After playing AG Drive earlier in the year, I was content with the fact that the futuristic racer would be the best looking game I played on my tablet in 2015. Then I saw screenshots for Stormblades, and I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. Kiloo’s Stormblades looked too good to be true; it was bright, colorful, and just an overall exciting-looking game. In my mind, I was doubtful that it would perform very well on my (almost) two-year-old iPad Mini 2.

To my delight, it turns out that Stormblades runs as good as it looks, which is amazingly good. I don’t want to know what kind of technological voodoo magic Kiloo had to channel into to get the game to perform so flawlessly, but it was absolutely worth every dark ritual and sacrifice made. The game was a blast to play, from start to finish.

Stormblades

Stormblades taught me how to be a master swordsman by, essentially, throwing me into the deep end. The game had just loaded me in for the first time and I found my hero quickly (and aggressively) approached by a massive Hulk-like figure armed with a sword that was as big as the hero himself.

In a few short moments, thanks to the help of a few guidance arrows, I was quickly blocking attacks, dodging unblockable special attacks, and letting loose a fluster of swings that lived up to the name of Stormblades.

Stormblades

The gameplay is segregated into individual enemy encounters, but they are all strung together seamlessly. Each level has the hero running throughout a gauntlet of enemies on a predetermined path to the treasure at the end of the level. It’s a completely on-rails experience, until an enemy leaps out into your path. Then the game shifts into combat mode.

Combat is the central focus of Stormblades — and if you’ve ever played Infinity Blade, it’s an experience you’ll find familiar. Players use finger slashes and taps to attack the enemy, block attacks, and dodge attacks. By keeping an eye on the enemy’s weapon, skilled players can predict an incoming attack, dodge it, and redirect their momentum into giving the enemy a few additional hits as they recover from their missed attack. Deplete the enemy’s health and the hero charges on through the level, without a second to spare.

There is little fanfare in Stormblades, which is nice because it keeps the game fast-paced and exciting.

Also, unlike many free-to-play games, Stormblades features no stamina/energy meter. This means you can sit and play Stormblades for as long as you wish, without being forced to wait for cooldowns to reset. This design decision was bold, especially for a free-to-play game that looks as good as Stormblades, and will undoubtedly draw in a large crowd regardless of how in-app purchases function in-game.

stormblades

Instead of buying refills, in-app purchases go towards buying extra swords that come with special statistic buffs like increased damage, or damage redirects from blocked attacks. Having said that, buying swords is hardly necessary; by level 20 I had already acquired three additional swords, so Stormblades is even generous in that regard as well.

I had no trouble getting through the game with the free swords, and upgrading those swords with the in-game currency I collected from successfully completing the levels.

One thing —the only thing really— that I disliked about Stormblades was how the game sounded. By nature, there are going to be a lot of metallic clanging and clashing noises, as this is a sword fighting game. Personally, I tired of hearing the sounds after a few levels, and chose to mute sound effects but keep the music playing. The music, by the way, is just as epic as the rest of the game.

Gamers will be hard-pressed to find a game that looks this spectacular, runs this smoothly, while being a free game doesn’t push players towards buying in-app purchases. Despite the game’s familiar nature (especially for Infinity Blade fans), there’s no getting around it: Stormblades is one of the best games we’ve played this year.