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Infinity Blade II requires no introduction. Its predecessor was — and remains — one of the best looking games on the iPhone. Originally designed for consoles and then brought to iOS at the last minute, Infinity Blade took advantage of the touch screen and Retina Display in a way that few others have managed, combining simple yet addictive gameplay with excellent visuals.
Now Infinity Blade II is here, and I’m sure that many who enjoyed the first game have already downloaded the app and begun their quest. Does this sequel suffer from the laziness that can occur when something is released on the heels of a blockbuster, or is it as good — or better — than the first game? Read on to find out.
An Introduction to Infinity
The concept of the game is simple: you are Siris, a man that is attempting to free the Worker of Secrets from his imprisonment. Along the way you will fight many varied guardians, from nimble swordsman to burly giants and heavily armored immortals. The first game was a fairly linear affair, offering little choice in where the character can travel; essentially, you would tap a point in front of the character and then watch as he moved there, giving the illusion of control.
While that still happens in Infinity Blade II, there are more options so far as diverging from the main path goes. I found that there were more ways to traverse through the beginning part of the game than there was through the entirety of the first game, and I never felt as though I were being unfairly restricted. I enjoy not having the burden of guiding Siris myself; not only does it prevent Chair from having to create suitable controls, but it also allows them to focus on crafting a beautiful game.
Infinity Blade II takes place after the first game, with Siris looking for answers and fighting his way through a Japanese-inspired temple to ask a question of a Deathless. I won’t give too much away, as the story is more fleshed out than that of the first game, but let’s just say that things quickly take some odd turns. While playing the first game could be helpful, all you really need to know is that there is a God-King, he holds the titular Infinity Blade, and the entire first game revolved around killing him.
Swordplay on Rails
Infinity Blade II is easy to pick up and can be hard to master. I’ve watched my younger brother play the game with little difficulty, but I’ve also noticed that there are some small nuances that more experienced players will be able to take advantage of.
Most fights follow the same pattern: you’re facing an enemy that is probably much larger than you, with a huge weapon (or weapons) and a flair for the dramatic. Your job is to figure out the pattern of their attacks and exploit them, dishing out damage while you try to avoid taking any in return. It’s a simple formula with many variations, but it makes for an enjoyable game that can be taken one battle or twenty battles at a time.
Players of the first game know that you didn’t have too many options around how you were going to fight; shield and sword in hand, ring on finger and armor on your chest, you would dodge and block your way through an enemy’s attacks. Most players wound up playing in similar ways, with the little variation between weapons and strategies.
Infinity Blade II offers more options, including the interesting ability to forgo a shield in order to dual-wield weapons. This removes the ability to block, forcing you to dodge and parry your way through your enemy’s attacks. You can also equip larger (and slower) weapons that deal more damage but require more time to learn. This isn’t necessary in the game, as you can play in a fairly default manner, but many people will enjoy the chance to play differently from everybody else.
On Beautiful Scenery and Sacks of Gold
Playing this game on the iPhone 4S almost feels like a requirement. The game takes advantage of the Retina Display and the A5 chip to bring enhanced visuals and smooth graphics. Upon first launch I was forced to take a second to admire the leaves falling from the trees, and the general art style of the game (powered by the Unreal game engine) is gorgeous. We’re reaching the point where iPhone games meet — or exceed — the quality (at least so far as visuals are concerned) of current console systems.
If you’re still on the iPhone 4, fret not. You can still play the game, and it will look gorgeous with that Retina Display; it simply isn’t as powerful. The art direction means that you’ll likely think that the game looks similar to the first installment, which is hardly a damning statement.
The developers clearly wanted you to enjoy the scenery this time around, as they’ve hidden sacks of gold all over the place. I rarely moved my eyes from the screen as Siris moved around the castle, afraid to miss a treasure chest or pile of gold. I enjoy finding this extra money, as it allows you to purchase new weapons and equipment (which, in turn, allows you to level up) but I felt that it was a bit strange for so much gold to be left lying around.
It’s all About the Rhythm
Where the first game allowed you to parry, block, and dodge, Infinity Blade II now grades you on the same things. Instead of simply seeing Parry flash across the screen, now you can get a Great Parry or Perfect Parry. These increase the knockback time (the period where the enemy is vulnerable) accordingly, so you’ll quickly want to hone your reflexes and learn your enemy’s patterns to get the most time possible.
Of special value are Stabs and Combos. Stabs, in my experience, occur the most often after you have succesfully Parry Breaked (broken?) an enemy. These not only deal extra damage, but they also increase the knockback time. Combos are performed by slashing in various directions, so experiment with the way that you drag your finger across an enemy in order to deal as much damage as possible.
If I were to break this game down into one element, it’s rhythm. You need to monitor your enemy’s rhythm before you can attack them (or survive their attacks, anyway) and you’ll need to find your own rhythm in order to strike back. If you swing blindly you may end up winning a few battles, but it’s more rewarding, both in-game and emotionally, to place a few well-timed and coordinated blows.
Every once in a while, I find myself thinking: “You know what would be really fun? Attacking an enemy with at least a million HP that’s the size of a football field.” Luckily, Infinity Blade II is set to fulfill that wish with Clashmob, an as-yet unreleased feature of the game.
In the Clashmob, you will join up with players worldwide to take down a single huge enemy. These enemies will often have ridiculously high amounts of HP and Defense, requiring the combined effort of many Infinity Blade players to take down. This adds a social aspect to the game that not only provides the satisfaction of taking down a huge beast, but also gives you that sense of togetherness as stoop over your iPhone, hand clenched and finger at the ready.
This is no sophomore slump. Chair managed to follow up one of the first iOS games to be recognized for more than its bird-flinging rage or adorable gameplay. Infinity Blade paved the way, but Infinity Blade II feels like a much more complete game.
Whether or not this game is for you depends on your outlook. While there are more options this time around, Siris is still essentially going along pre-determined paths fighting battle after battle. If you want more freedom, or get sick of fighting similar enemies, this isn’t the game for you.
It also tends to make your iPhone run hot, with all of the processing power that it’s using. This will also affect your battery, but not in a way that is more noticeable than other comparable games. If you really want to play the game this won’t be a deal-breaker, but it does go to show that Infinity Blade II pushes even the 4S to its limits.
All-in-all, it’s a fun game with excellent visuals. Many grievances players had with the first game are gone, and what’s left is an entertaining package perfect for bus-stop byte sized sessions or glued-to-the-couch marathons.