There is a saying at E3 that the number of booth babes is inversely proportional to the quality of the games. That was especially true when taking a look at the Playlogic booth or the number of models hired for the MMO RYL. Sometimes it seems like developers think that by distracting gamers with some female figures, we won’t notice the quality of the final product. While there are exceptions, like the original Perfect Dark and Tomb Raider, it seems that Gaijin Entertainment and Topware Interactive tried to use that deception with X-Blades.
In X-Blades you play as the anime-styled Ayumi, a treasure hunter in the vein of Lara Croft. She is the best treasure hunter in the business, and she’s not too proud to remind you. She is armed to the teeth with gunblades to slash enemies apart and attack them from long range. She really isn’t the exploring type, more the strike first and ask questions later type. She found a map in her latest adventure and now she is set out to find out where the map leads.
You can tell that the developers did what they could to make sure that you got a nice piece of eye candy throughout the game. Ayumi has one of the strangest wardrobes around, one that would make the women of DOA blush. If you want to play a game as a woman with pigtails and a belly tattoo wearing a bikini top, thong, and chaps, Ayumi is your girl! It is one of the weirdest costumes this side of Final Fantasy.
Every new area has a different background. Sometimes you are running through stone ruins, while other times you are running near a beach. The pop-up in the game is quite depressing though. The current generation of consoles should be able to handle the environments without the pop-ups. Barren and desolate describe the environments. Most of the ground is flat without much to try to make you feel like the land was inhabited.
The number of different enemies throughout the game is lacking. Each area seems to have only a couple of enemy types attacking you, and those get reused throughout the game. If going through many of the same enemies doesn’t bother you, then it might not be a problem.
The particle effects harken back to the days when lens flare was just starting to become a part of graphical achievement. If you ever played Privateer 2, then you have some idea what I am talking about. They were overdone to the point that they were distracting. The particle effects in X-Blades are used often, especially during spells and magic effects. These are nice to be included, but there are so many that they become distracting. Sometimes when the screen fills up the framerate dips a bit. This doesn’t affect gameplay that much, but it can be disruptive when in the middle of a battle.
As Ayumi is an anime-inspired character, her voice sounds like an anime character. While her voice is not as annoying as Minmei from Robotech, it is still high-pitched and whinny. It can get on your nerves after a bit, but she doesn’t speak a whole lot so it isn’t as grating as it could be.
The background music when you first enter an area is hard guitar rock. The intensity matches the rush you should feel from being attacked. Once you have cleared the level, the music calms, and there is a hypnotic melody that replaces the chaotic guitars. The loud guitar music can be a bit overpowering.
X-Blades controls like a typical third-person game. You move with the left analog stick and control the camera with the right analog stick. Hitting A jumps, and X performs close attacks with the gunblades while the right trigger shoots at enemies from a long distance. The left and right bumpers and Y and B buttons access skills that you have allocated to those buttons. The Back button lets you go into the skill menu and change the skills that those buttons use.
Trying to use the skill buttons is a bit tricky at first, since the skill slots shown on the screen are on the bottom left corner in a circle. Normally you would think that they would be allocated to the face buttons, but you have to change that thinking when using the skills. Otherwise veteran game players shouldn’t have issues with the controls.
Moving Ayumi isn’t as responsive as what it should be. She leans forward when you first push up on the analog stick, taking a split second to get her to move. This can be detrimental when you need to make moves that require accuracy. Most of the time that isn’t an issue, but there are times when this issue comes up.
Ayumi apparently doesn’t know when she should hold back. When she finds this map on one of her expeditions, she decides to seek out the artifacts mentioned along with the map. Who cares about the world coming to an end if the artifact is touched by mortal hands? So she finds one of the artifacts and grabs it. The world goes crazy, and she has to get the second artifact to restore order.
To get to the second artifact, Ayumi must travel through the areas on the map, destroy the monsters in those areas, and move on to the next area. The biggest problem with X-Blades is that all that there seems to be. Go into area, destroy the monsters and the boss, clean up whatever artifacts remain, and go on to the next area. Lather, rinse, repeat. If your game is a one-trick pony, that pony has to be really good to keep the attention of gamers. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in X-Blades.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any variety in X-Blades. Enemies leave behind souls that Ayumi collects to gain access to new spells. These spells are based on darkness, earth, fire, ice, and light. At first only the least powerful spells are available, but as you collect more souls you can gain access to more powerful spells. You can also upgrade your shooting, melee, and airstrike abilities by collecting three pieces of an artifact. The spells can be upgraded when you have enough souls, but souls are also used to gain back health.
You will need to gather souls for those spells, because each enemy seems to have their own weakness. While you can use anything to try to kill enemies, they are susceptible to a specific kind of attack. Because of this, you can find yourself switching your magic spells often to take care of your opponents. This breaks up the fluid action. This is especially true of the boss fights. However, their attacks are relatively weak, so if you just fire at them from afar, then it’s mostly a battle of attrition.
These upgrades won’t matter most of the time though, as you will just go through the levels and try to slash everything with the gunblades you have. Occasionally a spell will help, but you don’t really use the depth that the game tries to provide because it’s easier to try to hack and slash your way through the game using the gunblades.
X-Blades does have the same issue that most third-person games do. When you get in close quarters, the camera can get very spastic. The camera circles around, pointing almost straight up, and it’s difficult to get your bearings of where you are or which enemy you are trying to target. The lock-on feature does help, but the action can get very confusing where several enemies have surrounded you.
The game is repetitive. If you can get through that, then you might be able to fight your way throughout the entire game. X-Blades has you going through the ruins during the day, and then heading back through them in the night. You might get the sense that the designers thought the game was too short and thought that going through the same environments again would make players feel like the game was a better value. You might think that it was a cheap ploy to get the game length up.