I remember moaning about how dull Infinity Blade seemed after seeing it for the first time. Sure, it looked pretty (oh did, it look pretty), but the linear one-on-one fights, swipe-to-swing combat mechanics and limited navigation had me bad-mouthing the game before I'd really given it a chance. What's the point of having an amazing engine if you aren't going to do anything interesting with it? But after sinking a fair few hours into the game, I'm happy to admit I was too hasty in forming my opinion. Infinity Blade is not only a phenomenally attractive game, but also a surprisingly deep role-playing experience with an addictive quality that I never expected to take such a forceful hold of me.
The God King sits on a throne atop an ancient castle. This armour is white and regal, his heart is black and cruel, and his level is a staggering 50. A brave (or is it stupid?) warrior fights his way to the throne room regardless, intent on plunging his blade into the tyrant and freeing the denizens of the land from his brutal regime. Things don't quite go to plan. The King spawns the Infinity Blade from some otherworldly dimension, and proceeds to slay the virtuous warrior with a single blow.
Thirty years later, the warrior's son stands on a precipice overlooking the castle grounds. "I will avenge my father!", he cries - and so begins the first Bloodline. The idea is to fight your way through the King's underlings (who are all bigger and far scarier-looking than the King himself), and return to the chamber where your father was once slain. Don't expect to exact your revenge on the first attempt, however. Or the second, third, or fourth for that matter. The God King is fast and horrendously powerful; he'll kick your armour-clad arse before you can even put a scratch on his glorious suit of armour. You'll die, and the next thing you'll see is your son standing on a precipice overlooking the castle, vowing to avenge your death.
The hook is all in this cycle, the familiar grind that RPG players love so much. With each new Bloodline, your chances of slaying the God King improve. Each new lap of the castle yields more money and better loot, turning you into a more worthy adversary. Each time you die, you carry over your XP, items and weapons to your next Bloodline. Unlike Epic Citadel - the tech demo showing what Epic could do with the Unreal Engine on an iOS device – your movement options are limited. You can drag a finger across the screen to move the camera, but you never control your warrior directly. You can take different routes through the castle by tapping little blue swirls thatwill take you from one screen to the next – but there is a very clear cut route through the game.
Exploration is clearly not the focus here, though. Combat is. The mechanics underpinning the experience are incredibly simple: rock paper scissors with swords, shields and magic. Swiping a finger across the screen will swing your sword in that direction, but these attacks will be swiftly deflected without the right preparation. The idea is to 'break' your opponent first, leaving him open to attack. The easiest way to do this is to dodge incoming attacks. If your adversary swings right, dodge left. If he swings left, dodge right. Both can be achieved with a tap of the evade button lurking in either corner of the screen. Dodge enough times in a row (usually three), and you'll 'Dodge Break' your foe, after which you can unleash your counter attack. Much of the strategy comes from 'Parry Breaks', where you trace the line of your opponent's attack to launch an immediate counter attack.