If I Could Turn Back Time
The idea of the treasure hunter is nothing new and has been around probably for as long as there has been treasure to hunt. But Blades of Time, looks to put an interesting spin on this age old premise by mixing equal parts attractive looking protagonist with some sweet elemental time powers and seeing if it can’t make something that is worth playing.
You play as Ayumi, a girl whose good looks are only outmatched by her greed and so when she hears word of an alternate dimension with countless riches, she storms into the sanctum where the portal to this world is held with her mentor, a man named Zero, and takes no prisoners. Once in this alternate dimension, a place that you find out is called ‘Dragonland’, Ayumi gets more than she bargained for though and falls katana-first into an ageless war between chaos and order and only by tapping into the powers of both can she hope to survive.
And, of course, Ayumi will be expected to fight through this new world in order to save her hide and has more ways to do so than you’d expect to find in even the most polished of hack ‘n’ slash adventures. She’ll wield a pair of patented katanas, a plentiful amount of rifles, and various elemental powers, including time, which is obviously referred to in the title and thus takes center stage with your magical abilities, and creates many of the more interesting combat dynamics.
Many of the foes you’ll face, especially the larger ones, outgun Ayumi in a lot of ways. Thus, the only way for her to make any progress is to use the time rewind powers bestowed upon her when she first entered Dragonland to her advantage. By doing this, Ayumi can create duplicates of herself that will mimic the actions she performed in the last few seconds. You can literally create a small army of rifle firing Ayumis to immediately shatter a foe’s shield or hack away with a hundred katanas. And it is quite the sight to see all these echoes of the curvaceous blonde running around a battlefield, causing carnage in their wake.
Of course, the downfall of this mechanic is the fact that many of the enemies require this technique to be used on them later in the game. Therefore, the game starts to become a bit of a grind as you move through various vibrant and colorful sections of this war-torn dimension you find yourself in with really only one or two combat options later on as opposed to early in the game and that in and of itself just seem counter-intuitive.
With all these weapons and powers at her disposal, the thing that I was most impressed with though was the ease with which I was able to switch from swords to guns and to magic. This helped with the pace of many battles and with a dozen Ayumi’s running around, helped keep things feeling frantic and exciting in terms of action, even if I really had the situation well in hand the whole time as my combat options became more and more limited as the game went on.
Unfortunately, the game really falls apart when it comes to the plot and character development of Ayumi, Zero, and the other characters you come across in the game. Ayumi is left as a plain, one-dimensional character until the very end of the dozen-hour experience where you maybe start to see a crack of personality form. By then though, you’ve become bored of her and the miserable voice acting that litters the game in both mid-level banter and poorly animated cut scenes, all of which is, of course, just a vain attempt to forward what was a very weak plot to begin with. This lack of a fleshed out story makes the grinding in the later levels even more painful as you are denied the proper motivation to really see this character through to the end of her journey because you never care about her or her cohorts and therefore are denied your just rewards with a satisfying conclusion.
The game does offer some replay-value in that once you beat the game you can play it again on Hard Mode and it has various collectibles scattered about Dragonland that are supposed to help fill in the back story, but are just as vague and lifeless as the voice acting in the cut scenes. There is also a multiplayer mode called Outbreak, which is the game’s twist on Capture the Point and can be played against or in co-op with several friends, but isn’t anything particularly special.
When all is said and done, Blades of Time surprised me with its tight controls and interesting time manipulation dynamic that offered a nice change of pace to your typical hack ‘n’ slash experience. But with a lack of plot and character development throughout my entire time playing the campaign, I just could never bring myself to really care about this game as much as I wanted to.
SUMMARY: Some solid combat dynamics can’t make up for the fact that the plot and character development, or lack thereof, falls flat in every way.
- THE GOOD: Great combat dynamic between the guns, swords, and time powers
- THE BAD: An overall lack of plot and character development
- THE UGLY: Don’t you just love it when lips don’t sync up with words in EVERY cut scene?
Blades of Time is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.