Game Review #372: Blades of Time (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Category: Action, Adventure
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy Blades of Time from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
If Turok and Tomb Raider had a baby, Blades of Time is what you would get. Sure, this is probably an over-simplification, but I stand by my statement. Blades of Time is a third-person, 3-D action-platformer hack-n-slash with some minor puzzle-solving elements. You play Ayumi, an archaeological researcher (treasure hunter)—who dual-wields swords and manipulates time, hence the name Blades of Time—who is exploring the ruins of a mysterious island, Dragonland, to discover the secrets of the lost civilization that once inhabited the area. Along the way, she discovers unique—and hostile—life forms unlike anything we have seen, as well as long-forgotten machines and traps that were left behind.
Developed by Gaijin Entertainment and published by Konami, Blades of Time was originally released in 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, and is the sequel to X-Blades, released by Gaijin in 2009—originally released in Russian as Oniblade in 2007, on Microsoft Windows. So, it’s been a long time coming, but finally, Blades of Time has made its way to the Nintendo Switch!
The game plays smoothly, for the most part, with the controls being fairly straightforward—if not a little clunky at times—but while the commands are relatively easy to learn, the proper execution of said commands was a bit more difficult, at least for myself. Your basic commands include a sword strike (Y), jump (X)—this felt like a weird choice for jump, but whatever—a backward jump-kick flip (A), along with other basic menu commands with the D-pad, like pressing the down button to bring up your compass, or pressing and holding left on the D-pad to heal yourself.
You also gain other attacks and abilities as you progress, like being able to target your enemy with ZL, and then dashing over to the targeted enemy with ZR. One of the more interesting mechanics is the ability to reverse time and layer your actions over one another by pressing and holding L, though it is a tricky move to manage. This move is necessary to defeat certain shielded enemies, as it takes multiple Ayumis striking at once to break through the shield and do some damage.
When you defeat an enemy, you gather their soul essence via shining orbs of energy that they drop upon death. Periodically, you will encounter a sacred alter with a figure of what looks to be Death, and you basically cash in your souls for new skills. You are given a choice of which new skills you want to acquire first, like a fire attack that sets your enemies ablaze and causes residual damage, or a freeze attack that stops them in their tracks briefly.
One part I really liked in this game was the tutorial training. Each time you gain a new skill, before you continue on with the journey, you will be placed in a training arena with an endless supply of enemies to fight. The only way to end the tutorial segment is by mastering your new skill by way of perfectly executing it a set number of times. The moves, while not always as precise as I would have liked, are still doable, and with enough practice, every single ability I learned was actually really useful to have in my skill set.
As far as the challenge goes, this game is not easy! To be fair, I do tend to suck at this type of game more than my usual jam, the 2-D action platformer, but I felt particularly challenged by this one. I spent a couple of hours getting through to the first big boss, at which point, I kept failing miserably. I died so much that I decided to restart the game on “Easy” instead of “Normal” difficulty. One thing that kind of sucked was that, in order to start a new game, you have to erase the save data from your old game. Of course, I found out after I did this that I could have just changed the difficulty on the existing game and gone from there, but that was my bad, not the game’s!
Once I started over on “Easy”, I made it back to that same boss in just under 30 minutes, which was a bit embarrassing, but I am glad to report that I was able to take down that boss quite a bit easier with the lower difficulty—recent other games I have reviewed do not appear to do much at all to make the challenge any easier with a lower difficulty setting, so this is appreciated!
Dual Blades, Two Ways
There are two main modes available for play: Story Mode, and Outbreak Mode. Story is a single-player campaign where you make your way through the various levels—pretty standard stuff—and you essentially add new skills and tricks to your arsenal as you complete each section and cash in your souls to the altar. You play each stage, which has its own enemies and look, followed by a boss at the end of the level.
Outbreak is an entirely different beast though. In Outbreak, you enter into a battle between you and another online opponent. The objective is to destroy all of your opponent’s outposts, while battling against them and the AI horde they command. You can win by either destroying all of the outposts, or by killing your opponent 10 times. You have your own horde of AI bots that also aid you in protecting your own outposts, as well as storming the opposition’s.
This mode was particularly enjoyable for me—more so than the Story Mode—as it was just a bit more action-packed, and it reminded me of a cross between Goldeneye and Halo 2. The online match-ups don’t take very long at all to happen, which tells me that the online community for this game is already doing pretty well.
Each victory awards you with XP, and each time you level up you unlock new skills to use in your online battles. You can also use your coins and gems to upgrade your weapons, purchase new weapons, armor, outfits, and even unlock new characters. You can check your achievements and collect the rewards for them, and there is also a leaderboard section, but at the time of this writing, it is still “coming soon” and is not yet active. This mode—especially once the leaderboards are available—really makes the game for me, and will keep me coming back for more.
Audio & Video
The graphics are “remastered” for the Switch port of this game, but they still have a very last-gen look to them, which isn’t a big deal, because they still look pretty decent. There were a number of times, however, where the frame rate would drop a little, and sometimes Ayumi would get stuck in the air if I jumped up too close to a wall or a rock, which was odd. Overall, the graphics were okay, but not really too impressive.
The soundtrack did pretty well, however, with an up-tempo rock-themed soundtrack when needed, and ominous “ancient temple” tracks when otherwise appropriate. Nothing too stand-out amazing, but the music served its intended purpose well. The sound effects are very satisfying as well, with nice blade-slice and bullet sounds. The voice acting for Ayumi, done by Miranda Raison, was great too.
I enjoyed my time with Blades of Time, and still have many hours ahead of me to collect all of the different weapons and learn all of the different combo moves. I may not be the best at these games, but I can still manage to have a good time playing them, as long as the game is done well, and with this one, I can say that it was. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes a good third-person action hack-n-slash from time to time, as this would be a great addition to your Switch library.
Buy Blades of Time from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Gaijin Entertainment