It's not clear why this game exists or why you should play it.
Blades of Time is a 2012 character action game from Gaijin Entertainment, a studio whose bread and butter seems to be military vehicle combat simulators. Why it’s been resurrected in 2019 for the Switch is confusing, especially since it runs so poorly and feels downright prehistoric in an era where character action games have come so far. Yes, it tries to do something different. No, that different thing isn’t implemented particularly well. Is Blades of Time is a Trojan Horse for a mobile-style multiplayer mode that apparently includes in-game purchases? Yes.
In Story mode, you control Ayumi, a bikini warrior who’s found her way to Dragonland in search of treasure primarily, but also her partner, Zero, who she brings up at every opportunity. It’s not clear how she and Zero arrived in Dragonland or why they were separated in the first place. In no time, Ayumi meets a spirit who lives in stone altars named (checks notes) “Altar,” as well as a spirit who looks like a ghostly dragon lady named (checks notes) “Spirit of the Dragon.” I would love to know what names the developers rejected in coming up with these.
Ayumi kills things with her twin swords for the most part, whipping together basic combos and building a “rage” meter that allows her to unleash magic attacks. Every time she comes across a new Alter statue, Ayumi can select a couple new magic attacks or buffs, which at least keeps combat fresh. She can dash away from danger with ZR, although it covers more ground than it probably needs to. There is no block or counter option, however, which is disappointing. Jumping is mapped to the X button, which is never intuitive, while magic is mapped to the B button. You cannot swap these inputs.
Where Blades of Time attempts to differentiate itself from other character action games is in its staggeringly poor performance. Wait, no, I’ve skipped ahead. I mean it’s time rewind feature. In the tradition of such genre classics as Catrap and Blinx: the Time Sweeper, Ayumi can rewind time for several seconds, which creates a ghostly red doppelganger. This doppelganger then duplicates her actions from the last several seconds. You can do this multiple times so that multiple replicas are parading around. The game encourages you to use this ability in switch and door puzzles (of course) but also in combat for certain enemy types or boss encounters; it is awkward and forces you to precisely choreograph your movement and attacks.
Can we talk about the performance issues now? Great. Virtually every time I played, I’d get an error message at some point that would close the game and send me back to the Switch menu. This usually happened in large areas with lots of moving parts and particle effects which occur with some regularity. I have yet to encounter a game-breaking save bug, but I know it’s out there. The framerate isn’t good to begin with, but the game really starts to chug when there’s a lot going on. Even using the time rewind comes with a few tense seconds of lag. It’s not uncommon to see some enemies get stuck on level geometry. Every time Ayumi has to ascend a vertical shaft via floating plants called “corals,” the camera has a seizure.
The camera is actually a persistent foe throughout the game and must be constantly struggled against.
Blades of Time has an uncommonly high number of cutscenes, all in-engine, which are prone to audio synching issues. The cutscenes also really show off the character models, which is not necessarily a good thing. It turns out that faces, especially, in the PS3/360 era have not aged gracefully. Ayumi talks a lot, both to other characters and, more concerningly, herself during gameplay. My working theory is that Gaijin Games just got the game running on Switch hardware, said “good enough, guys” and then focused on the multiplayer mode.
The multiplayer mode is called “Outbreak,” and it’s essentially a tower defense game. Your goal is to lead your troops toward enemy towers and then a spawn tree, which is where troops spawn. I’ve found that it’s rarely a good idea to attack the towers directly, as they send out energy pulses that quickly kill you. Instead, your goal is to help your troops kill enemy troops so that they can move forward, and then they’ll destroy the towers for you. You’ll be facing off against your enemies’ human-controlled captain, who may or may not focus on PvP. After you match ends, you’re given rewards to spend on equipment and character skins.
Now here’s where the mobile bullshit comes in. There’s a daily bonus for checking in. You need to reach a certain level to access most of the buyable weapons and accessories. You can upgrade or “reforge” previously-held weapons and accessories, but it’s really not explained well. Outbreak’s premium currency is “Gems,” which are used to buy new character skins and new characters. I could not tell you how gems are acquired. I think you earn an insultingly low number of them for winning matches. Given that Blades of Times’ eShop webpage warns of “In-game purchases,” I have to assume that you’ll eventually be able to spend money to buy Gems. Merely doing stuff like shooting so many enemies, opening so many treasure chests, or killing so many opponents grants Achievements, which all have small rewards like gold or potions.
However, the Outbreak store is currently riddled with error messages. There also doesn’t appear to be a way to equip consumables. If there is, there isn’t a tutorial telling me how. I don’t understand how the forge works. Keys are another potential money-grubber. You use keys to open treasure chests that spawn during matches, but each chest requires three keys to unlock, which seems high. Just like in Story mode, the camera is trying at every opportunity to get you killed. Outbreak is sort of a fun mode, but it does get old quickly, and everything surrounding it is unexplained or prone to error messages, and I can see it becoming kind of gross in a free-to-play way.
Blades of Time is bad, and you should not play it.