Blades of Time (PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360), the Gaijin Development hack-n-slash that I reviewed previously [Review: Blades of Time], has a fascinating trick up its mediocre sleeve that merits close attention.
Amidst the common selections of “New Game” and “Options” on the main menu, the word “Outbreak” appears. Outbreak mode is a multiplayer addition to the otherwise-singleplayer game that not only defies the convention of Blades of Time’s story mode, but possesses a surprising level of depth.
Let’s have a look…
The concept behind Outbreak is similar to a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) such as League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients: You have a base that you must defend, and the enemy has a base that you must destroy. Both bases are guarded by powerful turrets and both bases spawn wave after wave of minions, or creeps, that mindlessly march toward the opposing force, attacking anything in their way.
You have the choice of playing either Ayumi or one of two other characters, each of which has a unique ability. Zero, for example, can activate “Berserk mode” to increase his damage and that of surrounding allies temporarily. As enemy creeps are defeated, you can experience and level up.
It’s worth noting here that Outbreak demonstrates significant difference from the single-player portion of Blades, as you do not level up in the story.
Upon dying (should such a fate befall you), you’re able to spend your earned experience levels to pick new spells and passives, most of which replicate abilities from the single-player mode.
Were you only facing off against creeps, of course, you’d not have need for such abilities – creeps are weak and designed to die quickly, posing only as a nuisance and a source of experience. The enemy base periodically spawns boss creeps such as stealth assassins that beeline for you and are revealed upon being struck, a massive tank creature that charges effortlessly through your ranks of creeps with the intent of turning you to a fine red paste, and a morbidly obese shaman that sits by the enemy base and chucks homing fireballs at you and your allies, to name a few.
To make things more complicated, if you’re not playing by yourself (as the option exists), you are either playing co-op or versus with one other person. In the case of versus, you are fully capable of killing the opposing player, and vice versa. Also, both bases spawn the aforementioned boss creeps. Combine these facts with the presence of chaotic melee action common in Blades of Time, and you have a surprisingly exciting fight on your hands.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however. By playing Outbreak in single player, versus and co-op, you can earn runes and scrolls that can be combined outside of the action to create persistent equipment! By accomplishing goals such as killing 8 enemies at once or destroying a specific boss within 40 seconds of it spawning, you gain the runes necessary to permanently grant you new weapons, rings, amulets, and passive abilities. Unfortunately, this does create a power gap between someone that’s played Outbreak for a few hours and someone who is just starting, but it gives you a compelling reason to keep playing – especially as the items you create by earning materials in Outbreak can be used in your single-player story mode!
Because of the multiplayer aspect, the use of time clones, as common in the single-player story, is entirely absent. However, to say that Outbreak isn’t incredibly fun, whether by yourself or with a friend, is a flat-out lie. No hack and slash game has executed multiplayer like this before. If the idea intrigues you, I recommend purchasing Blades for around $20. Unfortunately, this will be much easier on the Xbox 360 or the PS3, as you’ll be able to find used copies via