Review – Infinity Blade II (iOS)

If you have an iOS device, and you aren’t playing Infinity Blade II, you’re a dope. I am just gonna come right out and say it. This game is that good. Stop reading, get on the App Store, and pony up the cash. Oh, you’re still reading. You want to know more about the game so that you can make an informed purchase?

Infinity Blade II is the sequel to the wildly popular Infinity Blade, an iOS game released in 2010. In Infinity Blade II you play as Siris. Siris is on a quest to find The Worker of Secrets, the crafter of the Infinity Blade. In searching for The Worker of Secrets, you are pitted against a multitude of Deathless, the antagonists in Infinity Blade II. Combat consists of one-on-one battles where you use a combination of weapon, shield, and magic to take down enemies. By swiping your finger on the screen, you can attack, and by utilizing buttons throughout the HUD, you can perform other maneuvers, such as blocking, dodging, and casting magic. Defeating enemies nets you experience, gold, items, and gems, all of which are essential to leveling up and customizing your character. Progression through environments is a point-and-click affair and by tapping on pulsing areas on the screen, a cutscene is triggered, moving you to the next area.

What I Liked

The story in Infinity Blade II is ancillary and merely facilitates the gameplay. You find out early on when your partner Isa kills you that you are, in fact, a Deathless. You revive in a chamber, and three years later only to start your quest again. The fact that you are a Deathless is the most important thematic element in Infinity Blade II. Every time that you encounter one of the major Deathless characters, the game ends, and you start over in what Infinity Blade II terms a “Rebirth.” As you continue through Rebirth after Rebirth, enemies get stronger, you level up, you gain new equipment, and you get closer and closer to The Worker of Secrets. There are some twists and turns along the way, but the story certainly won’t captivate you.

Though the story in Infinity Blade II might not keep your fingers trembling in anticipation, the gameplay will. Every element of actually playing the game has been finely tuned to keep you coming back for more, operating on a constant positive feedback loop. When moving from area to area, even though you are viewing cutscenes, there are bags of gold scattered throughout the environment that you can tap to collect. This gives you the opportunity to take in the amazing visuals while still feeling engaged. When the cutscene ends and you retake control, you are usually left with a few different actions that you can take. Tap an enemy to start battle, tap a chest to open it, or tap to move through the environment. The camera can be manipulated in both stationary and cutscene modes, helping you to find that ever-important bag of gold that you missed. At any time outside of combat, you can pull up the menu for your character, swap out equipment, buy items, equip gems, and instantly get back into the game. You are literally never more than a tap away from action.

The combat in Infinity Blade II is tailor-made for touchscreen controls.

All that would mean nothing if the combat in Infinity Blade II sucked, but combat is where the game shines. Infinity Blade II walks a fine line between being super-accessible and having a great deal of depth. Combat consists of one-on-one encounters where you can swipe your finger to attack, hold the shield button to block, tap the side arrow buttons to dodge, and swing when the opponent swings to parry. However, you can’t just swing at the opponent willy-nilly. They will block your attacks, or you will do an attack called a Scratch, inflicting only minimal damage. By dodging, blocking, or parrying through a sequence of attacks, you can cause a break in the opponent’s guard, where they will be stunned. It takes a good deal of finesse and quick reflexes to time things right and pull off breaks. When the opponent is dazed, you bust out combos and hit them as many times as possible. Enemies quickly come out of their dazed state, and the dance starts all over again. Added to this are magic spells, which are cast by swiping a symbol on the screen, and three different weapon styles, each having their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Infinity Blade II offers you a great deal of variety in how to deal with enemies, and never forces you down one specific path for an encounter. You are open to experiment with different play styles to find what fits you best.

The combat in Infinity Blade II has a great deal of variety, but collecting new gear is what will hook you for weeks to come. Infinity Blade II does a great job of dangling a carrot right in front of your face but never letting you catch it. You’ve got a new gem? Find a piece of equipment to socket it in. Your helm isn’t as sturdy as you’d like? Build up some gold and buy a new one. You’re on a constant positive feedback loop of gaining XP, gold, and new items, and it’s really easy to say, “Well, I’ll just play one more encounter.” Cut to 45 minutes later, and you’ve played through two Rebirths, about to finish your third. You won’t be able to keep yourself from coming back for more.

The visuals in Infinity Blade II are breathtaking.

