After the criticism levelled at X-Blades upon release you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the first and last we’d see of treasure hunter Ayumi and the universe in which she resides, but these are not the events that have come to pass. Blades of Time is the sequel to X-Blades in all but visual design, with our cheeky heroine is still occupying the central storyline and lead imagery, this is not without reason, as it seems developer Gaijin Games has invested a great deal of faith into the franchise their have created.
That being said, without prior knowledge of the franchise you’d never know that Blades of Time a sequel, nor that it’s working within an established universe. Blades of Time doesn’t make reference to X-Blades in any manner as to confuse newcomers, as there is no need to. This is just another quest for Ayumi, one of the many she has embarked upon in her life of travel and adventure. However, despite the Lara Croft comparisons – compounded by the unfathomably eloquent English accent – this is no Tomb Raider. In fact, Blades of Time has far more in common with Capcom’s Devil May Cry.
Our gunsword-wielding treasure hunter finds herself stuck on the mysterious and dangerous Dragonland Island. While rich with bounty, the island is also caught in the throes of Chaos magic, with armies of beasts invading the island and laying traps across the land. What’s more, Ayumi soon discovers that Dragonland Island is also the home of thousands of long-held secrets, including special powers and abilities that she can gain for herself.
The core ability is that of the time rewind function. This allows Ayumi to turn back time until a point where she is free from the constraints of her present action. However, in her place remains a cloned version of herself, committing the same actions as that which she had just performed, thus crating a mechanic for inventive puzzle construction and solutions. These mental challenges do grow in occurrence and difficulty throughout the videogame, eventually becoming rather elaborate.
In addition to the puzzling gameplay Blades of Time presents a familiar combat system. Light and heavy attacks combine to create some interesting combos, including air assaults and swift knock attacks that can break an enemy’s guard. This basic arrangement is complimented by a progression systems which offers new manoeuvres, combo variations and magic spells, ultimately presenting a robust combat system that, while not breaking any new ground, provides a comfortably enjoyable entertainment experience.
Blades of Time offers a co-operative gameplay mode in addition to the basic experience, as well as competitive multiplayer. Here in the ‘limited edition’ PC and Mac package, Blades of Time also comes with additional multiplayer maps and the downloadable content (DLC) the console versions offered at no extra charge. The DLC, known as Dismal Swamp, allows players to play as a new character, Michelle, adding a new dimension to the story.
The design of Blades of Time is delivered pretty much as might be expected. Some elegantly presented backdrops provide the scene for some visually generic hack-n’-slash action sequences where nothing seems out of place simply because there’s nothing you haven’t seen a dozen times before. Some of the characters are well presented, but the voice acting for most is little more than contemptible.
Despite being destined to receive some bad press, Blades of Time is actually an enjoyable, uncomplicated experience. It’s true that everything it has to offer has already been done better in the likes of Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, God of War and the aforementioned Devil May Cry, but even when faced with such prestigious comparisons Blades of Time manages to be an enjoyable homage to bigger budget productions; it’ll be no bad thing if we haven’t seen the last of Ayumi. Blades of Time is a lighthearted piece of action-based interactive entertainment, no more and no less. Sometimes, that’s all you need videogames to be.