Infinity Blade III’s strong heart still beats beneath layers of unnecessary fat
Infinity Blade III
It's often a wonderful thing when a game doesn't have much budget to work with. A shortage of money can sometimes force a creator to trim the fat from their their game until there's nothing left but a lean, trim, tightly designed experience.
That was the story of the original Infinity Blade. Made in just five months at Chair Entertainment, Infinity Blade went on to become a massive hit. But since moving from the risky venture of Infinity Blade to the epic blockbuster of Infinity Blade III, the game has lost much of what made it special.
The core gameplay is still the same, and you'll spend the game dueling with monsters and bosses in one-on-one fights by swiping the screen to swing your sword and parry attacks.
However, Chair hasn't been quite so careful about preserving the original game's appeal when it comes to the narrative. Infinity Blade III follows in the footsteps of Infinity Blade II and clings to the mostly-gibberish techno-fantasy story of Siris and his companion Isa on a quest to kill a character known as the Worker of Secrets before the remainder of humanity's dwindling population is destroyed.
So much of what made Infinity Blade a truly special game was its silence, and it's been disappointing to watch Chair abandon that aspect of the series so thoroughly. It showed you only the tip of an iceberg of a narrative that spanned thousands of years and left you to fill in all the blanks.
At its best, Infinity Blade III's story dialog at least sounds cool when they're discussing god-kings and “Deathless,” but at it's worst you'll have little idea what's happening.
It's sprawling and overwrought, especially considering it's the progeny of Infinity Blade, a game that made a name for itself specifically because of its nearly non-existent narrative. The plot of the original game was: “Hello, my name is Destiny Warrior. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” It was incredibly powerful and universal, but that's been tossed out the window, and we've gained little in exchange.
As much as the game's narrative jumps shark, this is still an Infinity Blade game, and there's a lot of good to be found here due to the fact the original formula is still so potent.
The environments are beautiful to behold, and it's always interesting to see where your path will lead you next. The only downside is that the dungeons in Infinity Blade III are largely linear. Whereas previous games had you exploring the different routes through the castles and dungeons, Infinity Blade III opts instead for many more locations with fewer alternative routes.
On subsequent playthroughs the monster positions are changed so it's not a totally predictable slog, but the linearity leaves this game feeling bizarrely like Punch-Out! as you fight enemy after enemy in one-on-one duels before confronting a boss.
Those one-on-one battles are still tense, exciting, and fun, and the enemies you fight remain one of the best parts of the game. Every creature you face feels like it could be the final boss design for any other game. Creatures are massive, surprising, beautiful, grotesque, and flat-out cool, and sometimes they're all those things at once. The visual design remains one of the core strengths of the developer, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
This game has a good, strong heart at its core, but it's been buried under layers of fat. Infinity Blade III introduces a new potion-brewing feature, a periodic dragon-attack event, achievements, and there are now three types of currency in the game. Complexity isn't always a good thing, and in this case it works against the purity of what made the original so enjoyable.
More and more it feels like Infinity Blade III was stuffed full of unnecessary fluff and “features” in order to justify a full-priced sequel. It's a classic case of subtraction by addition.
The problem with creating a brilliant, lean game like Infinity Blade is that there's nowhere else to go in a sequel. Its slim stature was part of the core of its brilliance, and adding to the formula actually diminishes the experience.
Infinity Blade II started down the path of bloating the series, and Infinity Blade III seals the deal. As great as this series was, and at times still is, they've found nothing in the subsequent sequels that has actually enhanced the game.
Simplicity has gone out the window as Chair tries, and sadly succeeds, at holding on to the title of iOS's biggest epic.