Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
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Infinity Blade 2, one of the year's most-anticipated iOS titles, is largely just an iteration on its predecessor. The core setup is the same - players explore a castle point-by-point, fighting enemies along the way in arena-style duels that resemble Fruit Ninja in some ways. Players can slash at their enemies, but must parry, dodge, and evade enemy attacks to create weak points for them to attack. Gold can be earned (or purchased) in order to buy new weapons, armor, shields, helmets, and magic rings.
Most of what is new here is a modified and extended progression structure. Instead of one path leading to a final boss, where failure means starting over, there are now several of them, with more branching paths to explore. There are 3 different weapon types now: the traditional swords, slow and heavy axes that deal more damage, and speedy dual swords that deal less base damage, but can do double damage once combos are started. The story is more fleshed out, with actual speaking dialogue from characters besides the God King.
The iterations do go a long way in letting players feel in control of their experience. For example, the dual swords allow me to take advantage of my preferred play style - preferring to parry and dodge than using the shield, with the benefit of an additional dodge move in place of the shield, and with extra combo damage. As well, they allow me to strengthen other stats. The game is much longer than the original was, in part due to the multiple God King-esque fights; I was playing this game for hours at a time, unable to put it down until my iPad was near death.
The story is largely incomprehensible; if this was an attempt to sell the Infinity Blade: Awakening novella, then, well, it's kind of working. I felt lost with everything that was going on, like there were definite details that I should have known but the game wasn't divulging. The launch has come with some bugs; I suggest rebooting right after installation, as sound issues popped up on my iPad 2 the first time I played. The game 'supports' iCloud, but in my experience, trying to play the game on a different device just leads to my save file being corrupted, as it happened twice, and I've lost time and data due to these issues. It is severely disheartening and annoying, as I know my level 26 character became lost to history because of a stupid iCloud glitch.
Grinding does become an issue with the game; at a certain point, it becomes very possible to not gain experience because of the game's continued flawed item experience system. Around level 20 or so, I started to lose experience because I could afford better items at the rate that earned money increases relative to item price. It seems like an attempt to sell more gold via in-app purchases than anything.
Fans of the original Infinity Blade will love the sequel. It follows the same formula, but the iterations are much-needed improvements, and once the bugs are cleared up, this will be something truly fantastic. This is immediately one of my favorite games of the year on iOS. For those new to the series, they can jump in here if they want, and who knows - the story might actually make more sense, then! Those who had issues with the original game's grinding and repetitious structure will not find their concerns addressed here; despite some of the new mechanics, it works similarly enough to probably be worth passing on. Still, there are few other games on iOS with the kind of gameplay that is deceptively complex, and with the kind of addictive properties to keep me going at it for hours on end, shirking all other responsibilities. When it isn't having technical issues, it is a must have.