Beautiful Infinity Blade game features tough swordplay, but gets repetitive

by Phil Hornshaw

The air has been buzzing for months about Infinity Blade – ChAIR's iPhone and iPad one-on-one sword-fighting game that includes role-playing elements – because it was created using Epic Games' powerful Unreal Engine 3, a first on a mobile device. Infinity Blade is supposed to represent the future of mobile gaming, and while it is probably the most gorgeous game you can play on an iOS device, it handles a lot like many other iPhone games, and suffers from being short and repetitive.

The god-king, an immortal tyrant apparently ruling from a remote tower, must be defeated. That's your mission as a nameless warrior in an unknown land, who sets about fighting his way through the tower to reach the evil at its apex.

Infinity Blade is about singular intense battles that happen one at a time, letting you put the game down in between each one to give the game lots of portability and short time requirements. Each battle progresses the same way: You wait for an enemy to attack, and anticipate where its blow will fall. You can tap one of two arrow buttons to dodge (pick the wrong direction or the wrong kind of attack, and you'll get hit), another button to block with your shield or a directional swipe to parry a blow.

After you dodge, block and parry enough times, you'll knock your enemy back for a second, giving you an opening during which to attack. Quick slashes are made with swipes across the touch screen, but after a second or two, the enemy will recover, and start to block, and you'll have to go back into defensive mode.

Winning each battle nets you experience points that help you level your character up to increase your stats. You'll also get money to use to buy new weapons from the store in the game's main menu, and each new piece has its own special benefits.

You fight a lot of battles in Infinity Blade, but while there are several different enemies, they break down into three types: small, fast guys; medium-sized, stronger guys; and huge, lumbering guys. How you fight each one varies – you can't parry the attacks of the massive enemies, for example – but every battle inevitably breaks down, more or less, to dodging, slashing away furiously, and dodging again. You can occasionally break up the tedium with special attacks, including magic, but these are limited because they're pretty powerful.

The battles aren't boring, they just repeat a lot. You'll get to the god-king after 10 or so battles, but he's vastly more powerful than you, especially early in the game. The point of Infinity Blade is that the god-king kills you, stealing your power with the titular sword, but the next member of your lineage is fated to make an attempt when he comes of age to avenge your death. So you're constantly making it to the god-king, being killed, and returning to the bottom of the tower. You fight basically the same enemies in basically the same order, again and again. The god-king even repeats the same dialogue when you eventually meet him.

So, Infinity Blade can get a little repetitive. Each return to the tower ramps up the difficulty of the enemies, but there's still not quite enough content to play the game in much more than short sessions every once in a while.

At $5.99, what you're paying for with Infinity Blade more than anything are its stellar graphics. The game is fun and interesting, and pushes the envelope of what's possible in mobile gaming, but, for the price, it feels like it should do a little more.

More content is due in an update, which will make Infinity Blade a better value. Right now, even though it can still be an intense experience, Infinity Blade is more style than substance.