Admittedly I'm a bit of a simpleton. You may have heard somewhere that video game "critics" are constantly searching for the next big release. A game that is not only epic but also thought-provoking, it would be so incredible that these writers could hold it above their heads and shout to the world, "This is a masterpiece!" I, on the other hand, am just a game reviewer. While other, more enlightened writers are talking up this Journey game or whatever it's called, I'm sitting in front of a TV slamming headfirst into anything that manages to squeeze together enough sex, violence, and button mashing. So without further ado, allow me to discuss Blades of Time.
Never have I played an action game that had so many glitches.
Ever played X-Blades? If you did, you'd know more than I do going into this game. Ayumi, the heroine of this tale, has touched some magic crystal and teleported herself into another world. Ayumi's purpose for visiting is treasure, but all she'll find is hostility as she's caught up in battles between the forces of order and chaos. There's more to this story than what's laid out, so expect a few twists before all is said and done. Still, this is standard fare for the genre, so stick to swinging swords, shooting guns, solving puzzles, and hopefully you'll make it through.
Now the question is, what does Blades of Time do to help itself stand out? It's all based on a feature known as "time rewind." This ability is acquired early on and essentially serves as the "makes awesome stuff happen" button. While engaged in combat, Ayumi is free to hold the time rewind button down as long as she has charge remaining. This affects most everything except her. So if an enemy is about to throw an explosive or perform some powerful attack, Ayumi can force it back to what they were doing prior. Also when this button is released, a past version of the heroine carries out the actions she performed earlier . . . or later . . . whatever. This aspect of the ability is fascinating to play around with. She can basically summon multiple versions of herself swinging swords madly to create a tornado of blades. She could also use these copies to assault the enemy with massive bullet barrages. These copies can also distract foes in case she needs to get away for awhile. However, since time rewind doesn't affect Ayumi, she doesn't recover health when it is used. This can also lead to deadly occurrences like getting hit with the same explosion twice because rewinding caused the grenade to reform.
Alas, due to the visual filters and the negative effect time rewind has on the frame-rate, it's best to avoid overuse unless you enjoy headaches.
Outside of time rewind, Ayumi has access to a variety of magical skills, most of which are elemental based. The usefulness of freezing or burning an enemy should be obvious. Access to magic is tied to constant fighting, so as long as Ayumi is slicing through legions of adversities, she'll be able to perform her strongest attacks. If she defers from using magic and just focuses the attack, she'll acquire up to three healing spells that she can perform in case of emergency. This is a very well thought-out system, as it promotes multiple styles of play and the player is rewarded no matter his preference.
In terms of variety, this game does what is necessary. Each level is populated by a decent selection of adversaries, requires a bit of exploration to find all of the hidden treasure chests, and features puzzles that require time rewind to figure out. While the puzzles and encounters can get repetitive, the game does a fine job of balancing the action accordingly so you're not doing a particular thing for too long. Some levels even have their own theme, which certainly helps to set things apart - though I'll definitely say the level I enjoyed the least was the one that took place in a desert. It's so hot in this desert that Ayumi will roast if she stays out of the shade for too long. Honestly, I've never enjoyed deserts in video games, and that includes classics like Super Mario Bros. 3. Still, for what's it worth, this game does well when it comes to level design.
Unfortunately, this game suffers badly from the things that keep a good game together. The mechanics are awful. Action games by their very nature require that everything must feel precise and aspects such as the playable character's hit-box be well-defined. With Blades of Time, this just doesn't happen the way it should. Attacks that look like they should miss will actually hit. With some monsters, it's not even worth fighting at close range because they'll shrug of attacks and clobber Ayumi like she's a somersaulting mosquito. It doesn't make the game brutally difficult or anything of the sort, but the sloppiness pervades other aspects of the campaign. In fact, there are times when the weak mechanics work in my favor, such as when countering an enemy's attack or performing a finishing move. The range is so great, all I have to do is look for the button prompt; I don't have to pay attention to what my character or the enemy is doing.
What really cuts this game to pieces are all the glitches. Never before have I played an action game that had so many glitches. Over the course of my play-through, I've lost control of the camera, had to restart a checkpoint because something wouldn't trigger, murdered the frame-rate so badly it periodically hitched, went through a section of the game with Ayumi's heart pounding like she's constantly near death, and even had the dialogue switch on me from French to English. It's very easy to tell that this game was rushed, because another few months of polish is sorely necessary. It's really a shame, because otherwise this game is pretty entertaining. Also it's one of the only modern games I've played where restarting a checkpoint is instantaneous. This should be a requirement for all games, though if it came at the expense of a better-playing game I guess it'll never happen.
Blades of Time's multiplayer is referred to as the Outbreak mode. Players can choose to face off against the enemy or each other in glorious combat. Each of the three maps has players fighting through waves of foes and their goal is to destroy the outposts and then the base. Ally and enemy forces spawn at a constant rate and mostly the player works to keep the opposition away from his men so that they can take care of the fortifications. The appearance of boss monsters and treasure chests keep things moving and the player can also perform specific tasks to unlock formulas and medals. These medals can then be turned into new pieces of equipment that can be used in the campaign as well as in Outbreak. This mode isn't bad at all, though the lack of players means you'll have a better chance at the lottery than meeting someone else playing this game online (especially because, unlike in most multiplayer games, the achievements are very easy to attain).
Between the campaign and the Outbreak mode, you're looking at a game of at least competent length. Ayumi's many powers are fun to use for awhile, and at times the locales can look really awesome. If you're not at all concerned about how refined you wish your gaming experience to be, I'd say give this game a run-through. More than likely, however, you'll find yourself wondering why you hadn't discovered better things to do with your free time. Perhaps that time could have been used on a game that properly follows through on its unique ideas with solid mechanics so that it is both fulfilling and entertaining. Basically what it comes down to is that Blades of Time needed more . . . look, I'm pretty sure you can figure it out without me having to say it.