Infinity Blade II for iPhone and iPad
Infinity Blade II, Chair Entertainment Group’s sequel to 2010’s convention-defying swordplay game, is as big and beautiful as ever. The original Infinity Blade proved that a challenging, beautiful, and big fantasy game could succeed on the iOS platform. Now, Infinity Blade II refines the gameplay, beefs up the role-playing elements, and proves that the original title was not a fluke.
The first Infinity Blade treated gamer “lives” very differently than your typical game. Instead of merely respawning where the player died, Infinity Blade would start the player’s descendant at the beginning of the castle, ready with his father’s sword and armor to continue his quest. Each life is like a nesting doll, revealing something more about the world and the character.
The Unreal Engine’s rendering of the environments is spectacular and unlike anything else on the iPad—you can see every edge of the character’s armor and even details as small as candles on chandeliers. Movement in the game is automated by tapping to a highlighted area, but as your character gains experience, more branching pathways appear.
Though your movement is on rails, that simply means Infinity Blade’s fighting mechanic is front and center, as it should be. Players tap to dodge or initiate super moves, but otherwise utilize the iPhone or iPad’s touchscreen interface to initiate swings of their blades or magical spells. The gesture-based blade swinging mechanic is utterly addictive and easily one of the geekiest joys you’ll experience on an iOS device. Trace your finger across the screen and watch as your player arcs his sword in the same direction—the mapping isn’t one-to-one, but it’s still much better than anything you’re used to. Infinity Blade II also adds to the list of moves you can pull off: Not only can you parry, attack and dodge, but defend and duck.
The role-playing elements of the game are subtle, but essential. As you explore the tower castle, you’ll see bags of currency that you’ll want to tap, and as you defeat enemies, you’ll earn currency as well. You can use this money to unlock better armor, weapons, and magical items. Or, if you’re impatient, you can shell out real money via in-app purchases to speed up the process.
Unlike the first Infinity Blade, you can now switch between sword and shield, two-handed, and dual-wielding weapon setups. Each weapon setup has its own tradeoffs—sword and shield gives you more protection while dual-wielding lets you parry much easier. But the two-handed weapon setup deals the most damage and has the easiest-to-execute combos, so there’s very little incentive to not use it.
Whether or not you’re entertained by the leveling-up process and are intrigued by the constantly branching paths of the castle is the ultimate determining factor of how much you’ll enjoy Infinity Blade II. There are a few choke holds—points where no matter how skilled you are, you’re still going to die unless you’re a certain level—but these are far enough into the game that you’re already hooked.
Infinity Blade was one of the fastest selling apps on the iOS store, and with good reason. Visually, there is no comparison to the Unreal Engine-powered environments. The combat, while repetitive, is exceptionally challenging and yet very, very fun. Experienced RPG fans will likely bemoan the game’s dearth of customization options—no matter your helmet or weapons, you’re still essentially a generic knight fighting a never-ending parade of similar-looking demons. And casual players may be turned off by the game’s repetitive nature and instead prefer something more linear.
But make no mistake: Infinity Blade II isn’t just a shiny new set of armor. It’s a deep, challenging, and addictive title that is not just an exceptionally compelling iOS offering, but one of the top games on any platform. The weapon-swiping mechanic alone is something that the most hardened gamer and the most casual of player will enjoy, and mechanics that are easy to learn but hard to master mean that anyone can hack, slash, and parry with the best of them in no time.
[Former associate editor Chris Holt remains a frequent contributor to Macworld.]