Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Blades of Time

Blades of Time begins a series of less-known games in my shortening backlog. It also got rather close to breaking my rule of not buying or playing Japanese games. While the developer, Gaijin Entertainment, is Russian, the game has a very Asian-inspired thing going on with its visuals. Which is the reason I almost skipped it. But it is not quite there.

I do wonder why exactly I did buy it, though. The third person hack and slash games I have played in the past have not been the perfect match with me. I suppose the cool-looking, flashy gameplay was the deciding factor in the end. And after actually playing through the game, I can say it was exactly that.

Pleasant to look at

Graphic-wise BoT is mostly all right. Ayumi's (the protagonist) running animation seemed a bit off, though, and the character models could have used more polygons. Zero's lip-syncing (at least in one cutscene) was like for completely different lines, and then there were some occasional really low resolution environment textures.

I think there is a filter or something that makes colors look sort of washed out, too -- at least if you compare them to the vibrant Borderlands games. Maybe that is just me.

The game uses Dagor Engine 3.0 and it ran very smoothly and stable for me -- at 120 FPS with vsync on a 60Hz monitor. (!) I think there might have been some minor issue in there as the steam screenshots also captured the FPS counter they normally ignore. Cutscenes are locked to 30 FPS for reasons unknown as well. (The FPS counter apparently does not show in screenshots taken during them.)

Great controls

Blades of Time was amazingly easy to get into. I decided to use my Xbox 360 gamepad for a change, as the game looked perfect for it, and had no trouble at all memorizing the controls. After learning a new combo, you always get teleported to a small arena where you have to kill 10 enemies using the new learned ability before continuing the game. That is some correctly done game design right there.

Out of curiosity, towards the end of the game I switched to keyboard and mouse for one fight. Their controls turned out to be very sensible as well. The first fire spell, for instance, that is B + X on the gamepad, is simply 1 on kb/m. I was afraid it might have been some unnecessary two-key combo.

One thing that might somewhat clumsy on the kb, though, is having both jumping and dodging (slide). Spacebar is a very natural button for both, but one of them usually has to go onto a less comfortable choice. BoT apparently uses shift for slide, which is okay I guess. Divinity II actually solved this problem quite elegantly by having space make you dodge when strafing, and jump when moving forwards or backwards.

While playing BoT on the gamepad was enjoyable, I run into trouble when I had to use a ranged weapon. Even with aim-assist helping I had -- at least early on -- some serious trouble at hitting enemies. I think some sort of cycling locking system for ranged combat would be nice in this kind of game. (It has such a thing for dashing to enemy/object in fact.)

Good mechanics

I liked the healing mechanic the game uses. You have up to three heals (75% of health restored, I think) that can be renewed by filling your rage bar. You also get one for free when if you let the rage bar empty itself. I think that Ayumi is too squishy, though. Especially ranged enemies deplete your health bar very quickly even if you are wearing all the health increasing equipment you have found.

And if you die, you risk seeing the same cutscene or hearing the same lines repeated. Ad nauseam if you die repeatedly in quick succession. Couple hours into the game I finally learned that pressing the back button on the gamepad actually skips the cutscenes. The voice lines are unskippable, though, so I suggest trying to stay alive. Dying also tends to make you re-do fights which is particularly annoying.

One of the fancier mechanics the game has, is time-rewinding. I am taking a guess that it was copied from Prince of Persia. But that is only a guess as I have not played those. The mechanic works pretty well, though. Like everything else in the game, really.


I believe massive fights where you slaughter countless numbers of enemies would have been neat. The game sort of gets there towards the end when you have this, sort of super-charged, dragon mode on, but those short sections are quickly over. I would have wanted more of that.

Blades of Time was a reasonably enjoyable 10 hours. I have no reason to touch it again but I shall reminisce it as time well spent. It does have a single piece of playable DLC that came with the "limited edition", though, but Steam's user reviews tell me it is not worth touching. Apparently you play as Michelle (the other woman in the second screenshot) who has no cool abilities whatsoever.

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