Review - Infinity Blade III
The necessity of the “killer app” to sell units does not exist in the mobile gaming world as it does for consoles. Not only are they already very popular, but smartphones are unique in the sense that they have no competition outside themselves. However, if there ever was a mobile series worthy of being called a “killer app,” it would have to be Infinity Blade. They exist only on smartphones, are designed specifically for that platform, and are highly praised by critics and gamers alike. I have personally played and loved the Infinity Blade games since day one, so naturally I approached Infinity Blade III with exceedingly high expectations. Even so, I found myself in complete awe at the mastery found in this trilogy’s powerhouse finale.
The world of Infinity Blade is one filled with a decent amount of lore and background, so much so that two novels have been written about it by famous fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. While its predecessors’ stories felt like they were made simply to explain the game’s arcade-like format, Infinity Blade III is definitely the most story-driven of the series. You play primarily as Siris, a warrior sworn to destroy the Deathless, immortal tyrants who rule what’s left of mankind with an iron fist. The twist is that Siris is actually a reborn form of Ausar the Vile, the cruelest of the Deathless. While fighting the memories and guilt of what he once was, Siris must team up with Isa, the second playable character, and Radriar, his once sworn enemy, to stop the Deathless from purging the earth of humanity.
I have always enjoyed the fantasy genre, and Infinity Blade’s story is no exception. Its interesting fusion of fantasy and futuristic tech is once again present, creating a very unique setting. There’s obviously a lot that happens before the events in Infinity Blade III, all of which is certainly worth a look from any fan of fantasy, but on its own Infinity Blade III’s story still functions well enough. It touches on themes like immortality being a curse and living with your past, which I wasn’t expecting. While nothing deep, it was nice for something as simple as an iPhone game to bring these things up.
Infinity Blade III’s distinct arcade-esque format, a staple of the franchise, makes it tricky to judge how long a playthrough of the story will last. You can lose a duel against a regular opponent and simply retry, but falling to the blade of the final boss in the chapter will send you back to the beginning, allowing you to gain more XP to become stronger for the rematch. For somebody like me, who’s put far too many hours into the series, Infinity Blade III felt a bit on the short side, but for the average player, who will have to train up to beat each boss, there’s definitely a lengthy enough experience to justify the purchase price.
Regardless of how long it takes you to beat the game, Infinity Blade III’s RPG elements ensure that you’ll want to continue playing anyway. Each item you equip, from your weapons to armor to magic rings, have separate XP bars that fill as you use them. Once you master an item, your overall XP will lose that fraction of XP gained in the fight until you purchase a new, non-mastered item. This system can be frustrating at times, but overall it encourages players to smoothly increase their arsenal’s power, leading to a more balanced experience. There are dozens of these weapons and armors to buy, too, far more than you could ever hope to obtain by just playing the story, giving those who want all the best stuff tons of replayability.
No mobile game has ever impressed me with its visuals as much as Infinity Blade III, and I have statistics to back up that claim. For reference, I usually have roughly ten screenshots to pick from for my review. In the case of Infinity Blade III, I took one whenever I saw something visually breathtaking. In the end, I had collected a staggering 367 screenshots. Four of which, you can see here in this review with 20 additional favorites in the gallery below.*
The Unreal Engine is pushing these devices farther than they’ve ever gone before, bringing stunning detail to textures as well as beautiful light and particle effects. Add on top of this wonderful character animations and superb locations and the world of Infinity Blade III seems to come alive in front of you. The cinematic presentation is also excellently done. Between fights, you are shown your character walking through the location, which usually includes sweeping shots of the landscape, threatening entrances of your next opponent, and heroic poses for our protagonist. During cutscenes, many of the shots have blurry backgrounds, simulating a camera lens with shallow depth of field, a nice touch that I personally appreciated.
The high production quality of Infinity Blade III carries into the sound design. First, great ambient sounds help immerse you into the environment. Then, your enemy will arrive, making all sorts of strange and unique sounds. Soon your blades clash and magic flies, filling your earbuds with the sounds of combat. Grand orchestral music accompanies you along your journey, making you feel like you’re a part of an epic. Needless to say, you’ll want the headphones in while playing for the full experience.
For those who are unfamiliar, Infinity Blade is a very unique fighter / RPG hybrid. Combat boils down to blocking, dodging, or parrying your opponent’s attacks, then striking back at a break. While it may sound simplistic, this combat system is best understood if you look at each dual like an old school boss fight. Each enemy has a limited array of attacks, and while some are universal, most moves are unique to each opponent. All of these strikes fall into a pattern, meaning anticipating and memorizing the patterns is your quickest path to victory.
The player can choose between three distinct fighting styles: single, dual, and heavy, all of which have their pros and cons. Light is the classic sword and shield combo, a great starting place for newcomers to the series, dual style is fast and more risky, as it lacks the ability to block, and the heavy style is certainly appealing in its brutal simplicity. These are three very different ways to play, and they do a great job letting that players find the one they’re best at as well as offering a little change of pace if your usual style begins to grow stale.
Infinity Blade III has the best combat system of not just all mobile games, but of any video game I have ever played. This is because it is entirely based on personal skill. In practically every other game I can think of, there is at least some chance involved in winning or losing a confrontation. In Infinity Blade III, however, you have absolutely no excuses for failure besides yourself. You have one opponent, and he is right in front of you. You see every single attack begin, and your personal ability to react correctly and in time is the only thing that determines if it hits or not. You completely control your dodging, parrying, blocking, and slashing, all of which respond with unmatched precision. It is an unhindered, direct connection between the gamer and their warrior. This means that the challenge of the character, dueling hundreds of powerful foes, is actually the player’s challenge, making a victory in the game a real victory for the player. It is absolutely phenomenal to play a game like this, and it is the reason that the Infinity Blade series is one of the best of all time.
Infinity Blade was a wonderful experiment to see if the mobile platform could offer a combat system more fluid and connected to the player than anything that came before it. Its sequel took that foundation and ran with it, creating the best arcade experience the App Store had ever seen. Infinity Blade III is all of this fully realized. It is a full-fledged epic fantasy RPG, a gorgeous treat for the eyes, a rush of spectacular swordplay, a treasure trove of content, and a practically flawless mobile masterpiece. Every adventure deserves the perfect ending, and Infinity Blade got theirs.
|Sean Capdeville is the official mobile game reviewer of ScrewAttack.com. An aspiring filmmaker, his favorite games include Skyrim, Link's Awakening DX, and NOVA 3. In his spare time, he likes to reference Casablanca.|
*Keep in mind that these were crudely resized to fit a computer screen. Also, they were taken on an iPhone 5. If you have a newer iOS device, it will look even more fantastic.