Version Reviewed: 1.0.6
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Game Controls Rating:
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For their latest clone, Gameloft has taken on the popular fighting game Soul Caliber, and produced Blades of Fury. Though Gameloft continues their streak of gorgeous visuals and spot-on controls, the gameplay lacks that "special something" that makes distinguishes good games from great ones.
Blades of Fury is a one on one beat 'em up. Using some kind of blade weapon, your goal is either to knock out your opponent by depleting all their health with slashes, throws, and magic moves, or to achieve a "ring out" by knocking your opponent out of the ring. Blades of Fury gives you 10 characters, some of which need to be unlocked, but unfortunately, beyond aesthetics, there's not much differences between most of the characters, and they seem to fall into two categories: fast and weak, and slow and strong. The game is shallow as well. When first greeted by the tutorial, the sheer number of moves seems overwhelming, but once you get into battle, you'll find that the attacks are limited. There are vertical attacks, horizontal attacks, throws, and magic attacks. Horizontal and vertical attacks are the meat of the game, and though variations can be produced by crouching and jumping, the combos are basically dependent on button-mashing. Throws and magic attacks are both character specific. Throws are a very slow move, but they cannot be blocked and activate a short animation. Some characters' throws are simply way too effective at achieving ring outs, as they can throw opponents almost halfway across a stage. Magic attacks come in three varieties - level 1, 2, and 3. Throughout your fight, you build up your magic meter, and when you have enough you can activate a magic attack fairly easily. The three levels are increasingly powerful but also use increasing amounts of your magic bar. These attacks, especially the nearly unavoidable level 3 attack, are way too powerful, sometimes robbing an opponent of over half their health, and the magic bar fills up way too quickly. Gameloft also includes a robust blocking system. Enabled by default, your character automatically blocks when standing around, but you can disable this if you feel it makes the game too easy. Blocking in conjunction with the a movement input can produce jumping and crouching, and you can attack after a block for a counter attack. In a very wise move on Gameloft's part, if you block for too long your armor will break, leaving you temporarily stunned and open to attacks. This makes the game immune to Touch KO-like fights that become dull and monotonous while you wait for the three-second window where your opponent let's down their guard.
There are three main modes of play in Blades of Fury: story, arcade, and survival. Story pits you against other eight other characters in as many rounds under the thin veil of a story. Honestly, I can't imagine that anyone cares about the story in a game like this, but it is about the pursuit of some mythical armor that makes one invincible. The story is slightly different for each character, with the common themes being vagueness and lack of an ending. But again, who cares? In arcade, your goal is not just to beat your opponents, but to rack up the highest score possible by performing things like first attacks, counters, and magic moves. In survival, you face increasingly hard opponents until you lose. One crippling defect of Blades of Fury is the lack of any save feature. God forbid you should have to quit the game or receive a phone call halfway through the 20-30 minute story mode, you'll have to start anew. Replay value is severely limited with little variety between modes, though there are five difficulty levels to play through if you are so inclined. The game does feature bluetooth and LAN multiplayer, but they are extremely buggy and not very practical, and I can't see myself playing the game for much longer without the addition of online multiplayer.
Luckily, Gameloft nailed the controls. Included are two options for movement, d-pad and analog stick, both of which work fine, and for attacks and the like, the option of swipe or virtual controls. I was excited to see than in a break from their norm, Gameloft included the option for swipe controls, but my excitement diminished once I tried them out. As you might expect, with this scheme, their are no virtual buttons save for movement, and attacks are executed by swiping either vertically or horizontally on the screen, holding the screen activates blocking, and double tapping activates a magic attack. Unfortunately, the swipes don't register well at all, and I found myself swiping the screen furiously in hope that every once in a while, I would actually perform an attack. In contrast, the virtual button controls work great, with buttons for vertical attacks, horizontal attacks, magic attacks, and blocking. These are all perfectly responsive and the placement of the buttons is great save for that of the magic attack, which can be a bit hard to reach in the heat of the battle.
Graphically, the game is stunning. Their is a nice amount of detail and the 3D character models are great. The character costumes lack in creativity, and the scope of the graphics is much more limited than say, Modern Combat, but they are impressive nonetheless. Unfortunately, the sound doesn't quite match this. Sound effects are good, but the voice overs are awful. I get that they're supposed to be corny, but after a certain point, cheesy just becomes "painful to my ears." The music is decent, and there is the option to access your iPod music, but this feature is so buggy that I couldn't get it to work, sometimes turning off the game sound altogether. In addition to this bug, the opening cinematic video seems to be upside down in relation to the video controls.
Blades of Fury is a graphical stunner, but lacks the originality or gameplay details to make it a great game. The replay value is severely limited, so for $6.99, you might want to think twice.