E3 2011: Blades of Time Preview Hands-On

We destroy the very fabric of time in this unexpected sequel to X-Blades.

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When a game receives a less-than-glowing reception at retail, the prospect of a sequel quickly dwindles. But this situation can actually lead to creative ideas. X-Blades landed with a dull thud when it arrived in early 2009. A fast and diverse combat system was overshadowed by bland level design and repetitive monster encounters, while the scantily clad protagonist did little to make this game seem like a serious effort. But that has changed in the sequel. Blades of Time is a different spin on the genre, and it was pretty darn fun in the brief time we spent with it.

The most noteworthy feature in this 3D brawler is a time-manipulation mechanic that fundamentally changes how you approach fights. You now have the ability to rewind time. Here's a basic situation on how this could be utilized. Say you're fighting a brutish knight lugging around a monstrous shield. You enthusiastically rush toward him, slashing away at him with your razor-sharp sword. But you can't make a dent in his impenetrable armor. It would probably be a good opportunity to rewind the clock. By holding a shoulder button, you see the past come rushing into view, and you stop when you want to resume playing. Now, the knight is still being attacked by your former self, but your current self can walk behind him and hack away at his unprotected backside.

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It's a cool mechanic that opens the door for all sorts of possibilities. We only saw the knight fight and another where we were overwhelmed by a swarm of enemies, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the final build. There was also an easy puzzle in which two people needed to stand on a pressure plate. It wasn't the best way to show off how this rewind ability might make you think, but it seems like there are all sorts of interesting possibilities. The only other time ability we saw in the brief demo was a time bubble that slowed down enemy attacks when we stood in its protective shield. It was a neat idea, but we didn't see any inventive scenarios involving it.

Visuals have also been overhauled from X-Blades. Ayumi returns as the protagonist, but she's wearing real clothes this time--even pants! And the snow-filled environment really sparkled. Hopefully, there will be a wide assortment of environment types in Blades of Time because visual repetition was one of X-Blades weak points. Keep your eyes on GameSpot to see how this sequel turns out. Blades of Time will be released sometime in 2012.

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