Infinity Blade 2, available on both the iPad 2 and original iPad, is more of a good thing, assuming you liked the first installment. Once again published by Epic Games and developed by Chair Entertainment, Infinity Blade 2 follows the exact same format of its predecessor, with extremely basic gameplay since the whole thing is on rails and combat relies on just a few simple gestures and taps. There are a handful of minor changes, but the gameplay itself is identical to that of the first and Chair really just inflated the game with a new (but very similar looking) venue, a mediocre storyline, and a bunch of new equipment.
That's not to suggest I hated the game, as it was plenty fun and I certainly spent a number of hours playing it. It's just that I was disappointed by the fact that Infinity Blade 2 has a ton of new items, but no changes to gameplay. The new weapons, armor, shields, etc. look cool and are more powerful, but that doesn't count for much when they don't change the core combat experience at all. You know how Capcom has the nerve to re-release roughly 20 to 25 iterations of each of its fighting games with a handful of added content like characters or stages while the game itself remains unchanged? That's what happened here.
It would be difficult for me to deny that Infinity Blade 2 has an extremely addictive formula, especially considering that I had many instances in which I thought to myself, "Just one more rebirth," and then found myself playing through 2 or 3 more before actually stopping.
For those of you who are not familiar with the setup of Infinity Blade 2, it's just like the first one. It's an on-rails adventure and you go through the same castle called The Vault of Tears over and over again, because when you die or defeat a major boss, you start back at the beginning with a new "rebirth." But even though you have to go back to the beginning, you get to keep all of your character's experience, skills, and items, allowing you to slowly become more powerful and take on more formidable enemies. The only thing that keeps it fresh is that as you defeat major bosses, new paths and areas of the castle open up, allowing you to explore them on your next rebirth.
The only problem is, much like the layout of the game, combat in Infinity Blade 2 is also just like that of its predecessor. While there are certain tweaks in that you can choose between light, heavy, or dual-wielded weapons -- heavy weapons allow for powerful strikes with specific gestures, dual-wielded weapons let you perform longer combos in exchange for forfeiting the ability to block -- everything else is exactly the same. You swipe to attack, hold down the block button to block, dodge left and right by tapping the dodge arrows in their respective directions, and parry incoming attacks by swiping in the same direction as your enemy's swing. In addition, you can use magic or super attacks, the latter of which stuns the enemy, but you have to wait for an extended period of time before they recharge and can be used again.
You can't just go in swinging wildly…well, you can, but the attacks become "scratches" and do very minimal damage and tend to open you up for counters. Instead, you just have to time it and wait patiently to avoid your enemy's attacks (through blocks, parries, or dodges) until you get a "break," at which point your enemy stumbles and is open to a counterattack. Then you can rip them with a succession of blows or combinations before they regain their composure and begin blocking you.
But sadly, none of this is new. The buzz surrounding Infinity Blade 2 is that the game's formula has been reinvented, but I think that's absolutely absurd. Yes, there are tweaks and minor additions, but if anything, I see this as more of an expansion pack or DLC to the original game. This isn't Infinity Blade 2; it's Infinity Blade 1.5. Combat is identical and the "looping" formula of going through the same venue repeatedly is unchanged. The only worthwhile difference is the slew of new items and unlocks.
While they ultimately don't alter gameplay all that much -- after all, you use the same gestures to attack regardless of what item you're using -- it was nice to see a bunch of new pretty swords, shields, armor, and items available for purchase with in-game currency. The new heavy and dual-wielded weapon styles afforded Chair the opportunity to really load up on the amount of unlockable weapons; the sheer number of swords and axes here will take you many, many hours to unlock if you want all of them (that is, unless you cheat and use real money to buy loads of in-game currency). And the ability to buy randomized prize wheels as well as keys of different sizes to open up chests that are scattered around the environment were clever supplements to the items section in the store. The addition of gems and the ability to fuse them into armor and weapons for added bonuses -- including increases to damage and gold drops—is also a nice twist that gives players a rare opportunity to enjoy something new.
I even enjoyed the new titans (enemies) that you can fight, even though combat with them was still the same. I was just so desperate for new content other than a changed venue and the aforementioned items that I enjoyed seeing the new character models and animations. Mind you, there are still plenty of titans in the game that were featured in the first Infinity Blade, so it's not all brand-new on this front.
There's a new story to enjoy here too, but I defy anyone to explain it to me in its entirety. The basics make sense: your character needs help from the Worker of Secrets, the creator of the Infinity Blade, who is being held captive inside The Vault of Tears. But why do you need the Worker's help? What is that whole intro sequence about *SPOILER ALERT* where you get shot in the face by your supposed ally? *END SPOILER ALERT* Conversely, why does some lady, who is supposedly your enemy, tell you precisely where to find the Worker before attacking you? Most of the story and events that unfold don't make a ton of sense, but I wouldn't go so far as to knock the game for that. I see it as more of a missed opportunity to create a better, more complete game. But with the way it panned out, I just dismiss it and enjoy the fun behind the gameplay despite not knowing what my character's (or anybody else's) motivations are.
Despite how much I'm bemoaning the lack of change here, Epic is already promoting a load of free content that is "coming soon." There is a section cordoned off in the menus within Infinity Blade 2 for "Clashmobs," a new co-op game mode that will allow players to "join in massively social online challenges to earn unique rewards and powerful in-game items." There are also new titans and bosses on the way, as well as new areas, weapons, shield, armor, rings, gems, and "surprises," so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what Epic has in store. Hopefully new content like the Clashmobs will shake things up a bit.
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