Dagor Engine creates a nice world to look at
Blades of Time (the spiritual successor to Gaijin Entertainment’s X-Blades) is a game that has great potential only to be let down by issues. Some of which can really effect the enjoyment of the games few great ideas.
The games story sees Ayumi, a nimble scantily-dressed treasure hunter enter the world of Dragonland in search of wealth and riches. Ayumi then discovers everything is not as it seems. Chaos has struck the land and it’s down to Ayumi to travel through the varied areas of Dragonland to stop it in order to escape. However I would not recommend this game for its story as poor voice acting and unlikeable characters and poor construction make this a less compelling narrative to enjoy.
At the heart of any good hack and slash affair there needs to be solid combat. With up to 40 different skills this means there is plenty to play around with. However what you input is not always what you get and some abilities don’t always create the same results. Meaning combat can at times become frustrating. Overall Blades of Time has a good combat system with fluid combat when it works effectively. The tutorial system, which teaches you how to use your newly acquired skills before you unleash them on the enemy, comes in handy as learning the skills during battle would be very difficult. Gaining new abilities is frequent which keeps you powerful enough to cope with the ever changing bad guys.
Ayumi’s main weapons include dual blades and a rifle. The blades keep combat fast and fluid but the rifle feels somewhat out of place, although useful in some encounters it usually limits your speed and freedom of movement in battle and can seriously hinder you if enemies get too close and more often than not leads to your demise.
As mentioned earlier Ayumi is a treasure hunter so it’s only natural that treasure plays a part in the game. This comes in the form of finding equipment such as weapons, amulets, rings and armour these give you stats benefits and are hidden all around the world of Dragonland. You find these with the help of a compass. There are some you also have to unveil with your abilities and they house the games more powerful items.
When it comes to difficulty I don’t know if Blades of Time was meant to be as tough as the likes of Ninja Gaiden or more mellow alike Dynasty warriors. I believe it tries for both and unfortunately this leads to some encounters feeling too easy whilst others can take 4 or 5 attempts. One scenario had me jumping around in a circle then hacking a boss to pieces with relative ease, yet simple encounters with more regular foes became the bane of my existence.
A key aspect of Blades of Time is the ability to time travel. Ayumi can rewind time and create a duplicate that will replay what you had previously done. This allows for some clever ideas such as enemies that can only be killed by attacking them from behind meaning you have to create a doppelganger to keep the enemy busy whilst you get in behind. There are also puzzles such as timed gates that require the use of your time travelling abilities to get through. This is an enjoyable aspect of the game however in intense combat moments it is easy to become confused.
The various areas of Dragonland have good variation that show off what the Dagor Engine is capable of nicely. Visuals are high quality with scenes looking sharp and crisp whilst fire effects on enemies and other magical spells look impressive. When it comes to ‘who can play it?’ anyone with a mid-range PC should be able to handle this without too much issue.
When it comes to controls Blades of Time has been created with controller in mind. Having had a hard enough time getting through some battles with a gamepad, unless the player has some excellent keyboard and mouse skills this game will only be tougher and more frustrating. So whether you have a gamepad is definitely something to take into account when deciding if you should get this game.
To summarise, Blades of Time is a game which is so close yet so far to being a good game. With good time travel mechanics that keep you thinking, solid combat despite a few off moments when button presses aren’t registered and a good premise for a story spoiled by poor execution. It seems almost every time something great happens in Blades of Time something equally as bad is created to balance it out. For every moment I enjoyed this game there was a moment where I didn’t, or where my enjoyment felt like it was being tested. Those truly interested in a hack and slash adventure may want to look elsewhere.
Spectral Ayumi in action