It’s not often that we see something big like AAA franchises on a mobile platform, especially one dominated by $0.99 titles. However, Infinity Blade made a name for itself when it came out last year, commanding a price $5.99 with the sheer draw of incredible graphics. Anybody who bought the game (and there were a lot who did to make sales of over $10m) realized that the game isn’t just for show. At its core Infinity Blade had a very involving gameplay, making it perfect for the iOS platform.
Now a year later, and with an iBook under its belt, Chair has finally released Infinity Blade II. While the premise of the previous game made sense, in that every time you died your heir would go fight the God King again carry over all your stats from the previous bloodline, it ultimately became boring rather soon. Of course, killing the God King became all the more sweeter and when you actually did get the Infinity Blade, it felt like the long journey had been well worth it.
With Infinity Blade II, after the warning of the God King (when you defeated him in the first game), it seems that all the deathless warriors in the world are out for the blade. You therefore start the game in search of a person called The Worker of Secrets who can safely take the Infinity Blade from you and keep it safe. As the story progresses you find out that he’s being held captive in some castle and has multiple charms, not to mention four very nasty bosses blocking your way to him. And thus begins your long but very rewarding journey of taking down multiple enemies with the ultimate goal of defeating four bosses, instead of just the one God King in the first game.
However, the games story doesn’t just unfold in a standard linear fashion and defeating the bosses isn’t your ultimate goal. First off, and I’m not really spoiling the story much because this happens very early in the game, you lose all your armor and that beautiful Infinity Blade you had in the beginning. And as you keep on fighting some of the major bosses and meet some new characters along the way, the story delves deeper into what’s actually happening with you. For similarly spoiler-free reasons, you don’t die and then let your bloodline continue to get the job done decades later; instead your character himself is reborn and resumes the job after mere months have passed by since your defeat.
In this way, the story continuity makes sense of you keeping all your gold, skills and equipment and continue on with the job. However, the biggest reason to play Infinity Blade II is the gameplay itself which is so rewarding. The interface has received a much needed facelift, everything is very streamlined now. The store and inventory items can be accessed with ease, as well as various help options.
One of the key new additions to the gameplay is the variety of weapon types. Now instead of the standard single-handed sword plus shield, you have the ability to dual-wield two weapons where attacks are fast but blocking is minimal. Or you can go with two-handed weapons such as long swords and broad axes where attacks are sluggish to pull off, but the damage is significantly high.
Apart from just the new types of weapons and the inherent gameplay style changes that come along, you can now add jewels to your equipment (where applicable) which give various stat boosts to your already versatile armor. Of course, not all types of gems can be equipped to every time, as the slot shape needs to be matched. One of my personal favorite improvements over the previous game is that gold loot in Infinity Blade II is much more abundant giving the ability to purchase higher level items and therefore not getting locked into sticking with already ‘mastered’ equipment which yields no XP.
What I really loved, though, was the seamless integration between my iPad 2 and iPhone 4 versions of Infinity Blade II. The game basically saves on the iCloud using Game Center which makes picking up and continuing where I left off on either platform a brilliant experience. I must say that Infinity Blade II was obviously optimized for the A5 processor found in the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, but even on my iPhone 4 the game played very well. Of course, there were frame rate drops here and there, and the experience wasn’t as smooth as the iPad 2, but it definitely looked gorgeous on the Retina Display. I guess in that sense the iPhone 4S is the best platform to play Infinity Blade II on, but I’m willing to bet even that has some frame rate issues.
Staying on the topic, one of the biggest improvements with Infinity Blade II is lighting models which add an extra layer of depth and beauty to an otherwise static scene. Yes, there is no free-roaming this time around either, but I would much rather have cinematic camera angles with gorgeous graphics instead of an open world with low-res textures to keep thing chugging along. It’s really not an exaggeration when I say that Infinity Blade II is the best looking game on any handheld device to date, matching visuals with Xbox 360’s early days.
All of these various improvements, from the subtle shifts in music to the beautiful scenery to high-res textures create a visual environment so deep that you’ll totally feel lost in it. The story is very intriguing, and while it isn’t breaking any barriers, it’s genuinely great to see so much attention to detail in a game developed for mobile platforms. Ultimately all of these new additions combine with the brilliantly improved gameplay and much more responsive touch based gestures to create one of the best mobile games of all time.