GAME NAME: Blades of Time
DEVELOPER(S): Gaijin Entertainment
RELEASE DATE(S): 16 March 2012
First impressions count for a lot and the first impression that Blades of Time is going to give players is that they have wasted their money. Players take on the role of Ayume, a recklessly arrogant mercantile/adventurer/underwear model who kicks the snot out of her former boss and legs it through a portal to a place where dragons live in search of treasure. Or something like that.
So begins an ill-defined quest that has the heroine searching for her missing partner Zero, who has become lost in the portal jump. She’s also in search of the claimed treasure and looking for the point of this little misadventure because it isn’t really clear what her motivations are supposed to be aside from not dying. This lack of direction isn’t helped by the poorly explained gameplay mechanics and generally shoddy framework of the game.
For starters, the camera will almost induce a minor headache when players first see it. The headache never quite appears but the camera constantly threatens players will a low-grade vertigo brought on by weird angles and some odd blurring. Ayume’s combat contributes to this, feeling at times stiff and loose in all the wrong places. Switching from sword-based melee, the staple of Blades of Time, to ranged reveals just how little work has gone into character animations. There is no sword blur to conceal the fact that Ayume is built like an Unreal Tournament character when firing a rifle, with her upper body locked in place while her legs flail along underneath. It’s just jarring.
Persevere however and you will find that, once the relatively innovative Time Rewind combat mechanic is introduced, the combat will grow on you. The repetitive nature of attacks is occasionally fleshed out with unlockable special attacks, that use fire, ice or just brute force to put enemies down. These are doled out at the game’s discretion at specific altars by an intangible character called Altar but the activating button assignments for each make some too hard to execute while others will trigger on their own. The Time Rewind feature comes into play against specific enemy types. Ayume can attack, rewind time to create a clone of herself and then attack using two or more of herself. It works better in practise than on paper. The improving combat means that there is some potential for the multiplayer side, where everyone shares the same handicap, but if there is a multiplayer community it will likely dwindle fast.
The rest of the main game is however hamstrung by other factors. The settings range from well-rendered to slapped-together-in-an-afternoon, enemy types will be seen again and again and Ayume is far too easy to kill. This is compensated for to a degree but it shouldn’t need to be. The voice acting runs the gauntlet from abysmal to fairly decent but Ayume’s constant unprompted yakking about the most mundane events while playing will have players wishing they could unlock a Captain Obvious skin for the game.
For all the negatives that surround this confused mess of a game it never manages to cross the line from an average release into a really bad one. Another year in development would have helped and some more clarity across the board would not have been unwelcome either but if you can stomach the first hour or two you may just find yourself enjoying the fighting at least. The greatest pity about Blades of Time is the wasted potential seen in the combat. That Time Rewind mixed with a decent story, better animation and improved visuals could have spelled a winner.