Would you like a game that pays homage to pulp fantasy classics of yore, specifically the Sword and Sorcery classics such as Robert E. Howard’s famous Conan the Barbarian series of stories? Would you like to play a game where each level set is introduced with a mock book cover that gives artistic nods to the art style of those aforementioned pulp novels and classic Dungeons and Dragons modules? Do you want to play through an adventure where every last sword of any significance was either forged in the molten womb of a planet, within the heart of a dying star, has a demonic creature’s true name inscribed within it, or something else of equal epicosity? How about to top it all off the game includes a title screen where the product’s logo is done in such a way as to recall memories of rock ‘n roll album covers released back in the 1970’s?
White Whale Games definitely managed to deliver on all those selling points in their recently released God of Blades (out now, $2.99), a well crafted run and slash title with heavy pulp fantasy trappings. In their game you will take control of the recently summoned spirit of the Nameless King, an amnesiac specter summoned back from the afterlife to protect his people once more from the advancing forces of the void. During the course of his journey he will remember more about himself and his people’s past, enabling him to wield an ever larger selection of epic blades with each recollection.
For the most part God of Blades plays like any other sword based endless runner game – with you performing various maneuvers with the Nameless King’s blade, during which the hero charges forward automatically – except that this title is actually stage based (although it does have an optional endless challenge level). The controls themself are kept elegantly simplistic, consisting only of finger swipes in the four cardinal directions and a single on screen button to activate each sword’s special ability. To this end the game is extremely responsive in regards to registering precisely which swipe you perform, which I wish is something that could be said of more of God of Blades’ cousins in the actual endless runner genre.
Swiping your finger downwards will make the Nameless King perform a standard forward vertical slash that causes additional bleed damage to unarmored foes, and can also potentially shatter the opposition’s blade if they clash. Slashing upwards will make the Nameless King perform a quicker upwards vertical strike – with a bit less range than the downwards one – that is good at interrupting enemies that are in the wind-up of a big attack, and it can also cause weak enemies to be sent sailing into the air where they might land deleteriously on other members of the opposition. Moving your finger horizontally towards the enemies will cause the Nameless King to perform a mighty double forward spin strike, although this move has the most range – and can parry swings if it connects with them – it leaves the hero the most vulnerable with its own wind up period. Finally, the backwards swipe causes the Nameless King to perform a deliberate parry maneuver that will block any attack that strikes him during the entirety of his defensive action.
The special move button – which can be used even if the Nameless King is currently in the middle of a mighty sword swing – is active whenever the related gauge is full, and the gauge itself fills up with the passage of time. The exact effect of the special move button is tied directly to whatever sword the spectral hero currently has equipped, doing everything from opening a rift to causing the blade to spit out searing magma with each swing. Since the various super moves all perform wildly differently, and aren’t just smart bombs under a different name, it will be up to the player to learn when it is most fortuitous to unleash each one.
Speaking of learning precisely when and where to do something, God of Blades is by no means an easy game and wildly swinging about will do little more than quickly see the Nameless King back to his resting place. That said, God of Blades is also not unfair by any definition of the term; and learning the way each enemy fights, with the current opposition type’s name always being listed, will ensure that the Nameless King performs just as mightily now as he did back in the day. However – despite the brutal efficiency of his void cult foes – the game gives the Nameless King a life bar that does not empty in just one hit, and there is always more than one way to skin each and every cat you cross blades with.
Visually speaking, the Nameless King’s adventure is presented in 2.5D and further augmented with the use of ragdoll physics to ensure that members of the void worshiping cult collapse in a variety of ways when launched. However, the immediate battle of the Nameless King and his most current foe are not the only things of interest that While Whale Games has for you to look at during the course of God of Blades. In the background – depending on where you currently are – you’ll witness spectacles such as massive armies doing battle with each other, or even things like unspeakable horrors flitting about in the background of a cult strong hold. As the scenery – and the sights to see – are always changing with the course of the Nameless King’s push forward through the plot, repetitive scenery is not a complaint that can be levied against God of Blades.
In a final act of infinite class – paying massive tribute to all of the pulp fantasy novels that heavily inspired God of Blades’ existence – the game even has a selection of blades that can only be unlocked if you take your iOS device to an actual library, with one sword unlocked per visit. However – since this feature is built upon foursquare – it can potentially prove difficult to use for anyone not playing God of Blades on an iPhone, and flat out impossible for anyone who takes up the Nameless King’s mission outside of the United States. Still, it is infinitely heartening all the same that the game is taking a stab at trying to get people to look at libraries more and potentially discover the fantasy classics to which this God of Blades owes its entire existence.
In fact, taking their love of the pulp fantasy genre even one step further, White Whale Games has already commissioned an actual book trilogy to be written based upon God of Blades’ lore and plot. That’s actually a bit amusing when you consider the fact that the game is already presented with the conceit that its adapting an already existent – yet wholly fictitious – series of pulp fantasy novels that became forgotten by the public at large, which means the upcoming books are based on a game that is itself supposed to be based on ‘real’ books already. Either way, it still means that even more entertainment is en route for anyone who decides that they want to know even more about God of Blades’ world after they complete the Nameless King’s journey.
iFanzine Verdict: God of Blades is a love letter to people who fondly remember pulp fantasy novels of the past, especially if they also enjoy sword swinging style endless runner games. In fact, God of Blades takes its genuine love of the genre so far as to even encourage players to visit actual libraries with its extremely unique Loreseeker feature. Pity that that the Loreseeker feature – which is based upon foursquare – doesn’t work as well if you’re not on an iPhone, and flat out doesn’t work at all if you reside outside of the US.