If I Could Save Time in a Bottle
When Russia’s Gaijin Entertainment made “Oniblade” in 2007 — or “X-Blades” as it was known when it came out in the U.S. and Europe two years later — they attempted to make a Japanese-style hack & slash action game (and, many critics would argue, failed miserably). Now the studio is preparing to release “Blades of Time,” which, despite having the same female lead character, is not only not a sequel, but is also taking a more Western approach to this kind of action game.
At a recent event held at the Los Angeles offices of Konami, who will put the game out on the PS3 and 360 this March, we got a chance to learn about “Time” and put what we learned to use by playing a couple levels.
As with “X-Blades” — or any hack & slash action game for that matter — “Blades” lets you kill a bunch of people with a variety of swords, two of which you wield simultaneously. You also use a cache of guns, including pistols and rifles, as well as magic attacks.
But the kicker is that you can also manipulate time. Now, it’s not a time rewind like in the “Prince of Persia” games; it doesn’t let you have a do-over. Instead, what’s done is done, but you get to do something else as well.
An example: One enemy has a shield that can only be destroyed by being shot by three different people. But since you’re a lone warrior, you have to be all three yourself. So, what you do is shoot the guy, hit the time rewind button, and shoot him a second time while the original you is shooting him as well. Repeat one more time and now three of you are shooting the guy and destroying his shield.
In another instance, you attack a guy to gain his attention, but then rewind time so you can also attack him from behind. Needless to say, this time manipulation mechanic is utilized in both combat and problem solving.
Similarly, you also have a dash attack that serves in both combat and movement. While you often use it to quickly strike an enemy, there are times when you’ll need to use it to get across a chasm or some other obstacle that you just can’t jump over. Again, an example: In one level set in the desert, where the sun is so strong that it diminishes your health instantly, you have to use the dash attack so you can jump from enemy to enemy, thus staying in the shade, where it’s safe.
Besides the story-driven campaign, “Time” also includes a two-player competitive multiplayer mode called “Outbreak” that has you capturing a series of points while preventing their opponent from taking them over.
You don’t go it alone, though, as you have a number of A.I. sidekicks helping you out. You also level up within a match, and gain new skills, though the kicker is that you only get to use them after you respawn. In fact, you can actually go up multiple levels during the same life, and then reap all of the rewards when you finally die. Which means that if you notice your enemy has had a streak of good luck, you might consider attacking his A.I. pals instead, leaving your competition alive and thus without any of the rewards they’ve earned.
This leveling is all reset, however, when you finish a match; it isn’t a persistent thing like in many multiplayer games these days. Though winning matches does award you runes and medals, which do improve certain skills.
“Outbreak” also lets you play as a number of different characters, all of whom have a variety of costumes, blades, guns, and other customizable options, with many of these unlocked by doing things in the campaign.
This mode isn’t just a two-player competition, though. You can also opt to play against the computer by yourself, or with a friend co-op style, during which the computer takes the other side.
Finally, we noticed one difference between “X-Blades” and “Time” that was clearly prompted by the aforementioned criticism of the former: Ayumi’s outfit. While the former game had her wearing ass-less chaps like David Lee Roth in the ’80s, or Prince at the MTV Music Awards in 1991, or Cher when she’s lounging around the house, she’s relatively more covered up this time out.
How well her outfit, and the rest of the “Blades Of Time,” will go over with gamers and critics will have to wait until the game comes out for the PS3 and 360 in March.