Iron Blade is definitely a very shiny game. Most of the time its presentation is slick and precise, and there are plenty of gouts of blood to keep hardcore players happy. But scrape away that sheen and you’re left with an experience that, while it isn’t exactly empty, is a little bit lacking.
There are some neat ideas here, and trawling through a fantasy representation of medieval Europe is entertaining. But in the end the spectacle slowly drains away and you’re left with a game that’s a bit too repetitive for its own good.
It solves some of the problems of hack and slash third person adventures on mobile, but in doing so it manages to create a whole bunch more. It’s by no means terrible, but you can’t shake the feeling that it could be better than it is.
The game sees you playing a disgraced Templar. There’s a story about heresy and demons and a bunch of other stuff, but it’s just padding to push you from one violent level to the next.
The combat takes its cues from the likes of Assassin’s Creed. You’ve got two main controls. Tap the right of the screen to attack, tap the left of the screen to perform a parry. Buttons along the bottom of the screen let you unleash special moves when they’re ready.
It’s a dilution of a familiar system for sure, but it works pretty well. Icons flash above enemies when they’re about to try and stab you, giving you a chance to react with a parry and turn the tables.
There’s no running around between the fights. Once you’ve cleared a wave of bad guys your character will automatically leg it off screen. Everything goes black, then he’s running up to the next bunch of bad guys. There’s usually about four waves to hack to bits to complete a level. Your health doesn’t regenerate between the scraps though.
Your main focus outside of the fighting is making numbers go up. You need to forge, equip, and upgrade pieces of armor and weaponry in order to keep up the battle. The game will lock you out of levels if your equipment isn’t up to scratch, which is pretty annoying.
And getting new stuff isn’t easy. So you’re left with going back through older levels to grind the XP level of your gear up. Then you need to hit a variety of events to get materials to evolve them. It’s here that the grinding repetition really kicks in. And even when you’ve got better gear, you’re still basically doing the same thing.
It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of potential here. When the game is flowing well, and you’re dancing around your enemies deflecting blows, firing off arrows and smashing bad buys with your shield, you feel like you really are a super-powered knight from an imagined past.
You can raid other player’s bases as well, stealing their loot, and build up the defenses of your own by unlocking new characters as you play. Everything feels like it’s just about in place, but then the grind kicks in and nothing new gets added to keep you interested.
Iron Blade certainly looks good, and sometimes it plays brilliantly. But it slips into old mobile habits to quickly, and rather than embracing the violence that lies at its core, it turns it into a bit of a drudge.