Blades of Time from Gaijin Entertainment is a hack and slash adventure game that puts you in the role of Ayumi, a blond scantily clad treasure hunter, that is transported to a mystical realm called Dragonland. This magical realm is rumoured to be home to untold treasures that dozens of the greatest adventurers in history have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of. While Ayumi is not the first treasure hunter to venture in to this magical land, she hopes to be the first to return from it.
Immediate impressions are fairly positive; while there is definitely a certain cheesecake quality to the art style – scantily clad women, huge hulking muscular men etc. – this is offset by the choice in voice actors. Rather than sounding like your typical babe Ayumi sounds more like a stern English school teacher, with the other characters having a variety of (mostly Northern) English accents. Seeing such a range of accents in game made outside of the UK is actually quite refreshing, even if the quality of the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
The basic gameplay revolves around hacking, slashing, and shooting your way through some fairly large environments with the aim of collecting treasures and escaping the nightmarish Dragonland. At first the Dragonland seems like a vast and sprawling world for you to explore, but in reality it is simply a series of linear sections linked together, with very little to do in terms of exploration. Most open areas you come across are blocked by invisible magical walls that resemble heat shimmers, and they will only disappear once you have completed your objective in that area. In some ways this is a good thing, as it reduces the chances that you’ll ever get lost, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is a dated way of keeping you on track.
Should you ever find yourself unsure of where to go, simply press down on the d-pad and it’ll bring up a compass directing you where your next objective is. This is actually an incredibly organic system of helping you get around. The compass also provides hints as to where hidden treasure chests are located in the world. These chests contain powerful equipment, such as new weapons or guns, that you can swap on the fly. Each item has it’s own set of perks, such as increased fire damage, and switching items to suit your situation becomes an essential part of gameplay.
As you might expect, defeating enemies earns you experience points which can be exchanged at alters for new power ups. One thing that Blades of Time features in abundance is new combos and power ups. In fact there are so many combos to unlock that it can be difficult to keep track of the abilities in your arsenal. Fortunately every time you by a new combo you are transported to an arena to practice your new-found abilities to defeat 10 enemies, which should help drum the attacks into your mind. In reality I found myself forgetting most of the combos that I had unlocked within a short period of time and instead stuck to tried and tested powerful attacks.
The game’s main unique selling point is its innovative time rewind system. This allows you to rewind time a few moments, creating a ghostly second (or even third, fourth, and fifth) version of yourself to work with. The first example of this happens early on in the game; you’ll come across a locked door whose opening switch is located at the top of a nearby hill. The problem is that activating the switch leads to the door opening for only a few seconds, making it impossible to reach the door before it closes… until you realise that you have the ability to rewind time. Simply rewind time to just before you originally turned the switch, wait by the door as the original timeline version of yourself goes up the hill to turn the switch, then simply walk through the door as soon as it opens.
This same ability can be used in combat, and in some boss battles it is an essential tactic. It’s a great idea, and in a lot of cases it really works well. However there are times, particularly if you spread yourself too thinly, when the system can create a confusing mess on screen – each time you use the time rewind ability the screen becomes darker and your vision gets more obscured. This wouldn’t be an issue if you weren’t required to use multiple versions of yourself to get through some boss fights.
Between battles the game features plenty of platforming sections with some light puzzle solving. At times the platforming can be incredibly frustrating due to the camera’s incessant wandering. You may very well find that you have lined up a jump perfectly, then at the last second the camera will spin out of control and lead to you falling to your death. Fortunately checkpoints are quite frequent, but that doesn’t lessen the frustration.
Similarly as you fight enemies you earn health packs and the game attempts to compensate for this by having enemies dish out massive amounts of damage. In most situations this isn’t too much of a problem, but should you find yourself facing several foes you run the real risk of being killed if you’re not too careful. This is especially frustrating when facing off against enemies that fire projectiles, as their shots almost seem to home in on you unless you’re able to execute a well time dash.
Overall the single player experience in Blades of Time is a very uneven experience. At times I was impressed by the inventive gameplay and the time travelling puzzles, but then at other times I found myself yelling obscenities after suffering cheap death after cheap death.
Blades of Time also features a fairly basic team-based multiplayer mode in which you are tasked with defending your own base, which acts as a spawning point, and must destroy the enemy’s. You will face dozens of enemies at a time, and earn experience points through defeating enemies and performing specific tasks, such as defeating a boss character without taking any damage. As you level up you can choose to unlock a different skill, which are mostly taken from the main single player game, that will dramatically increase your destructive power.
The multiplayer mode is playable offline, pitting you against computer controlled enemies, as well co-operatively online, and competitively online. It won’t set the world on fire, but it is a nice addition to the package that will offer some replayability. Time will tell if a thriving online community will build up around it, but in the event that it doesn’t fans can always content themselves with battling the A.I.
Graphics: 3/5 – Graphically speaking Blades of Time is uneven. Ayumi’s character model has clearly had a lot of attention paid to it, as have the environments, but other characters look pretty ugly at times.
Sound: 3/5 – Enthusiastic voice acting and a competent, if not exactly memorable, soundtrack make for a mostly positive experience.
Gameplay: 2/5 – For every innovative feature, such as the rewind time ability, there are just as many headaches and frustrations. Enemies deal too much damage and platforming sections can be a real pain.
Longevity: 2/5 – The single player game is fairly standard in length, and there is some replay value to be found in hunting down all of the treasure chests. The option to play the multiplayer modes offline against computer controlled characters is a welcome addition, but once you’ve played a few rounds you’ll likely not want to bother with it again.
Overall 3 out of 5
In some ways Blades of Time is a breath of fresh air – the time rewinding feature leads to some innovative combat and puzzles – while in some areas it feels a bit dated. If you’re a fan of challenging hack and slash adventure games then it is definitely worth picking up, especially considering its budget price.