X-Blades, a third-person hack-and-slash action title for PS3 and 360, hasn't received a lot of coverage from the mainstream gaming press. We sought to change that. To find out more about the game, we spoke with associate producer John Kaiser.
PSU: To begin, introduce our readers to X-Blades. What is the premise behind the game? Who is Ayumi, and why does she embark on her adventure?
John Kaiser: Basically X-Blades is an anime inspired action game starring Ayumi, a rambunctious treasure hunter who stumbles upon an artifact more powerful than anything she’s come across before. Not based on any actual anime series, it’s the love of the style, action and character design that inspired the developers to come up with this fast-paced over the top title.
PSU: How are the three main gameplay mechanics -- swordplay, gunplay, and magic -- integrated to form a cohesive and satisfying combat system?
Kaiser: It’s all about the instant accessibility and response time to keep things moving along at a fast clip. Since Ayumi’s guns are built into her swords players can go straight from slashing up one enemy that’s right on them to blasting away at enemies coming from afar. Given there will usually be a number of different types of enemies you will be facing at once, and enemies, especially the further you get into the game, will have elemental strengths and weaknesses, there are four buttons that you can assign magic to. This way players do not have to constantly go into a menu to select a spell to cast then wait for it to do its thing. For instance, you could find yourself in a situation where some phantoms, a few dark elementals, some ice elementals, and a group of Pangos (the small biped dino looking creatures) are all coming for you. All within seconds you can hit the dark elemental with a light blast, hack up two pangos to rebuild your rage meter, throw a fireball at the ice elemental and finish off the phantoms with some blasts from your guns. As you advance through the game over 20 spells will be made available to you, artifacts can be found that increase gun shot and melee combat strength and combos and new types of gunfire can be purchased.
PSU: What is the team doing to keep X-Blades fresh from a gameplay perspective? Will there be any gameplay innovations unique to X-Blades?
Kaiser: New enemies and new types of established enemies will be introduced throughout the game with varying combat behaviors which keeps the players on their toes as they decide what methods to best deal with each encounter will be. Environments will vary from open arenas and narrow hallways to steep cliffs and hidden passages.
PSU: X-Blades has different endings based on your actions throughout the game, correct? Could you elaborate on how the endings how they will come about, and perhaps hint at what they might entail?
Kaiser: That is correct. There are two distinctly different endings that players can achieve. Each ending is dictated by choices made pretty early on in the game. We won’t give away exactly how just yet, sorry! I will say that what you don’t have is sometimes greater than that in which you do. Without giving away actual events that occur in the endings, there is a “good” ending and a “not so good” one.
PSU: On the topic of graphics, why did you choose to pursue the game's stylized anime graphics? Was this always the intended art style, or did it originate during the development process?
Kaiser: As mentioned before, it was really the design teams’ love for anime that inspired them to create something new based around aspects of what they are big fans of. It was always their goal to create something in the anime vein.
PSU: Back in June of this year, the prospect of some form of multiplayer for X-Blades -- co-op or otherwise -- was discussed, but not confirmed. Several months later, do you have anything else to say on that front?
Kaiser: Multiplayer is definitely something that we are interested in looking into in more depth, but it will not appear in this title. The game was designed from the ground up to deliver a solid single player action experience. You can’t just go “Oh!” and throw multiplayer in last minute. To truly do the players justice it would have to be integrated and designed into the game from the ground up.
PSU: Length of action games has been dwindling as of late. Heavenly Sword in particular was criticized for its mere six hour adventure. Approximately how long will it take to run through X-Blades? Additionally, will there be any elements, like PlayStation Trophies, that elongate the base playtime?
Kaiser: From beginning to end X-Blades comes in at around 10 hours of gameplay. For completists out there who want the most out of their gaming experience we’ve put in varying difficulty levels, two endings, hid plenty of treasure and artifacts around to discover and of course have a number of Trophies that will be available to unlock!
PSU: When should we expect the game to launch in the U.S. and Europe?
Kaiser: X-Blades is set to release in January 2009.