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Blades of Time released earlier this year on consoles to meager reception. This adventure hack and slash potluck of various elements and ideas certainly is one of the strangest titles to come out this year. The PC version seeks to add to the experience by providing a few exclusive elements, but is that enough? A quick summary to that is: No. A longer summary is that it’s still worth the effort regardless.
This story with horrific narrative sees a clichéd girl called Ayumi shake her high-heeled booty across a mystical Dragonland, for reasons. There is no further logic to be found and by all means any narration given by the ever-observant heroine will quickly become painfully annoying as she recounts her every step. “This is a desert,” she clamors, as if the searing warm glow wasn’t obvious enough.
That said, the level designs that go through jungles, fortresses, floating lands and more are indeed reason for amazement. Stringing each map into one cohesive whole like the God of War series, each locale is ripe with life and bizarre details of glowing flowers and strange contraptions. This is much better represented on PC with more details and color contrast than ever, even if its crystal clear appeal also points out its older, jagged design. If anything, it adds to the strange mystique in the end.
Before long, the player will get whisked away into this land of weird and while this is done so without purpose, it can still be appealing to dive into it as is. Yes, platform sections can get frustrating, there are pits that lead to certain death and some sections have trial and error encoded into it. On the other hand there will be original grappling sections or one of the best adaptations of a desert level ever that scorches Ayumi, forcing you to seek refuge and skulk through the shadows; this is Blades of Time’s true strength. It’s original, even if it seems odd at all times.
In order to wrestle through this land and get to the obtuse goal of probably saving something, Ayumi willingly takes on additional powers at an alien altar that allows her to intensify the already high-paced combat. By pushing a few simple combinations, she can zip through enemies, unleash a devastating blow and immediately slide in or out of danger. It seems like a big pill to swallow at first, but the simplicity of it is actually fluently encoded into the game’s core, leaving combat to be a swift massacre that takes her through the lengths of any arena. Big captured finishers, elemental spells and huge rings of death make the main element of combat a challenge that leaves a certain sense of satisfaction, especially with larger enemies or lengthy boss fights.
It certainly isn’t without error though, as some enemy mobs require more luck than skill, given the strange artificial intelligence (AI) that targets Ayumi even if multiple factions are present. Boss fights can drag on or feel cheap and it certainly isn’t always clear whatever is going on in the game. Additionally, there is a shooting opposition to our girl’s quickness that allows her to draw a gun, but it takes away all mobility. Luckily, a mouse and keyboard alleviate this. In general, custom PC mapping is strangely fluent to the touch, except in the direst of situations. Both gamepad and keyboard work fine however.
It also isn’t as bad as it may seem: Blades of Time diversifies a ton of harebrained schemes. One of the main ones is the time rewind element that creates versions of your previous reality while you’re free to pursue a new one. Aside from simple time puzzles, this is also used to fight enemies and overcome otherwise impenetrable situations. For instance, Ayumi can start unloading on an oncoming horde, only to undo time and charge the masses while the previous version starts shooting once more. This element is further stretched with a Chaos mist and an applicable Order sphere that dispels this fog and brings entities into the appropriate reality. Ayumi can also use a compass to guide her way and scope out treasures; the latter of which can possibly be stuck behind an alternate reality. Any loot adds new and more powerful equipment to her gun and blade setup. There is a ton of these novel puzzle and adventure elements sprinkled all over the game.
Not all these branches are equally developed however. For instance, Ayumi can use her sliding powers to leap into the air and grapple opponents to smack the crap out of them. Yet, that’s as far as it goes; unlike the time element, this isn’t explored and additionally it gets stumped by the risk of falling into a pit of death. There are also big cannons to deal with the enemy in the later game, but it’s used only one or two times. Still, it only adds to the whole experience when tallied; it isn’t a demerit.
Beyond its 10 hour or so confusing campaign, Blades of Time tacks on a multiplayer element that’s also available solo. The Outbreak mode takes players back to some of the game maps (such as the awesome desert map) with a character of choice and slight leveling elements. The goal is to take out the opposition’s pillars with both teams rushing each other. This is such a refreshing and simple change of pace compared to the main story, not to mention its straightforward appeal is good for several rounds. However, the level scheme during a game is a bit lacking, but it makes up for that in other ways as well. Through upgrades, players now switch the time rewind mechanism made impossible in real time and alter that to other powers, which help allies or boost power. Additionally, treasures sporadically appear for players to hunt down.
Most of this is available for consoles though, so what exactly is the PC kicker? There is an additional segment that explores the story of side character Michelle and her sexist sway through a swamp. She follows a horde of warriors that need to stop Ayumi in her main quest. However, this is by far some of the least appealing levels available, with many narrow corridors and annoying water sections and terrible lighting. It’s a different take to follow a squad and solve some other simple puzzles, but it certainly isn’t worth revisiting the whole.
Other than that and the ease of aiming a crosshair while shooting, the PC version also adds an additional map for the Outbreak mode. While that is most welcome, given this mode has very few locales, 1 addition certainly doesn’t warrant its full worth.
If you already own the console version, feel free to skip this version, unless marked down to some ridiculously cheap number that will allow you to revisit a unique tale or play more accessible multiplayer. However, given the option of any platform, the PC version is certainly the most potent of all and has the most to offer. Blades of Time is a game for the ages, not so much because of its well-executed display, but for its unique take on game design. Yes, it may very well become a nuisance in many of its aggravating choices, but it branches out in so many ways that it’s also admirable simply for doing so.
|Blades of Time is an eccentric display of character that isn't fit for all, but leaves a definitive mark in the game universe. It splits novel ideas with frustrating designs and combines this into an incomprehensible yet strangely intriguing whole, like some sort of optical illusion for the mind. Liking this game will therefore be directly related to how much suffering you can take for the sake of spiritual exploration. This recap is as strange as the game itself.|