Chair's Infinity Blade [$2.99] hit the App Store late last year and was met with nearly flawless critical reception. We couldn't help but give it five stars in our review, saying "It doesn't get much more 'must-have' than this." We then went on to name-drop Infinity Blade all over our Best iPhone Games category, listing it highly in every buyer's guide, and every other opportunity we could think of to tell people to download it.
At the iPhone 4S press event, Chair announced Infinity Blade 2, and I'm not sure it's possible for another iOS title (aside from a potential Infinity Blade 3) to have this much pre-launch hype. It's well deserved, too. The original was fantastic, and really, all Chair would have needed to do is phone in a sequel with new monsters, new equipment, and maybe even a new setting and we all would have been happy. Instead, what they've done, it take nearly every element of the original and turned it up to eleven.
One of the few criticisms people had of Infinity Blade was the oddly cyclical nature of the game, which wasn't held up by any more than a vague shell of a story involving your entire bloodline serving the single purpose of throwing themselves at the God King. Penny Arcade nailed it in a comic, and Infinity Blade was a much better experience if you didn't focus on just how silly it was that you decided to take up the sword after your father, grand father, great grandfather, great great grandfather and however many "greats" you needed to add to get back to the original knight who foolishly decided to make this your family's purpose.
Infinity Blade 2 feels like it has an actual story, and this time it's told through actual voiceovers. It picks up where the first left off, and you've got the God King's Infinity Blade in your hands, and are off to find "The Worker of Secrets" now that every deathless in the world is interested in taking the Infinity Blade from you. The initial hook involves searching for Saydhi, an information dealer. Thankfully, Saydhi seems to love duels, and offers up prizes for winning. I won't spoil more than that (and this hardly counts as spoilers since it all transpires in the first cut scene) but the way things branch out from there is substantially more interesting than the original even though you'll be doing a similar series of loops through the game.
Combat, the main draw of Infinity Blade seems to be greatly improved. Chair must have either tweaked the combat animations themselves, how the swipe input is handled, or both as it feels like you have an even more direct control link to your character. This shines even further in the new combat options which become available, allowing you to trade your shield to either dual wield or carry a massive two handed weapon.
The three fighting styles feel substantially different, and help greatly in making the game feel not quite as repetitive. With two weapons in hand, you attack much faster and blocking with your shield is replaced with being able to duck. Two handed weapons are much slower, and your defensive abilities are swapped with blocking using the actual weapon itself. It's really cool how it all works out.
The item store is back, and just like the first game you'll be trading your gold for gear at regular intervals. A new gem system allows for higher levels of customization though, and it won't take long before your equipped set of gear has all sorts of slots that you can socket gems into which can do basic things like boost stats all the way up to imbuing your items with various magical properties. If coming across gold in battles is a problem, Infinity Blade 2 offers a similar IAP purchase system to buy more gold if you want. Although, like the original, there's really no reason to and buying gold to get the best items seems to just remove any drive to actually play the game since equipment upgrades play such a big role.
Outside of fights, the gameplay is nearly identical with a world you can explore in an on-rails fashion, panning the camera around and tapping to move to the next location. Hidden items are back, encouraging you to stop to look around on every screen so you don't miss anything. You'll want to, too, because Infinity Blade 2 looks gorgeous. While you might be rewarded with items for doing it, you'll also be taking in the scenery just to marvel at the graphics your iPhone is capable of pumping out.
The rest of the game can easily be summed up with, "It's Infinity Blade, but more." There are more enemy types to fight, more visual effects, more flexibility, more customization, and they managed to do all this while removing how repetitive the original felt after blasting through the game a few times. It's everything I wanted in a sequel, and I can't wait for it to be released.
Infinity Blade 2 will be available on December 1st as a universal app for $6.99. We'll have a full review then, so stay tuned.