Infinity Blade II Review

An immortal cycle of violence, battle, pain and death — that’s what holding the Infinity Blade promises you. And despite your having fought through the tower of the God King, defeated his champions and cast him down, your victory has only secured you more of the same: more fighting, more violence, and many, many more deaths.

Fortunately, at least you’ll look fabulous doing it all. Or at least Infinity Blade II, the follow up to the award-winning and incredibly popular iOS title launched about a year ago in the iTunes App Store for Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, will look fabulous while you do it. Like its predecessor, Infinity Blade II sets the bar for graphical fidelity on Apple’s mobile devices, but it opens up the experience pioneered by its predecessor by refining the original and expanding it in just about every way possible.

Infinity Blade II: iPad (reviewed), iPhone, iPod Touch
Developer: ChAIR Entertainment
Publisher: Epic Games
Released: Dec. 1, 2011
MSRP: $6.99

When it hit the App Store on Dec. 9, ChAIR’s Infinity Blade was beautiful, but kind of simple in the head. In many ways, it was something of a proof of concept — proof of spectacular graphics that could be rendered using the Unreal Engine 3 on iOS, proof of a very tight “nugget of fun” of touchscreen-based swordplay, and proof of a big-league AAA title performing well on a mobile platform.

But there wasn’t a lot to Infinity Blade, really. You played a nameless warrior fighting a series of duels in an attempt to find and kill a really tough-to-dispatch boss called the God King. Fights had players dodging, blocking or parrying attacks with a series of touch controls, waiting for an opening in their enemies’ defenses, and capitalizing when the time was right. The entire game was built on repetition: if you were killed, you started over with your armor and level and tried again. After a while, most battles boiled down more to repetition than reflexes, rewarding players who learned the habits of their enemies to defeat them.

Though Infinity Blade has seen extensive (awesome and free) updates, it’s Infinity Blade II that really expands the concept to the point of a full-fledged and exciting game. It’s around four times the size of the original, with twice the enemies to kill, and deeper gameplay all around. ChAIR has taken their series of good ideas, proven successful in Infinity Blade, and really stepped up the quality of all of them in this follow-up release.

Combat is no longer the rote affair it was in Infinity Blade, or at least, there’s a whole lot more to learn and many styles to master. You can approach battles with the standard sword and shield as in the previous game, complete with all the abilities you had last time around. Or you can opt for dual-wielding weapons, which amps your combo-making ability and speed but at the expense of the ability to block. If two weapons isn’t your style, you can put both on one giant, slower weapon, which drops your dodge ability in favor of more blocking capabilities and the ability to dish out massive punishment with your two-handed implement. All three styles have their own idiosyncrasies, which you’ll be able to master — allowing players to either specialize in one style of combat or explore all three.

Meanwhile, gone is the ability to just spam the dodge buttons to avoid most attacks dished out by enemies. Much more often, you’ll face attacks that must be blocked or parried (or dodged), and you’ll need to respond appropriately or take damage. Dodging has a stamina meter attached to it, and once it runs out, your tired character will take more damage as he fails to get completely clear of enemy strikes. Couple these improvements with Infinity Blade II’s improved, tighter touch controls, and the game feels not only more responsive, but more challenging. Even seasoned Infinity Blade players will need to hone their dueling skills once again.

As ChAIR has really found its stride in reworking the core gameplay, it has also come into its own in terms of delivering the overall game experience. Infinity Blade subsisted with minimal story and really no concept of what was happening or why. Infinity Blade II, by contrast, has much more dialog and a real story. The main character has a name, a plight, a conflict, a reason for pursuing these battles and a reason for endlessly returning to them regardless of how painfully he met his last end. There’s more game to explore and more to learn, and while ChAIR continues to deliver the world of Infinity Blade II subtly and in tiny bits, there’s a palpable feeling that the developer is at home in its franchise and is ready to really expand this world. We got hints of that in Infinity Blade’s Deathless Kings update, but there’s more depth to be had in Infinity Blade II, and the game’s fans are sure to appreciate it.

Everything that was good about Infinity Blade has been made bigger and better in its sequel. The addition of gems that can be fitted into weapons and armor, for example, expands on the elements of load-out strategy present last time. The vast array of weapons and items means players who enjoy collecting will see plenty of rewards for the time they put into the game. The larger game world has much more to explore, and the fact that it’s unlocked in pieces means multiple playthroughs often lead to different conclusions.

Infinity Blade II isn’t perfect, though, at least in one sense: it isn’t vastly different from its predecessor. Players who took issue with the repetitious nature of Infinity Blade will run up against that wall again here, sooner or later; sure, there are many more enemy animations to contend with and more weapon sets to earn, but players who worked their way to boredom in the previous game may be tripped by the same obstacle here. And despite leveraging the dual-core processor power of Apple’s new A5 chip in its iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, the game still occasionally sees frame rate issues that suggest it’s a little too much for mobile devices to handle.

But Infinity Blade II gives so much for its asking price that minor quibbles are quickly swallowed by the march of enemies to be bested. Only those players who adamantly found nothing to enjoy in the previous game will find complaints in the sequel — for those of us who loved Infinity Blade, there’s only more fun to be had in Infinity Blade II.

Pros:

  • A huge expansion over the original
  • Combat has been substantially deepened
  • Lots more enemy attacks and animations create a need for more strategy
  • Story!
  • Great production values
  • Continues to set the graphical bar for mobile games

Cons:

  • While deeper, core gameplay is still based on repetition and some won’t appreciate it
  • Some frame rate troubles persist even on Apple’s most powerful hardware

Final Score: 90/100

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