inverted Y axis. A pity as I'd probably have enjoyed the game.

Warmuro
Warmuro

There is only one bad thing about this game and it is the main character. Her voice (i'm a bit subjective in this issue), name, appearance and some of her animations. Using rifle is a bit awkward for such a game and unnecessary, but it does not ruin the game. Good game but not perfect. If you're looking for a good action-adventure game, try this one. 6/10 is not  fair at all for this game. It must be at least 7/10. 

sorin_ro
sorin_ro

intriguing and well integrated time-manipulationmechanic??? LOL that was the most annoying time rewind in any game ever!!

RyviusARC
RyviusARC

I am doing a playthrough of the game on PC and uploading it to YouTube.

 

So far I have the first two levels uploaded.

I even made sure to make the video quality as high as possible for YouTube.

Just selecting Original mode when choosing the video resolution.

 

I used the Japanese voice actors because they were better than the English ones.

Also didn't use any commentary because that would ruin it.

 

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9C05234CAF15A0F1&feature=plcp

Zagiel80
Zagiel80

just finished the PC version and it's one of the best non-free-roam action-adventures I've played. none of the negatives, which are mentioned in the gamespot's x-box review (unresponsive keys, dated GFX, standing gunfire), are related to PC port. it's also ported very well, with optimized performance and full settings, not like most of crappy action-adventure console ports in last few years

Excetera-ZEN
Excetera-ZEN

Why is her name Ayumi again? She looks nothing like she did in X-Blades. They dropped the anime/exaggerated design of the first game in favor of a "hardcore" gamer approach--making the main character look like a model for Playboy. Why not just call her Amy or something generic. Personally I think exaggerated look of the first Ayumi was far more interesting. It's just so odd seeing this American bombshell chick and her name is "Ayumi", don't feel right to me.

redluigi11
redluigi11

whats with this girl and wearing pants

Aeondeity
Aeondeity

Loved the first one, granted it had a it's flaws. It just had some sort of magic to it. When this just jumped onto steam, immediately for sale, its surprising. Konami had no intention to even advertise it lol. I just hope it still has some of that magic in it, and they fixed some of its faults. Judging by the review -- seems they didn't.

Connor728
Connor728

I played the demo, which was ok. It didn't really grasp my attention and I kept thinking it was like a shi***** version of God of War, just with a woman.

ps2fatboy
ps2fatboy

played the demo on xbox live that was enough for me was pretty crap

MarcioHuser
MarcioHuser

PC too? Hmm, think I'll wait for a huge Steam Deal to snatch it :)

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

I just played the demo and it was fun as hell. It seemd like they implemented som really cool and creative stuff into it. Can the rest of the game be that bad? It's a shame if so I was really looking forward to playing this....I might still though

kabalzer0
kabalzer0

it looks better than X-Blades but that doesnt say that much xD ill play the demo, it looks okay and maybe ill pick it up for a low price some time

d_black
d_black

Loved the demo. Despite the average score, I think it's looks great and will be picking it up.

gavdude
gavdude

Demo just froze up for the third time... yeah, I think this game needs a bit more polish. Seems as bad as X-Blades to me.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea

@MasterOfSprites -- I think it took me around 10 hours, though that's just a rough guess. This doesn't have an in-game timer, something that should be standard for every game.

y3ivan
y3ivan

@zombiexhead thanks for clearing it out. For $40 looks tempting

quillon42
quillon42

This Konami-helmed sequel makes me think of the second AVGN Bible Games episode where he took a look at Noah's Ark on NES and was like, "Who would publish this game?!" and then he zooms in on the Konami logo while the NES Contra theme plays in the background. It's like, "Who would publish a sequel to X-Blades?!" (NES Contra Music: Dah, dah, dah, daaaaahhhhh (BLA-SMASSSHHH))

MasterOfSprites
MasterOfSprites

I couldn't find this in the review so forgive me if it is in there, how long is the game?

digi-demon
digi-demon

Xblades was a pack-in game I got once with X360 Arcade package deal. It was tripe - traded in the next day. So I will be giving this title a wide berth - thanks.

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

I'm actually surprised this game got a review in the first place. Definitely could have been worse, so I'll give props to the developers for making a legitimate attempt at a new IP.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

@ElfShotTheFood, the answer is easy - it was not difficult for Konami to finance this game, since the developer is located in Russia, where salaries are 1/8th of what people earn stateside, for instance.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

It's a decent game for the most part. Certainly better than it's predecessor. The game is a good buy at $39.99 too if you're looking for an action game to pass the time between a bigger title. The voice acting is the worse though.

tntkng
tntkng

Looked pretty cool when I first saw it, the 6.0 score actually makes me more interested to play it.

zombiexhead
zombiexhead

y3ivan i have the game and there is writen that it use use Dagor engine, same as xblades. Great game actualy

amroto
amroto

i'll give it a shot and let's see about that

Cherokee_Jack
Cherokee_Jack

overcomes hurdles obstacles The funny thing is that hurdles could replace either of the other words.

313714
313714

WHO SAYS IT IS NOT GOOD?????

y3ivan
y3ivan

i read somewhere its running on cryengine 3

DarthLod
DarthLod

This looks fun. It's not another franchise game doing the same thing over and over!!

y3ivan
y3ivan

the game looks beautiful

ElfShotTheFood
ElfShotTheFood

Of all the games released this generation, X-Blades seemed like one of least likely to get a follow up. But here it is.

Blades of Time

  • Xbox 360
  • PlayStation 3
  • PC
  • Macintosh
Blades of Time is an action title by Konami for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Language, Violence
Check out even more info at the Blades of Time Wiki on Giantbomb.com