Going into this I heard a lot of bad things about X-Blades but honestly, it turned out to be "ok". I've played better hack n' slashes but it wasn't my least favorite either.
X-Blades doesn't do anything new within its genre. Being a fan of hack n' slashes, I was fine with that especially since the game did bring to the table the basic things that makes me a fan of them. Similiar to Devil May Cry, you have the option of using swordplay, gunfire, or magic against enemies. The main difference is that your weapons of choice throughout the entire game are a pair of gunblades. While the combat mechanics lack in combo variety, it did a great job when it came to magic variety and usefulness. Despite it's name sake, the game doesn't focus on swordplay like commonly done in other games of its kind but takes a much more balanced approach to combat. For example, sword combos are more suited for for ground enemies, while most magic and gunfire will make short work of flying foes. Nothing new but due to the variety of enemy types thrown into a given battle on average, you'll find yourself alternating between swords, guns, and magic regularly. Character/Weapon upgrades come in the form of magic and guns. Throughout X-Blades, you will unlock serveral different elements of magic to purchase with souls (the game's currency). However, magic isn't just limited to the elemental spells you can cast but also function as sword and gun upgrades. You can buy elemental augmentations for your weapons which give you more options when approaching battles. Magic is predictably limited to a meter but its actually refilled when either charged, melee attacking, or when attacked.
Weapon combos and power are also increased buy pieces of amulets you collect and put together throughout each level. They come in three different colors: Silver (3 for gun upgrade), Gold (3 for aerial combo upgrade), and Ruby (3 for sword power upgrade). In addition, your character's life and magic regeneration speed can also be upgrade buy trading in souls. Now to the parts of the gameplay that annoyed me. First off, buying health and magic refills...the game discourages it! Every time or two times (seemed random to me) that you buy a health or magic refill, the price doubles per battle after that. You don't get any in game warning or anything, so be aware! In the beginning, it gets really annoying but as you get further in the game, it does do a decent job at giving you enough souls to refill your life if necessary. Or at least I never got my @ss handed to me badly enough to the point where I ran out of souls to keep buying refills...so skills do play some what of a factor. Why this mechanic even exists? I dunno but personally, I think its just simply to troll the heck out of the player. Next, the difficulty of the boss battles were a bit uneven and unnecessarily long some times. It really seem to me that the earlier bosses were a lot harder and took longer to bring down then the ones encountered towards the end. Numero tres, CONTROLS...CONTROLS....CONTROLS...specifically, movement. At many times it felt like the character was moving way faster than I wanted her to. Seriously, she can start running with very little movement of the analog stick. In addition, the double jump mechanic was just a pain in the @ss. For starters, it was inconsistant and secondly, a lunge movement was mapped similarly to the controller as it. So many times, I would go to double jump and either simply wouldn't or would jump forward instead. Now imagine the horror of all of this combined in really cliffy areas! I cannot tell you the amount of times that I died from running, lunging, and jumping off a cliff because of this. To make matters worst, the game autosaves after each level completion or exit (you can go back to the prior level most times), so I'd ace a really difficult level and towards the end die because I fell of cliff, having to start it all over again. Word to the wise: STAY AWAY FROM THE SKY ISLANDS! Its an optional section that I just barely got through (DLC in Japan I think) and brings out the worst in the control flaws mentioned above. Really, other than to piss yourself off or to get stuck, there's no reason to complete it especially since it lacks collectables or anything exclusive that'll give you any advantage moving forward. Lastly, the battles can be really repitious. For me, it wasn't in a way that made the game boring but more in a "oh boy, not this again" type of way. The battles with monster generators were especially annoying for me. They're levels that have about 10 large orbs scattered throughout them which produces monsters (mostly ghosts) that swarm you in large numbers. Having to run around the level trying to destroy each generator, while fending off the swarms of monsters coming at me was just brutal...and the type of monsters that swarm you only get worst as you come across these types of levels later on in the game.
Story wise...X-blades is a mess. Shallow characters, poorly developed storytelling, and plot holes that would make a wheel of swiss cheese blush. Seriously, at one point in the game the main character pleads with one of the bosses that they were once friends and are better than they're are acting. After running into the guy in maybe 3 other 2 minute long cutscenes where very little character development happens, most would be left scratching their heads at this trying to figure out how she ever drew such a conclusion. Especially since its a major plot device used in 2 of the game's possible and equally disappointing endings. The only thing that seperates the good ending from the bad ending is whether or not you ever buy dark magic...which you only have access to during the first half of the game. Yep, that's it. Its not as big of a spoiler as you may think since similar to the health refill penalty, the game makes no effort to even hint towards this. Visually, the game solid: the cell-shaded graphics is no Borderlands but it's decent. There are few hiccups with enemies walking on the walks or on top of each other. Sound wise, X-blades plays the same songs over and over again which is kind of drab but the sound effects are solid.
- The game offers a nice challenge
- Does a great job at encourging a variety of approaches in battle
- Plenty of upgrades to purchase
- Rewarding collectibles
- Good variety gunplay
- The heavy role magic plays in combat
- Battles can be repetitive
- Lack of vareity in music
- Uneven difficulty in boss battles (ridiculously easy final boss)
- A few visual errors
- Overly sensitive movement controls
- ^ Unresponsive aerial movements
- Very poor storytelling
- ZERO character development
- Pointless levels
- Penatlizing players for buying life refills with very little alternatives
- Lack of variety in sword combo
In all, there are certain aspects of X-blades that are well developed while there are many others that are not. Depending on your level of tolerance, it can be a decent experience. I would recommend renting this over purchasing.