Infinity Blade III Brings a Console Experience to Your iPad

I’ve been playing the Infinity Blade games since they were first released a couple years ago. Looking back, it’s stunning how far the iPhone has come since the first one was announced for the iPhone 4. At the time, I hadn’t purchased an iPhone yet and was playing the thing on my trusted third-generation iPod Touch. Then, Infinity Blade was a show-stopping demo. Friends and family were shocked at how incredibly good-looking the game I held in my hand was.

Of course, Infinity Blade has evolved a lot since then. Infinity Blade II tried to ratchet up the storytelling and added some non-linear “choose your own adventure” moments. Much of Infinity Blade III, the most recent instalment in the series, follows the same route, but it also brings some major enhancements to the table. And while we’ve always been talking about Infinity Blade like it was a console game, I’d argue this entry is the first real console game in the series. Except, like always, you can play it on your iOS device. Read on to find out whether or not Infinity Blade III is worth your hard-earned cash.

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Another Perspective

There’s a lot of new innovations under the hood in Infinity Blade III, but much of the gameplay is similar. (Some people dislike the grinding effect of replaying areas and improving your character. You’ll still hate the third game. Move along.) The major innovations of the second game have all been brought along, although some have been a little more refined. The game looks prettier than Infinity Blade II, but I’m not about to say it’s redefining the series with its pretty pixels or anything like that. From a gameplay perspective, a lot of what we’re seeing her is iterative improvements.

A lot of the elements from previous games are unchanged.

A lot of the elements from previous games are unchanged.

The storytelling hasn’t improved much either. The second game started to get convoluted, and for people who haven’t finished it, they’ll feel this third game is very convoluted. Nobody’s buying Infinity Blade III for the story, but it’s not simple and it’s still not as good as some critics would have you believe.

Some additional bosses that weren't here before, like the dragon, add a nice new twist.

Some additional bosses that weren’t here before, like the dragon, add a nice new twist.

There is, however, two twists that merits discussion. First of all, the game now allows you to play as two characters: Siris and Isa. Siris is the hero we’ve all come to know and love, while Isa is his female companion. Although playing as Siris offers largely the same style as before, Isa feels like a breath of fresh air.

Isa has a slightly more nuanced combat mechanics and her own set of weapons and skills to gather and improve on. She’s more nimble and faster and than Siris, but less powerful. Fighting with her is occasionally more like dancing than it would be with Siris, but it’s not so much just her character that’s interesting. It’s the way she enhances the level selection, which comes from another major new feature called the Hangout.

Each of the game's eight different levels look vastly different.

Each of the game’s eight different levels look vastly different.

The Hangout really gives the game space to breathe. There are now eight levels in Infinity Blade. Some of them must be played with one character, while others allow you to replay with both of them to find all of the hidden goodies and really experience the Infinity Blade world to its fullest extent. Each world is graphically very different and uniquely stylized, which means that they each offer their own twist on the game.

The Hangout gives the player a much stronger influence over the game's progression.

The Hangout gives the player a much stronger influence over the game’s progression.

While you’re playing through a zone for the first time with Isa, there might be an area that requires Siris to progress (or perhaps an equipped item). It sounds like a small thing, but it makes the game feel fresh and it increases the likelihood of me returning to it more often.

In that sense, though, the ability to manage multiple characters and return to different areas to collect items makes it feel much closer to its console brethren for me. This is why I feel like Infinity Blade III, despite the fact that it’s still begging for in-app purchases (more on that shortly), is the first true console-like experience in the series.

Smaller Things and In-App Purchases

There are some other small things here, too. You can now craft potions, which involves collecting ingredients as you progress throughout the game. When you do make potions at the Hangout, they take a certain amount of time to make. You can speed this time up, of course, with an in-app purchase.

Not unlike the second one, there’s a consistent opportunity for in-app purchases throughout. If you want the game to be a little easier (or a lot easier, if you really feel like buying an unbelievable weapon), you can spend a few extra bucks and advance very quickly. It stings, especially since the game already cost $7, but it’s also easy enough to ignore. It’s never overly in your face.

There are in-app purchases sprinkled everywhere, but they're easy to ignore.

There are in-app purchases sprinkled everywhere, but they’re easy to ignore.

There’s also enhanced Clashmob features, but I haven’t been able to play those. The folks at ChAIR aren’t rolling out those features yet, because their cloud servers aren’t able to handle it. In fact, their cloud servers have been causing a lot of problems. My game saves aren’t transferring properly from one device to another. The cloud save is a zone or two behind me. Again, ChAIR isn’t using iCloud for game saves (unlike Infinity Blade II), but they’re having a ton of problems right now.

The only foolproof way I’ve found to fix it is to delete and re-download the app on any devices that are behind. That’s a huge download — nearly 2GB — and I can’t be alone in not wishing to do that. I’m sure they’re going to get sorted out, but it’s a huge inconvenience for those who already shelling out good cash for the experience.

Made for iPhone 5s

I don’t have an iPhone 5s, so I can’t tell you if it looks prettier. Everything I’ve seen online seems to indicate that it runs a little smoother, but that’s to be expected. I can tell you that, on my iPhone 5, the game is a battery killer. It’s similar with my iPad mini and iPad 3. Despite the Retina screen on the iPad 3, the game doesn’t look much better than it does on the iPad mini — the A5X chip simply can’t handle it very well.

The game looks good on an iPad mini, but it hogs up a lot of resources.

The game looks good on an iPad mini, but it hogs up a lot of resources.

The iPad mini is really showing its age here, though. Loading the game takes longer, and forget about any multitasking while its running. Infinity Blade III uses up every bit of the iPad mini’s ram, which means opening any other app — even iMessage — forces the game to close and reopen before you can play it again.

I don’t think any of this is a big deal — this is the price of progress, after all — but I am irritated especially with the server problems that ChAIR is having right now. Their track record for new releases is pretty terrible.

Final Thoughts

For me, Infinity Blade III is the first real console-like game in the series. It allows you to explore the world at your own pace and the experience feels like it’s going to be unique to each player, which I feel is a hallmark of console gaming. In that sense, this is a terrific game — a must-have for fans of the previous games in the series and anybody with an interest in the action genre.

But that being said, the game isn’t without flaws. Specifically, ChAIR needs to get its act together. While I’m sure the server issues dampering much of the game will be resolved eventually, I have no idea when or how long it will take. Right now, the first release feels like an unfinished beta, which isn’t impressive. While Infinity Blade III is great, I’d wait it out before dropping more than $5 on it.


Summary

Infinity Blade III is a great sequel, but it still feels rough around a lot of the edges. I hope fixes come soon.

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