The Infinity Blade series doesn’t often win awards, but it sure does make one hell of a tech demo. Each year Apple announces a new iPhone, and each year a new entry to the Infinity Blade series comes alongside it, showing off the power behind the company’s new processor or the graphics capabilities of its GPU. But very little time on stage is often spent on the game itself—and there’s a reason for that. I’ll get back to that later, but let’s first talk about how truly spectacular this game looks.
Infinity Blade III is the final act of the incredibly successful sci-fi/fantasy trilogy—each entry raising the bar in terms of AAA production and graphical prowess. Infinity Blade III is no different—it is a step above its predecessor and the most beautiful game to ever grace the iPhone. The art style is detailed, the music is suitably epic, and even the voice acting is decent. But herein lies the problem: Few people still argue that iOS is unable to match its console equivalents. The original Infinity Blade proved that. Instead, most debates these days surrounding iOS question its ability to produce videogames that are as fun and big and full-featured as something you’d find on your Xbox 360. Unfortunately, Infinity Blade III does little to defend the platform in this right.
In terms of gameplay, players familiar with the series won’t find too many surprises in the trilogy’s conclusion. The game still relies heavily on timing based sword-swiping and still keeps players on a restricted, on-rails path throughout the narrative. Combat, which remains relatively untouched, is still the primary draw. Parrying, dodging and attacking are as satisfying as ever—all thanks to the sensitive touch controls, wide range of enemies and multitude of different weapons. The RPG elements remain intact here, this time reworking the magic system and skill upgrades a bit to keep that hook planted firmly in your lip.
Fortunately, this time around, you won’t just be climbing to the top of a tower only to start over again. You’re sent all over the map, diving into dungeons, across deserts and through castles. The changes of scenery are nice and they certainly remove some of the repetition that plagued the previous two Infinity Blade titles. However, in some ways, the game feels even more linear, as you play through various parts of the game in small chunks that play out like distinct levels. You’ll still end up playing through each of these levels multiple times though and the experience is primarily led by in-game cut scenes of your character walking through environments. The game still throws high-level bosses at you to encourage grinding for experience and to extend the length of the narrative. Other out of combat experiences such as potion-making are similarly half-baked and frustrating. This is just not the console-level action RPG it pretends to be—which is a disappointing end result for a series with so much potential.
Speaking of which, Infinity Blade’s strange post-apocalyptic world of deathless armored dudes and vast empty landscapes still remains rather unappealing. With swords, robots, plated trolls and touch screen beaming all squeezed into the same universe, you’ll spend more time wondering what time period you’re in than trying to follow the game’s bloated storyline. Unfortunately, the fact that you can now play as the protagonist’s armored girlfriend doesn’t do much to add to the story or gameplay.
With the change in conversation regarding iOS as a legitimate gaming platform, Infinity Blade 3 feels like an answer to a problem from three years ago—which is presumably why developer Chair Entertainment chose to put the series to bed by making it a trilogy and calling it done. With all the gameplay innovation that has happened in the App Store in the past few years, parts of this restricted, arcade-style grinder end up just feeling a tad outdated. Here’s to hoping that around this time next year, the iPhone 6 will see a new Infinity Blade game that’s as innovative in 2014 as the original was in 2010.
Infinity Blade III
Deveoper: Chair Entertainment / Epic Games
Release Date: 09/18/13