Playing Through: ‘Infinity Blade’

A long, long time ago, in December 2010 in fact, Chair Entertainment released “Infinity Blade” out into the wild, and using the Unreal Engine 3 set a new standard for elaborate graphics in games on iOS platforms. It turned out to be more than just another pretty game, too, as Chair’s updates and trickled-out weapons and upgrades to the game went on to show. “Infinity Blade” checks off a number of boxes that you would imagine to be on production, marketing, and sales professionals’ checklists; it’s got in-games purchases. there’s now Facebook character sharing, etc. etc.

The menu screen always had a “Coming Soon” message, however, promising arena and multiplayer options that recently arrived, and those implementations make “Infinity Blade” as ripe as it ever has been for a review.

The game mashes up third-person, “Punch-Out!!”-style fighting with sword-and-mace weapons combat set in dark, fantasy realm that could have been swiped straight out of a Frank Frazetta painting, the real story behind everything gets heavily glossed over in order to provide a few shock moments when you beat the God King or come face to face with history down in the castle’s basement. I won’t spoil the endings if you haven’t seen them yourselves, but they’re filled with extra doses of Medieval gibberish, and employ plot twists that ensure you will keep fighting forever (as long as you keep the game installed on your i-device).

Despite numerous updates, “Infinity Blade” has seen more than its fair share of single player mode bugs. Although a recent fix mended a problem I experienced on my first-gen iPad where my character would constantly open up empty chests, the game still suffers from constant crashing and subsequent crashes upon restarting from the iOS home screen. Additionally, the last update introduced a problem I’d never experienced before where after earning points from a weapon mastery nothing on the upgrade screen is selectable and the only option is close the app and restart. This occurs regularly and still routinely cuts my play sessions short. (Maybe its a product feature urging me to use my time more productively.)

Single player mode otherwise offers a lot replay value. As far as I can tell, you can reboot into a new game plus as many times as you wish, which allows you to re-upgrade weapons and build your character level into infinity (as the title of the game suggests). The repetition there isn’t going to be for everyone, but the recipe can be intoxicating for leaderboard climbers.

The new multiplayer mode, meanwhile, lets you go head to head with friends or random opponents and forces to you play as both knights (like your single player hero) and the Deathless (You’ll be excited about this until you try mastering their unique attack controls).

There’s a lot of replay value here in all of the modes, and my hat is off to the developers for creating a game that managed to become many things, including a casual arcade fighting game, a reasonably good multiplayer iPad/iPhone experience and an entertainingly abstract story with inspired designs and room to grow.

If the updates continue to appear, and especially if Chair eventually manages to fix the load-crippling bugs, “Infinity Blade” holds a lot of promise and value. Whatever happens, it will undoubtedly provide a case study and blueprint for a number of i-device game-building strategies for years to come.

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