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Review X-Blades (XBOX360): Only buy this title if you can appreciate low budget titles and you can get it for a real low price!

genre: action, hack and slash

X-Blades is one of those obscure titles that you probably have come across in one form or another but very wisely stayed clear from. I on the other hand can be pretty stubborn and in my neverending quest to be surprised or prove others wrong I went against my gut feeling and purchased this title on XBOX live anyway. I regret this decision wholeheartedly.

Now I do have to be fair that this game is not super bad or anything. For what it does it's decent if you can overlook it's flaws. One major flaw being the fact that everything to this game is approached minimally. Imagine a Devil May Cry type of game stripped of all the style, combos and basically everything that made that game fun. Perhaps I am a little hard concerning the combos since you do have the option to buy and upgrade magic spells and skills. Like in many other games you can use souls to buy things. For skills you need to find pieces of items that can be found in chests, statues and every object that can be smashed to bits. While at first upgrading and buying spells seem optional they are definitely required later on. Meaning without them you won't be able to defeat certain enemies. Since in their infinite wisdom Gaijin Entertainment thought it would be a good idea to limit the player to only be able to use one specific element to do damage. (Another limitation that is imposed on the player is regaining health. The levels are designed in a way that often you only will find one or two (if you are lucky) health crystals you can smash. However another way to get health back during gameplay is by buying it. Now this seems like a cheap way but make no mistake every time you buy health the prize increases which could lead to gigantic costs.)

Fortunately you can farm souls by going back and forth levels you already finished and even if you die you will hold on to these souls. Only problem is that especially in the beginning this is quite the task. Because another clever decision was to overwhelm you with so many enemies that at times you can't even strike enemies properly without resorting to AEO attacks. And these enemies keep coming at you until you defeat the true targets. The game does a real poor job of telling you this. But is something you will figure out for yourself after you notice that the energy bar on the left underneath is not diminishing. But guess what. Most of the time you need a specific element to defeat the true targets. Oh yes, what fun! One plus is that once you are able to buy and use these spells and special attacks the game becomes much easier to stomach. Maybe even a little fun. (Although you will have to contend with major button mashing. The upgraded skills that supposedly should make it easier to do different combos are useless. They aren't intuitive and even if you manage to master them you barely get time to use them effectively.)

That is if you can get past another issue this game has. Lack of story and characterization. Our main character called Ayumi apparently is a treasure hunter who is infinitely more relentless than Lara Croft. Even when she is warned about taking the treasure she just takes what she came to get and all consequences be damned. At this point you could be forgiving since she probably was under the assumption that the lion (guardian) warning her wanted the treasure for himself. That is until she makes the exact same mistake a second time around with even more catastrophic consequences. At this point it was hard for me to sympathize with her and they had better come up with some ingenious storytelling to accept her villainous behaviour. Sadly this never happens as the game just ends with a short cutscene where she shows regret and nothing else. And maybe you think I am being unfair again. But this sudden remorse goes against her whole attitude throughout the game. On top of that she is showing this for a character she barely knows. A character she did not even thank after he had rescued her. All I was thinking. So you make me beat enemies wave after wave after wave after wave... Only to discover there was very little to no point in doing so? Really Gaijin Entertainment? Really? 

This is one of those low budget titles that probably is made with the best intentions but where no one had the insight to apply elements that makes hack and slash so much fun. It's fine to have a mechanic where enemies overwhelm you provided you give the player a chance to deal with that in more ways one than they did in this game. If the easiest solution to defeat enemies is to keep spamming one certain attack then you have done something wrong. Naturally one could argue that you could avoid using this special attack. But in some cases this means that you have to be prepared for fighting goons for a duration of twenty thirty minutes or even longer. Yeah, that gets old pretty quickly I tell you. Besides I rather fight a few more difficult enemies where your skills are tested instead of your patience.

So overall this is a title you should only consider playing if you can appreciate the low level production values and if you can get it for 2 euro's or less. 

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