Blades of Time is the spiritual successor to Gaijin Entertainment’s disappointing last entry into the hack-n-slash genre, X-Blades. The same character Ayumi makes an appearance in both games, but in here she looks like she was giving a complete makeover. Plaguing Dragonland is the Chaos that has spread itself across the entire island and it is up to Ayumi to restore Order to this mysterious and dangerous land.
As the game opens up, the Guild master is preparing to send the specially chosen treasure hunters to Dragonland through a special portal. Ayumi and her partner Zero crash the party and go through the portal themselves to claim all of the vast riches and glory that they are told are awaiting in Dragonland. Once on the other side though, Ayumi is separated from Zero and on her own, but that doesn’t stop her from talking to herself throughout the entire game. When I mean the entire game, I literally mean the entire game as she will be chatting away about where she is, what she sees, what she wants etc.
The combat system revolves around the dual blades that Ayumi has on her at all times. She is also able to find new blades for use in hidden treasure chests. These blades can contain different stats, such as adding anything like additional power to ice attacks and fire attacks. Rounding out her arsenal is a ranged weapon, which can also be changed at any time with different ones found throughout the game. While using the range attacks, Ayumi is forced to stand still and any attacks will send her flying to the ground. Ayumi is also able to perform different magic spells from ice and fire to even creating earthquakes. These can be used once you fill up the bar by attacking enemies and performing combos and there are different levels to each of them so waiting until the bar is fully maxed and using the higher-level attack will cause the greatest destruction. Mixing your standard blade attacks and these magic spells keeps the combat from feeling too one-dimensional.
Ayumi also carries around a compass. If you get turned around, it has two arrows: one pointing to the next objective and one pointing to any hidden treasure chests around. You are able to freely walk around with the compass out, so feel free to explore the areas once the enemies are taken care of.
Rewinding time plays an integral part of the game. Not only will it give you an edge in combat, but it is required to complete some puzzles and get past doors. It can also be taken advantage of and almost puts the game into an easy mode. When you rewind time you will see a clone of yourself in the past. If you were firing a gun at an enemy, you will see the clone version of yourself firing a gun. After rewinding you still have full control of Ayumi so you can double up attacks to easily take out enemies with your clone. As long as you have some juice left, you can rewind it even further and produce another past version of yourself, leading to three versions of yourself attacking an enemy.
Dragonland is full of humans and humanoid creatures that all want to kill Ayumi, but one in particular, the Slasher, is one enemy that will go down in my list of most hated enemies of all time. This invisible slashing demon from hell appears in multiple places throughout the game and almost seems to be chasing you just like the Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. This creature is so powerful that you must trick the Slasher into chasing your clone after you rewind time to get past him.
While playing the game sometimes it feels like you are fighting with the controls. Usually at the worst moments, Ayumi will decide to do absolutely nothing when you press a button. This leads to an overwhelming sense of frustration in the game as her health bar can be drained in a matter of seconds. Ayumi does carry a few health packs, but I’ve died countless times mashing the button to use them and nothing happens. It seems that to use them you cannot be doing anything else, so if you are in the air trying to attack or evade you may be out of luck.
Helping Ayumi on her adventure is a statue where she learns new spells and upgrades her already learned abilities. Ayumi also has the ability to launch herself to enemies in the air to easily take them out with her blades. Puzzles generally involve using the rewind powers, and there are plenty that can be considered quite challenging. Coordinating and timing your clones perfectly is the key and was also the cause of a couple of my newly formed gray hairs.
Despite everything there is something I truly enjoyed about spending my time in Dragonland. Each of the areas is unique and nicely detailed. I can easily look past the little technical issues due to the variety of places the game takes place. From scorching deserts, to the blinding heat of volcanos, snowy cliffs, and dense jungles full of danger there are plenty of different locales to enjoy. The best local however is hidden in the sky near the end of the game.
In the multiplayer side of things, Outbreak mode is not the multiplayer I would have wanted in the game. There are both competitive and cooperative modes but neither will hold your interest long enough to come back a second time. You get to choose between three of the characters from the story mode with weapons load outs depending on how far you have gotten in the single player mode. During the matches you will be fighting to control various control points.
Blades of Time is not an overly difficult game, but do due the controls it can be more difficult than the developers might have wanted it to feel. Frustration sets in when fights get heated and Ayumi decides to do nothing in combat or refuses to heal. At $40 though, there is plenty of game here, with a variety in enemies that require different tactics to defeat and that’s not even counting the unique boss battles along the way. While not perfect, there is plenty I enjoyed during my playthrough, to warrant the budget price tag.Note: Blades of Time was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.