And did I mention how beautiful this game is? I mean…wow. The fact that you have a game of this visual caliber in your hand never ceases to amaze. Sure, there are some semi-low resolution textures, and there are some strange visual hitches every now and again, but things run pretty smoothly throughout. You won’t find a better-looking game on iOS.

What I Didn’t Like

It may seem like I am making Infinity Blade II out to be a perfect experience. It’s not. There were times that I would tap on an icon on screen and it just wouldn’t work. I would repeatedly tap, and tap, and tap, and then finally, the action would trigger. I’d imagine that this is common throughout iOS games, but nevertheless, it’s frustrating, if only for a brief time. You will experience Parry or Block actions that fail, even though you feel like they should have worked. Difficulty from Rebirth to Rebirth can ramp up quickly, and if you are unprepared, you will be forced to start over at Rebirth 1, and the directions to do so are not explicitly detailed in the game. If you don’t go back to Rebirth 1, you may encounter a difficulty wall that will stop you in your tracks. Most importantly, this game will kill your device’s battery. If you play at high brightness, which you should, or else you won’t see the amazing visuals in the game, you’ll only have a couple hours of playtime before your device dies (at least on the iPhone 4S; I can’t speak to the battery drain on the iPad). I found my iPhone to get extremely warm through extended play sessions, and eventually, my finger would not glide across the touch screen as easily. This can make combat significantly more difficult, as lightning-quick reflexes are required to succeed in combat.

Prior to the update, it was only possible to sell items if you had obtained more than one of that specific item, but now, you can sell any item that you have Mastered. I understand that they’re attempting to get you make an in-app purchase for gold, and I appreciate the fact that the update has changed this for the better, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. The update also brought the Gem Forge, which is a welcome addition to the title, but has some major quirks that will have you pulling out your hair in frustration. The Gem Forge allows you to take three gems and fuse them together into a new gem. By forging three gems of the same type together, you will, theoretically, get a stronger gem of the same type. However…this isn’t always the case. For instance, I forged three gems together, two with +16 health, and one with +11 health. What I got from the Gem Forge was a +16 health gem. I thought, “What the hell?!” There have been other occasions where I have had similar results, and in combining similar gems together I have downgraded the overall quality. The Gem Forge is a great way to throw random gems together and get something new, but as far as helping you to progress forward through high-level encounters, I didn’t have much success.

I'll keep coming back for the Clashmobs, but I don't hold out hope that I'll get any of the rewards.

And then there are the Clashmobs. As the major sticking point of the update, Clashmobs are meant to bring a social gaming aspect that Infinity Blade II had been missing prior. Clashmobs provide asynchronous multiplayer where you and the Infinity Blade II community are trying to accomplish a particular goal in a set amount of time. Take down a monster with 1,000,000,000 HP in 24 hours. Collect 2,000,000 gold bags in 8 hours. You have 30 seconds per challenge to contribute to the cause. These are cool pick-up-and-play experiences, but nothing more. I don’t feel socially inclined to seek out other Infinity Blade II players and talk war stories with them. There have been several Clashmobs that haven’t been anywhere close to having their goals met, and I’m wondering if the developer had higher hopes for the initial Clashmob player base, or if they are trying to hammer home that players should feel triumphant when they get a reward. There are also Clashmobs that have had bugged rewards, and though technical issues are to be expected with any software update, especially those in beta, it’s disappointing that these issues weren’t ironed out pre-release. Some players are up in arms over the fact that you need a Facebook account to access Clashmobs, and while it doesn’t bother me personally, I can see why it would be annoying to be forced into a social networking account just to play something in a game.

The Verdict

All in all, I’ve played Infinity Blade II extensively since release, and I can safely say that it is the best game that I have played on an iOS device to date. My issues with the game are relatively minor, and certainly don’t detract from the overall experience. Infinity Blade II costs $6.99 on the iOS App Store, and even at full-price, you’d be a fool to pass this one up.

-Enjoy beautiful games on the go
-Love action-based combat
-Can’t get enough gear in your life
-Like fun things

-Have a friend or family member with a compatible iOS device who has already purchased the game

-Don’t have a compatible iOS device
-Hate good things

Rating - 5/5

Infinity Blade II was purchased at full-price just after release and played thoroughly in the immediate time after purchasing (intermittently thereafter). The update was downloaded on the night of release, and tested thoroughly through the following weekend. The game was played on a 32GB iPhone 4S.

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