The original Infinity Blade set standards for iOS (s aapl) gaming, in terms of graphics and also for gaming mechanics. The new sequel, Infinity Blade II, hit the U.S. App Store on Thursday. How does it match up to the original’s shining example?
Don’t mess with success
Infinity Blade 2 doesn’t deviate significantly from the path tread by its predecessor. This is still a game about duel-style combat, with parries, blocks, and dodges as your main evasive tools and swiping madly at the screen your primary offense. Your path is predetermined, or more commonly referred to as “on rails,” but in the case of these games, that’s little cause for complaint.
The parts of Infinity Blade that defined it as a title remain in place, and users won’t feel like they need to relearn controls if they’ve played the first version. If you had problems with how the first one handled, however, there’s little to look for here in terms of changes to combat mechanics.
Well, mess with it a little bit
The basic formula is the same, but developer Chair Entertainment hasn’t just completely left well enough alone. The developer managed to ramp up the graphics for this version, thanks in part to the improved rendering power of the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S (though it works on any device that can run iOS 5, plus the 16 GB and larger 3rd-gen iPod touch). Things look positively gorgeous in this game, and that applies to basically everything you see. Lighting effects, textures, fine details like floating dust motes and birds flying in the distance; it all looks delicious, as do character building and environmental models. Infinity Blade II definitely sets new standards in terms of being the game you want to dazzle your friends with.
The looks aren’t all that’s changed for the better. Infinity Blade’s RPG elements are also slightly deeper this time around, which works in the game’s favor, and still stays well shy of being overwhelming for more casual player. The new elements include gem slots for weapons, which allow you to use add-ons you pick up in-game to augment the power of your equipped weapons. Gems can add elemental damage, for instance, for added effect in combat.
Weapons are also now divided into three types: light, or one-handed, for people who like using a shield and aren’t looking for anything too different from the first game; heavy, or two-handed, for people who prefer offensive power over defensive capability; and dual-wield for those who want quicker, nimbler attacks and better parrying power. It’s a small change, but it adds a new dimension to the weapon development and combat aspects of the game that go a long way toward deepening the experience and providing more replay value.
Some parts are actually simplified, too. Post-battle screens give less breakdown of where you earned your XP, which, is fine for me, since nitty gritty statistical details aren’t really what I’m here for anyway.
Story: It has some!
The first Infinity Blade had a basic story, which (spoiler alert) laid out that you were part of a family destined to fight the God King and win the Infinity Blade, albeit after countless of your predecessors died in the attempt. Infinity Blade II sort of picks up where that left off, with your character beginning fully equipped with topped out gear including the Infinity Blade itself. It also confusingly adds a bunch of stuff in that doesn’t seem to follow from where the last one left off. But it’s mostly explained in time, and plus it actually has more depth and is a lot more interesting than the first version.
I still wouldn’t call the story necessarily mind-blowing, nor is it the primary reason to play. But like the rest of the game, it’s an improvement over the original.
More and better
In the final tally, Infinity Blade II satisfies by delivering more of what the original did right, and making some tweaks that improve the overall experience. You still get to look around the world for treasures and gold, for instance, even during travel cut scenes, and there seems to be more treasure hidden around to find. And those travel cut scenes, with their awesome camera angles on the gorgeous game world, make me feel absolutely fine about this being on rails.
One big addition I should mention is syncing of game states across devices via iCloud. That means you can pick up on the iPad after a long day of playing on your iPhone secretly at work, without losing any progress. It’s awesome, and it just works so long as you use the same Game Center account on both devices.
Infinity Blade II is also once again a universal app, so you can play on both your iPhone and your iPad. And at $6.99, it’s a bargain. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, and you like games, chances are Infinity Blade II has what you’re looking for.