infinityblade — Infinity Blade

Publication Note

The following “review” was originally written for Kill Screen, but website updates have left it sadly broken for some time. At the time, KS review policy required a score, so then-editor Ryan Kuo read the review and chose one for me. It was a 63.

Infinity Blade is a game about iteration, about retreading old ground, about the small changes that surface across endless repetitions. cosmetics, about superficial changes to the way things look. My new helmet is more gothic than my old helmet. My new sword has a fire effect instead of an ice effect. human drudgery, the endless process of going to the same office and sitting in the same chair and typing the same reports, sleeping with the same person in the same bed in the same positions, ordering the same lunch at the same restaurant at the same time, day after day, month after month, year after year, lifetime after lifetime, bloodline after bloodline. cyclicality. Birth. Death. Faith. Politics. Prejudice. Alcoholism. Abuse. The moment when we realize we have become our fathers.

It operates around a simple conceit: the God King, the game's strange central figure, has seeded a bloodline of warriors. A warrior approaches the God King's fortress, fights his way to the throne room, and dies at the God King's blade. vanquishes the God King. He discovers an unspeakable threat. throws down his sword. He joins the God King's service. He never leaves the castle. His son comes to avenge him, and the process repeats.

Each repetition begins the same way: with a son, wearing his father's armor, carrying his father's weapon, approaching the place of his father's death. walk the same path your father walked, and his father walked, and his father walked, and his father walked. Die the same death that your father died, and his father died, and his father died, and his father died. Only with a better sword, and a better shield, and a better ring, and a better son.

The gameplay is predictable. Each bloodline is a series of fights. Each fight is a series of gestures. The result is a rote sequence: Dodge, dodge, dodge, swipe. Like a heartbeat. Like the tides. Like the liturgy. Like Ouroboros. The enemies are variations on a theme. The enemies vary through time. There's the one with the sword, The one with the sword is now blue. the one with the club, The one with the club is now a golem. the one with two blades. The one with two blades now has a mask. There's the Dark Knight. There's the God King. The spells are incremental improvements. This ring gives me Fire 1. We do the same things, over and over.

Infinity Blade may be a commentary on the grind pointlessness of gaming, the relentless churn of killing and harvesting to gain new equipment so that we can kill and harvest more effectively. the way that all our fighting and pushing and straining and struggle never really changes anything. It may be our inheritance, the promise and the cost of a post-WoW world. small progress of evolution, the growth of a bloodline over time, the tiny, gradual ways we improve on ourselves. Mostly, we die like our fathers. statement of faith in inheritance: the most fundamental human hope, that our children will live better lives than we did.

But to continue playing is to live the same life a little bit better, a little bit smarter, a little bit longer than the time before.