The original Infinity Blade was an anomaly for me. It was a repetitive game with maximum graphical appeal albeit with little exploration. And yet, I think of Infinity Blade as one of my favorite games because it has some of the most addicting combat to grace not only iOS devices but across all consoles. So while Infinity Blade was the most fun, glorified tech demo that I’ve ever played, I’ve noticed that sequels have aimed to eliminate some of the repetition while maintaining the theme of passing generations and rebirth. Infinity Blade 3 seems to have the strongest set of genes, and it only took a couple of generations.
Chair mostly addresses the repetition found in the level design by creating more areas. The first two games largely took place in the same castle with branching paths—although Infinity Blade 2 had other areas. This time, Chair takes out most of the exploration in Infinity Blade 3. Gone are the branching paths in favor for 8 distinct levels—each of which seem to be the size of the original Infinity Blade. I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, Infinity Blade 3 has more diverse levels; on the other hand, the levels look a little too similar the. You’ll get two levels in the desert, one being a storage unit and the other a gladiatorial arena. You’ll also explore plenty of medieval/futuristic towers on cliffs. To be fair, the interior of each dungeon looks grand in scope. Any exploration depends on whether or not you have a lock picking ability—it’s a mostly linear affair in Infinity Blade.
Even though the areas seem to repeat, the game looks marvelous. As with the other two games in the franchise, Infinity Blade III is the kind of game you show off to your friends, and I’m sure that it’s not a coincidence that they chose to launch it with the new iPhone 5S and 5C. The game looks like it could pass for a console game with meticulously detailed environments, character models, and fluid animations. While enemies take on a variety of stock builds and fighting, they each have their own distinguishable look—although they all appropriately share similar ferocity in battle. Enemies also attack with the same ferocity—some preparing powerful, efficient strikes and others preferring wildly unpredictable blows. What’s most impressive is how the playable characters like Isa start incorporate the same wild animations as the villains, making me feel as if I’m on equal footing as the enemies.
Infinity Blade III’s combat is largely the same; however, it ‘still finely tuned with just a few added tweaks to stave off repetition. As with the other games, the character squares off in a series of one-on-one bouts with monsters of staggering heights and weapons. Players have the option of dodging, parrying, and blocking attacks, but the end game is to expose the enemy’s weakness with the corresponding breaks—for instance, parrying enough attacks will earn a parry break. It’s still basically the same, give or takes a few unobtrusive QTE events; however, it is still just as addicting as before.
When you lose a standard battle, you have the option of trying again or starting a new awakening, meaning your character is revived and goes through the same level for grinding purposes. Should you lose in a boss battle, however, you have no choice to start over-. It makes sense given the idea of rebirth in the Infinity Blade series, and it gives players a reason to grind. Newcomers might not appreciate it.
One of the biggest additions is the new playable character, Isa. Like Siris, Isa can equip heavy, light, and standard weapons, adapting an appropriate style for each. Isa’s animations are a bit different; for instance, she’ll employ various tae kwon do and capoeira kicks into the mix, as opposed to Siris’s head strong approach. Isa levels up independently from Siris, so you’ll have to grind for both of them. Luckily, they each journey through their own separate levels until they meet up for a certain side level and the conclusion. Siris gains the most favor from Infinity Blade 3’s story, but at least Isa has her own final confrontation—even if it just seemed like it was for the hell of it.
Infinity Blade 3 will also throw a dragon at you from seemingly nowhere. Unlike the other fights, you can’t prepare for the dragon, as he’ll appear randomly in certain areas. The dragon has huge HP and will always get the one up on the character–which means survival depends on whether or not you can react properly. Should you succeed, you get to inflict some combos on the beast until it flies away–sort of like Deathgaze from Final Fantasy 6. Given the medieval fantasy influences in the series, I can’t believe there wasn’t a dragon in the first two games. Ever since Chair introduced the dragon into the fray, I thought that the game could do with some more ambushes. You have plenty of preparation for each fight, although it does seem strange that a bunch of henchmen would wait for you to prepare and then casually stroll over to start the fight. Perhaps Chair could start providing an extra difficulty mode that has some enemy ambushes in future installments–it would certainly help break up the repetition.
For some subtlety, Infinity Blade III adds major improvements to the level-up system. In the first two games, you allocate your points between four different stats: attack, shield, health, and magic. In order to gain experience points, you needed to constantly gain points for each piece of equipment, and once you mastered a piece of armor you needed to purchase a new piece of equipment to continue leveling up, which felt slightly shallow. This is still the same, but now you unlock abilities for each stat. For instance, you may allocate points into your shield so ISA can learn how to pick locks; you may allocate some points into magic so you can decrease the time it takes Siris to recharge his magic. Abilities are assigned to each skill randomly, so you’ll face a tradeoff in choosing between leveling up a stat for the sake of it and leveling up a stat for an ability.
Players also have a hideout they can return to in-between missions where they can upgrade weapons, create potions, create gems, and occasionally buy the rare items from the merchant. You can upgrade mastered weapons so that they can have powerful new stats, and you get to remaster them. The gem master can take the gems you’ve found and create them into a more powerful gem that infuses your equipment with better stats. You’ll also find different materials in each levels which you can use to create potions for temporary stat boosts. And the merchant deals armor, weapons, and gems that power up your weapons. The problem is that it takes time–I’ve crafted potions that were supposed to take 8 hours to reach maximum potency. This is where microtransactions come to play. Players can purchase a specific currency other than gold (although you can buy gold) to speed up crafting time. Luckily, you can earn this currency by completing certain challenges, providing a fun alternative to microtransactions–I can happily say you don’t need to purchase any more than the game.
The only thing Chair could improve upon in the fourth game, if they ever decide to make one, would be to create a richer story. As with the other two worlds, Infinity Blade III takes place in an interesting medieval/sci-fi mixture that’s begging for some back-story; however, it only explores the plot at hand—I suppose Chair would rather you buy the Infinity Blade novellas for back-story and lore. Even the main plot is predictable, and the characters are mostly archetypes with little development. The actors for these characters seem like they have potential, but they seem to be phoning it in, which is mostly noticeable when Siris and Isa explore their relationship. Still, Infinity Blade 3 has its epic moments, and it’s satisfying to see the decisive fight between Siris and the Worker.
After 3 games, the Infinity Blade series finally comes to a close, and I’ve always enjoyed watching how each installment has grown. While the first game started off as an interesting experiment, the series what now feels like generations of improvements. Of all the awakenings, Infinity Blade 3 carries the dominant genes.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded version of the game for the iPhone provided by Chair Entertainment.