The lights are on
With the first Infinity Blade, Epic and Chair brought iOS owners a much meatier experience than what they were used to on their mobile devices. Combat may have featured a Punch-Out-esque system that relied heavily on dodging/blocking and counterattacking, but the production value and robust selection of items made it a substantial experience. Infinity Blade II brings iOS gamers more of what made the first game great, but with several tweaks that make it one of the best downloads in the App Store.
It's made clear from the beginning that this sequel has a heavier emphasis on story than its predecessor. A playable prologue introduces the world to the player, before plunging him into the main story as the "Deathless" Ausar. The format of the game is relatively unchanged, as you'll lead Ausar through a massive castle that's riddled with sword-wielding baddies that are constantly itching for a fight. As you take them down, you'll level up items, earn cash, and inch closer to the boss at the end of the line.
Unlike the first game, this boss isn't one primary antagonist like the God King, as you'll take on several boss fights that end with Ausar's death and rebirth. If you happen to die in the middle of battle (any battle), you can choose to give it another try or start another rebirth with all of your accrued cash, XP, and items. By utilizing a system similar to Final Fantasy VII's materia, you can now equip gems into open slots on your armor and weaponry. A standard sword can be upgraded to do elemental damage, or you can opt to put in gems that increase XP or cash.
Battles play out similarly to the original, allowing players to dodge, block, or parry incoming attacks. If you happen to dodge as your primary tactic, you can now become exhausted if you over-do this approach. Because of this, a mixture of strategies is suggested when it's time to avoid your enemy's strikes.
In a move that helps mix up the combat on a fight-by-fight basis, some bouts will feature XP bonus challenges. If you're feeling particularly confident about a certain fight, it'll be worth your while to finish it with 10 scratches, without any magic, or whatever the required criteria may be. It's not something you'll want to do each time you jump into battle, but the bonus can be a nice incentive to mix up your play style.
Many branching paths are available, ensuring that each run through the castle will feel fresh. There's plenty of replay value already in this download, but the promise of social "Clashmobs" in the future hint at some interesting updates. As it is, it's already one of the most rewarding mobile experiences in the App Store, and is an easy recommendation for fans of the original and iOS gamers in general.