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It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since the original Infinity Blade hit the App Store and dropped our jaws by cramming oodles of gorgeous visuals onto such a small screen. As great and revolutionary as that game was, it definitely had some flaws and weaknesses. Now, Epic Games and ChAIR return with a sequel that improves on the original formula in just about every way imaginable. Infinity Blade II is just plain awesome.
Without spoiling anything, I can safely say that the story has been massively improved. Rather than a footnote in an already epic experience, here they go all out in developing the history and lore of this world. Our hero, Siris, is joined by a colorful cast of characters, all of whom are fantastically voice acted. The story is told well, and makes some more sense out of the last game, picking up right where it left off.
The tutorial level has you wielding the Infinity Blade itself, like a boss, until the story demands you lose all your epic gear and skills, Metroid style. You're once again storming an ancient fortress of some kind, except there are more branching pathways than ever before. The environment is littered with goodies to find, even during the transition cut scenes. Treasure chests and pathways require specific keys to be unlocked, and there's a lot more to see. You'll also be working your way through four different bosses before getting to the big bad of the game, and defeating each boss unlocks more areas of the game to explore. This is a vastly longer and larger game than the original.
That's all well and good, but you're probably wondering about improvements to the combat. Well, aside from adding even more weapons and spells than ever, you can now choose between three combat styles. The classic sword and shield combo are joined by a dual wielding sword style and massive two handed death dealing axes, hammers, and great-swords style. Dual wielders can't block, but have crazy speed and an extra dodge direction. They're all about stringing together huge combo chains and they like to get extra stabby. Two-handed users can't dodge at all, but instead have to block in three different directions. Their attacks are slow, but they can really dole out some punishment. My favorite style is easily dual wielding. It's all about dodging and parrying, which is how I usually play anyway. Shields are for cowardly cowards to hide behind! If you're new to the series though, definitely get comfortable with the classic sword and shield combo before moving on.
The most important change to combat is the inclusion of stamina. No longer can you dance all day long, dodging enemy attacks. After a handful of dodges, you'll be too tired to pull it off successfully and take glancing blows, until your stamina recharges anyway. I guess the game is trying to force people to learn how to parry properly. Another new addition are the gems that you can fuse with your equipment. Gems add extra bonuses, from elemental attacks to general stat boosts. They each have their own shape, and can only fit into gear with the same shape gem slot. Once a gem is equipped, it will cost money to remove, to place them wisely.
The last game had a serious issue with repetitive gameplay, especially if you were grinding it out for all the maxed out equipment. The sequel does everything it can to minimize that effect. Several enemies and animations are re-used, but they're joined by tons of new and creative enemies with wildly varying combat styles. Mixing these new enemies with your three combat styles keep the fights feeling fresh and interesting much longer.
Of course, something everyone will be talking about are the amazing visuals. This game looks far better than its predecessor, and even more so if you're playing on an iPhone 4S or iPad 2, what with their fancy processor doohickeys. Even if you aren't fortunate enough to play on one of those devices, it still looks amazing. You may miss out on the fancy dynamic lighting and super extra bits of detail, but the textures are improved, the animations are more fluid, the scenery is breathtaking, and everything looks better than ever. You'll probably run into the occasional slowdown or other graphical hiccups, but they aren't very bad.
This is the right way to do a sequel! Improved mechanics, hours of content, tons of variety, and higher production values than ever. Game Center achievements are supported and this iOS Universal game can be yours for seven dollars. If you're a fan of the original game, then obviously, pick this one up! If you're someone who just owns any kind of iDevice at all, then obviously, pick this one up!